As another glittering year of women’s football draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to reflect on how far the game has come for clubs and individuals alike.
For Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps, it’s been a year of complete revelation.
When 2020 ended, it looked as though her time with the Red Devils would too as she neared the closure of her contract.
The shot-stopper expected to see out her final weeks in a red shirt but instead, she was rewarded with a new deal in February that will keep her at the club until 2023.
This was just the start of what would become “a wild year” for Earps.
Speaking to England Football, the 28-year-old said: “Going back to the beginning of the year, I could never have written the end of this year. Not a chance. I could never have predicted half of what has happened.”
Earps admitted that before signing on the dotted line, she was considering moving away from the pitch and pursuing a career outside of football.
“I was in the final year of my contract at United last year and was weighing up options of whether to play, whether not to play, whether I was going to go into the business world and use my degree there.
“But then the opportunity arose for me to extend my contract at United in a way where I felt positive about it and now it’s led me to here. I couldn’t write it.”
Following her contract renewal at Man United, Earps went on to completely reignite her international career, something she thought had come to an end long ago.
After Sarina Wiegman stepped into her new role as England manager, she started to experiment with her options and provided young players with huge opportunities in the senior set up.
Another player who she took a chance on, despite last playing for the Lionesses in 2019, was Earps.
The 28-year-old has started every match under Wiegman so far and is yet to concede a single goal. Ahead of the 2022 Euros, Earps is in strong contention to be named first choice goalkeeper for the tournament.
With the Lionesses looking reborn, and Man United fighting for a spot in the Champions League, Earps is in the height of her career. But she has been open about how sometimes, difficult decisions must be made when it comes to life as a footballer.
“[Moving away from football] was definitely part of the conversation. I spoke to my dad and my mum about it. I said ‘this is my thought process, these things have happened over the last few years, and what do I want from my life and what do I want for my future? I really need to consider it as an option’.
“Women’s football is very different to men’s football. It’s not a normal job and it’s not a case of you are set for life in that way, you have to plan. I never shy away from that harsh reality.”