Beth Mead says she is “super proud” to be back in the England squad for the first time in a year.
Mead, 28, has been named in Sarina Wiegman’s squad for their upcoming Women’s Nations League fixtures after recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.
“I’m so excited to be on a football pitch, I feel like a young kid again,” the Arsenal forward said.
England face the Netherlands at Wembley on Friday.
The Lionesses must beat the Dutch to keep Team GB’s chances of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics alive before taking on Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday.
England, as the nominated nation to qualify for the Olympics on behalf of Team GB, must win their Nations League group to stand a chance of reaching Paris in 2024.
Arsenal’s Mead last featured for England in November 2022 and said she had been “smiling like a Cheshire cat” since arriving to camp at St George’s Park.
“I’ve worked hard – I’m super proud of myself and being able to get back into the fold and hopefully help the team at some point,” she said.
Having played a crucial role in England’s Euro 2022 success, winning the Golden Boot and being named player of the tournament, Mead’s injury meant she missed out on the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where England reached the final.
She said there had been some “tough days” since she last pulled on the England shirt.
“Watching the World Cup and not being able to go with the team and help them out. It was a tough watch,” she said.
“I wanted to be there – kick and tackle and play every ball with them.
“I was proud of the girls through the tournament and proud to be watching, I just wished I could be there.”
Mead said she watched from home with her Arsenal team-mate and England captain Leah Williamson, who also missed the tournament through the same injury.
“We were still very emotionally and physically connected,” she said.
“It was difficult, we struggled because we just want to help the team do the best they can do and we got that taken away from us from not a nice injury.”
England lost to Spain in the final in August and Mead said she was “devastated” watching her team-mates from home.
“When we fell short in the final, I know how that feels falling just short – how hard it was and how much they put in to get to that moment,” she said.
Mead returned as a substitute for Arsenal in October in the Women’s Super League, making her first start earlier this month and scoring twice in Saturday’s 3-0 win over West Ham, her first goals in more than a year.
“Those bad days feel so much better now that I’m here and back on the pitch and doing what I love again – I’m proud of what I’ve overcome,” she said.