England’s Mary Earps has revealed the public high of winning Euro 2022 and being named FIFA women’s goalkeeper of the year resulted in an unwelcome private battle to “feel human again”.
The Manchester United keeper, set to start in the Lionesses’ World Cup opener against Haiti on Saturday, has cemented her place as England’s number one since the arrival of boss Sarina Wiegman, whom Earps often credits for reigniting a career she once thought had ground to a halt.
Though the 30-year-old loved “experiencing almost how the Kardashians live” at FIFAs swanky February awards ceremony in Paris, she was surprised by the corresponding lows in the aftermath.
Earps, speaking from England’s team hotel in Brisbane, said: “I was speaking with Micah Richards and Jamie Carragher, and we were talking about the difference between winning a tournament and then having a disappointing tournament and how different it’s to come back from that. And I was saying for me personally, I felt like that was the hardest thing I ever did.
“Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Not the hardest thing I ever did, but it was the hardest footballing thing to come back to.
“Like you’ve been on this massive high for so long and then you come back to normal life where you are not in this bubble, you’re not living in this little world, you’re not surrounded by people.
“And it’s absolutely a life of privilege, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lot to adjust to coming back and going back to training every day.
“Not at that intensity, not at that pressure, but also with that comes an incredible adrenaline rush. And not having that every day, it was hard to find your feet as to what normal felt like. And it probably took me till after December to feel human again.
“And then obviously the FIFA Best came and I felt like I had to start all over again.
“It’s a privilege to be in that situation and a problem that I would love to have every single year, but it was definitely hard to adjust.”
England vice-captain Earps may need to repeat that process again should the Lionesses, among the tournament favourites, lift the trophy that has eluded them in five previous World Cup appearances.
At the beginning of 2021, Earps was on the verge of quitting football altogether. Her contract at United was coming to an end and she had not featured for England since November 2019.
Yet Wiegman saw something in Earps when she took the reins in September 2021 and recalled the Nottingham native and 2019 World Cup veteran as part of her first selected squad, handing her a fresh start in England’s 8-0 victory over North Macedonia to begin the World Cup qualifiers.
Earps, who was also offered a new deal with United, has seized the opportunity with both gloves ever since and was instrumental in ensuring four of the Lionesses’ six matches in their unbeaten run to lift the Euro 2022 trophy were clean-sheet victories.
Perhaps Earps’ path is most aptly illustrated by her journey to and from the FIFA awards, where she had a personal security guard named Johnny and the “surreal” experience of discussing the finer points of goalkeeping with Argentinian World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez and Arsene Wenger.
Earps took EasyJet on the way there, but flew business class on the way back, where she was closer to the front than she had ever been in her life.
Yet before the Golden Gloves, the first-class keeper was determined to elevate England to new heights.
She added: “I always thought it was there. I didn’t think that it would burn as deeply as it’s burning. It’s like a fire in your belly that I’ve always had. But I think you’re always trying to achieve things that you don’t know if it’s going to be possible.
“You’re like, that’s what you’re striving for, you’re striving for this excellence and you’re constantly on this pursuit of, ‘How far can I go? How high can I go?’
“And to actually achieve those things just makes me want to fill my cabinet with even more trophies and medals really. It doesn’t make me feel like, ‘Job done’, which I thought that it would. It makes me just want to do more, do better.”