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God Save the Mearps

You know who I miss? Mary Earps. It’s been so Emma Hayes this, Emma Hayes that lately that I’ve forgotten about the OG antics supplier of the Women’s Super League.

When Emma Hayes doles out the antics, it’s a bit manufactured for my taste. We got to see a smattering of off-duty antics when she went to see her dedication on Chelsea’s Shed Wall, a remaining structure from a former Stamford Bridge stand which now educates visitors about historic club icons. She pulled a funny face as photographers flashed in her face, refusing to honour the sincerity of a moment when she became the club’s first bona fide female ‘legend’.

But don’t be mistaken — we can all be a bit silly after a wine or two in the heady environs of a works drinks (the end of season awards weren’t cancelled, contrary to the rallying cry Hayes made at Kingsmeadow at the weekend), but at the end of the day, this bitch don’t have half the verve necessary to run a TikTok account like Mearps’.
Hey 😃

Thanks for tuning into another episode of 31/7. Today I'm thinking about:
  • not Emma Hayes (mostly)
  • getting silly on vino
  • King and country
  • the joy of Mary Earps
  • ......etc!
I hope you love it looooooads and tell all your friends about how much you rate Mary Earps and I hope that they agree because then, you'll know you're friends with the right folks.

Have a good'n
Flora
The unhinged and the refined each have their merits, but tuning into Channel Mearps is like visiting your local non-league ground — you’re supporting a rawer form of strangeness.

This week, Mearps had the chance to flaunt her lower-tier zest amid the upper echelons of British society as she was invited to Windsor Castle to receive an MBE for her services to football.

Disappointingly, Mary donned a forgettably normal outfit on her unforgettable afternoon chez les Royals. It was, she wrote on Instagram, “a really proud day with my family”, which comes as little surprise since, no offence, but she gives off big flag-shagger energy.

The St George’s flag and the royal family as concepts are pretty triggering for anyone oppressed by nationalism or suffering from our hierarchical society for which the Windsors set the tone. This is, of course, almost everyone but for those who recoil at the taste of boot on tongue, major football tournaments are the one time of year when association with ‘England’ is comfortable and proud.
Is the same true for the Lionesses? When Lucy Bronze dreamed of playing for England, did she value the honour of representing her country? Her respect for the dress code when she collected her own MBE, curtseying in custard-cream, says so. Simultaneously, perhaps, or instead — does the appeal of a cap derive from 'England' representing the top of your game, the ultimate career goal?

In Earps’ Sky Sports interview at Windsor Castle, she gave due reverence to her once-in-a-lifetime afternoon with the Royals, but she only really came alive when asked about Sunday, when she’ll swap her fascinator for a pair of gloves again as she keeps Manchester United’s goal in the FA Cup final.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said, eyes aglow. “It’ll be the highlight of the season for sure, by a million miles. I feel like I’ve been counting it down for weeks now.”

Mearps doesn’t owe a ton of loyalty to Manchester United. The best goalkeeper in the world kicking around a five-year-old team who didn’t even come close to qualifying for Champions League football this season? Could do better, and likely will when her contract expires this summer. Running down the final weeks on her deal, I understand from various TikTok fancams and Twitter clips that all her Reds teammates have done recently, is making her cross and angry.
She does cross and angry for England, too. When the Lionesses played Italy in a friendly in February, whoever set up the mics for ITV put them close to Mearps’ net, meaning that viewers got a front-row seat to the relentless shouting — productive, as far as I could tell! — to which Earps subjects her teammates. It’s part of the deal when you sign up to play in her back line. She goes ballistic at you for ninety minutes, then nudges you at the final whistle and says, 'hey, wanna come to my room and film yourself necking a spicy drink in hysterics later?'

Really, it's her antics that make Earps such a good 'keeper. Freak on the pitch, clown on the TikTok stitch — dancing the line between fury and silliness is Earps’ brand. She wears it well and does not discriminate between club and country.

Why, then, is she buzzing for Sunday’s final? To pound the red devils on her chest, or have a shot at conquering the oldest national football competition in the world?

She’s won the bloody European Championship before, not to mention the Arnold Clark Cup and the Finalissima — but since winning the double at Wolfsburg in 2019, the closest Earps has come to a domestic honour is a runners-up medal at last year’s FA Cup final.

Whether it’s white, or red, or bears a flag defiled with shades of wokery – when it comes to chasing silverware, it’s just another shirt.

Coming Up

  • Sunday — the Champo play-offs
    • as of last Sunday, Leeds United Women's season is over but no doubt they'll be watching along as the ladz treat us all to the privilege of an extended season, starting with the first leg of the play-off semi-finals against Norwich City at Carrow Road this weekend
  • Sunday — FA Cup final
    • a brand new FA Cup winner will be crowned at Wembley this weekend as Tottenham Hotspur take on Manchester United
    • the winning team will take home a trophy, bragging rights and £430,000, while the loser will get £108,000, anyway, so I won't countenance any crying
    • with any luck, Marc Skinner will skank his way to a win and earn himself another season entertaining us all as boss of Man Utd
    • the other outcome is he loses and we get to hear some elevated loser nonsense, so whatever the outcome, the real winners on the day are you and I
  • Wednesday — Women's Super League
    • Spurs will have a short time to recover from their FA Cup triumph / heartbreak before they play a decisive role in the WSL title race by playing Chelsea midweek
    • any result here leaves potential for final day drama, let's have it

More at The Square Ball

Sarah Danby on the ball for Leeds United Women in front of the big stand at Garforth

The Keys To The Pitch

by Flora Snelson

Who is at home? In women's football, writes Flora Snelson, home advantage often comes second to just having anywhere to play at all.
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