When it was revealed in July that England fans would not be able to buy the shirt of Lionesses star Mary Earps for a second consecutive major tournament, you could forgive the best goalkeeper in the world for feeling forgotten about again.
A petition has since been launched, and after receiving almost 50,000 signatures, the FA and kit manufacturers Nike have been forced to act.
FA chief Mark Bullingham has said a ‘plan is in place’ to begin production of Earps’ goalkeeper shirt ahead of the World Cup final against Spain on Sunday.
The furore has taken place while Earps has been busy securing England’s safe passage to that final with some breath-taking saves sprinkled among her the calmness her assured style of goalkeeping brings to Sarina Wiegman‘s backline.
But even if this change has not been forced by the 30-year-old on her own, it is another example from her remarkable career of the importance of fighting to get what you deserve.
Mary Earps has enjoyed a remarkable rise to establish herself as England no 1
The goalkeeper won the Euros last summer and is looking to follow it up with a World Cup victory on Sunday
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In 2020, Earps was brought to tears when she learnt that she would once again not be a part of Phil Neville’s England squad.
Neville judged that Carly Telford, Ellie Roebuck, Hannah Hampton and Sandy MacIver were all ahead of the Manchester United goalkeeper in the pecking order, meaning there was no place for her.
‘I got to a point where I felt I had sort of reached my limits,’ Earps said. ‘I had given football a good go, but wasn’t quite good enough. I had responsibilities, I had a mortgage and it wasn’t adding up.’
Within a year, Earps was recalled by newly-appointed Wiegman after impressing for United as they continued to establish themsleves in the Women’s Super League.
A further 12 months down the line, the Nottingham-born ‘keeper was undeniably established as England’s no 1 and earned a place in the team of the tournament as the Lionesses won the European Championship on home soil.
Earps is now just one victory away from completing a remarkable three years of career progression, but the petition to Nike to make her shirt available to purchase is a reflection of how her popularity goes beyond her ability in goal.
She is known as the ‘TikTok Queen’ among the England players, and has amassed more than 750,000 followers and a mind-boggling 11.4million likes on the video sharing platform.
From clips of her best moments on the pitch and in training, to viral dance trends with her Lionesses team-mates and behind-the-scenes moments from her life away from the pitch, Earps has established herself as a social media star.
Instead of the well-manicured work of PR companies, her videos are clearly self-made and authentic. Not only does this offer an insight into her life away from football, it makes her a relatable presence in the increasingly detached world of professional sport.
Earps is a hit on TikTok, making videos with team-mates such as England captain Millie Bright
Excelling on the pitch and on social media appears to not be enough for Earps though, as she has also set about establishing a business empire.
Having completed a degree in Information Management and Business Studies in 2016, she launched clothing brand MAE27 earlier this year to provide an alternative shirt for fans to purchase after Nike were unable to deliver.
The brand’s motto is ‘Be unapologetically yourself’, reflecting the strength of character that has helped the goalkeeper reach this incredible chapter of her career and the personality she has shown in doing so.
Given she worked part-time in a cinema when she made her WSL debut for Doncaster as a 17-year-old, it would be fair to say Earps has come a long way.
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
The shot-stopper picked up the award for ‘Best Goalkeeper’ at the Fifa awards in February and is now just one victory away from being a world champion.
‘I’m grateful for every single part of my journey because it’s made me the character and person I am,’ Earps told Mail Sport last year. ‘You know when to demand more from certain situations that aren’t acceptable.’
And that is exactly what Earps has done in publically confronting Nike about their repeated failure to allow fans to buy her shirt.
‘It’s a very scary message that’s being sent to goalkeepers worldwide that ‘you’re not important’,’ Earps said. ‘It’s hugely disappointing and very hurtful.’
Wiegman has relied on Earps to make vital saves throughout England’s journey to the World Cup final, and she will surely be called upon again on Sunday against a Spain side that has scored 17 goals in the tournament already.
Earps has also launched a career for herself away from football, launching a clothing brand in 2023
Earps was named the ‘Best Goalkeeper’ at the FIFA awards back in February earlier this year
Even though the goakeeper was one of the main protagonists when the England players crashed their manager’s post-match press conference following last year’s Euros win, Earps is the team’s vice-captain Down Under.
With regular captain Leah Williamson and Euros Golden Boot winner Beth Mead both absent through injury, the responsibility on the shoulders of Earps and fellow experienced members of the squad like Millie Bright and Lucy Bronze has been increased.
But Earps, as she showed by licking her lips ahead of the penalty shootout in the last 16 win against Nigeria, has been relishing the responsibility.
Should England cap a magnificent 12 months by getting their hands on the World Cup on Sunday, few can claim to have played as big a part in their relentless success as her.