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‘Difficult to keep everybody happy’: Earps on evolving relationship with fans

Mary Earps has said it is “really difficult to keep everybody happy” as the ability for players to interact with fans at games has become harder with increasingly large crowds.

Earps used social media to express frustration in response to a fan who had posted on Instagram after Manchester United’s 5-0 defeat of Everton: “Thank you Ella Toone & Nikita Parris for stopping to meet my daughter today. It’s a shame Mary Earps is far too busy and important to stop for her fans these days!!”

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Earps posted a screenshot of the comment and said: “I try to ignore comments like these – but after a great win & spending so much time post-game meeting so many of you lovely lot afterwards, it’s hurtful to get home and get tagged in comments like these. Be kind. Happy Sunday. Love Mary x”.

Speaking about the interaction before England’s Nations League match against Belgium at the King Power Stadium on Friday night, Earps said: “It’s something that we as players are experiencing in a very different way with the profile of the game changing. We love to interact with the fans but it’s at times becoming really difficult to keep everybody happy and to interact with as many people as possible.”

The goalkeeper added: “We’re obviously so grateful that thousands and thousands of people want to meet us and come and talk to us, but the reality of it is, if that’s the expectation, we’re always going to fall short, and I think the emphasis on it needs to switch now. We love that we can be so connected because of how the game has grown, but equally we are subject to a lot of comments and unnecessary … I don’t want to say abuse, because that’s a bit strong, but at times it’s just an addition to the game that we don’t need … We’re doing our best.”

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Mary Earps takes a selfie for supporters after Manchester United’s 5-0 win over EvertonMary Earps takes a selfie for supporters after Manchester United’s 5-0 win over Everton. Photograph: Charlotte Tattersall/Manchester United/Getty Images

Earps spoke of her joy at how quickly her England goalkeeper shirts had sold out after they finally went on sale, the Manchester United player having gone public before the World Cup to help force the change. As part of the desire to drive the goalkeeping pathway forward, the FA invited 103 young keepers to watch training, receive an England goalkeeper shirt and take part in a Q&A with Earps, Hannah Hampton, Ellie Roebuck and Khiara Keating.

“It’s incredibly rewarding,” said Earps. “This is really the greater purpose in why I do what I do. Obviously, I love playing football, I love representing my country and playing football at the highest level, but to be able to give back to people, see young kids coming through and to be able to change the way things are done and give kids opportunities that I never had … It was unbelievable, very pinch-me, to have 103 kids [at training]. Many of them were gifted shirts with either my, Roebuck’s or Hannah’s name on the back.”

The World Cup Golden Glove winner expressed her desire to create the right environment as the senior goalkeeper in the England set-up. “I always wanted to create a really good goalkeeper group and dynamic where we can all kind of take the mick out of each other a little bit but we’re all brought together by our desire to be the best versions of ourselves and work really, really hard,” she said. “Sometimes it was hard for me to come into groups with older players and that’s not an environment that I want to create.”

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England will be without Lauren James for England’s back-to-back fixtures with Belgium – the return is in Leuven on Tuesday – with Sarina Wiegman saying the Chelsea forward had sustained a concussion.

The manager said James’s concussion was “nothing to worry about” but that the protocols had to be followed and it was “just too short for the two upcoming games”. Lotte Wubben-Moy is training but her ankle injury is being assessed.