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Lionesses keeper Mary Earps reigns supreme in BBC world poll

Mary Earps, the goalkeeper whose heroics helped England reach the World Cup final in August, has been crowned BBC Women’s World Footballer of the Year.

The Manchester United goalkeeper said she was "truly honoured" to collect the accolade.

Earps beat Spain midfielder Aitana Bonmati, Chelsea forward Sam Kerr, Sweden and Barcelona's Fridolina Rolfo and Germany legend Alexandra Popp for the prize.

The 30-year-old, who had already been named England's Player of the Year, is 4/6 to go on and complete an astonishing treble by winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
 

The greatest year of her life

Earps' recognition as BBC's world player of the year caps a truly astonishing year for the Nottingham-born keeper. 

She began it as she ended it, keeping clean sheets and making big saves helping Manchester United to a best-ever second place finish in the Women's Super League. 

Her 14 clean sheets during the 2022-23 season is a WSL record and earned her the Golden Glove. 

For the Lionesses, a sign of things to come came at the Finalissima against Brazil at Wembley, in April, when she saved a penalty to help England lift the trophy. 

That was merely an appetiser for what was to come at the World Cup finals in Australia though, where few would dispute that without Earps, the best keeper on the planet, England would have not reached the final. 

She kept clean sheets in England's first two group games, kept another against Nigeria in the last 16, conceded just four goals in seven matches and saved a penalty from Spain's Jennifer Hermoso in the final, which the Lionesses lost 1-0.

She was awarded the tournament's Golden Glove and came fifth in Ballon d'Or Feminin voting, the highest ever ranking by a goalkeeper. 
 

Earps' feats make a mockery of manufacturer spat 

Earps deserves all the praise, all the plaudits and all the prizes going after her stellar 2023 – and her feats are all the more pleasing when you consider the unnecessary shirt row that rightly upset her as she starred at the World Cup. 

Sportswear brand Nike scored a spectacular own goal when the official England kit supplier said they would not be making Earps' replica shirts commercially available. 

Given Earps was often single-handedly keeping England in the finals the reaction was understandable with a petition containing 150,000 signatures prompting Nike to reconsider. 

Earps said their decision was "hurtful" but the power of the people provoked a grovelling U-turn from Nike who went on to make shirts available. 

The backlash was a demonstration of the growth of the women's game and deserved recognition of Earps, and after winning the BBC's award she was quick to thank her army of fans. 

"There has been a lot that has happened this year," she admitted. "Obviously, we've had the World Cup. We've had everything that's gone on with the goalkeeper shirts. 

"I've had the whole goalkeeper union behind me, it seemed like. Not even just that, just incredible support from the public and many people." 
 

Wiegman's hand in ensuring Earps' story had a happy ending 

Earps has enjoyed the happiest of endings of 2023, yet it was a year – certainly at international level – that may not have happened. 

Cast your mind back a couple of years, when Earps was in and out of the England side, she was considering quitting the international scene. 

It was England boss Sarina Wiegman who changed Earps' mind for her by immediately making her the new No.1 and the rest, as they say, is history. 

"I try to use my story as a beacon of hope for people - to show that there are better days coming," Earps said.

"You just have to keep going and keep fighting. That looks very different to different people - everyone has their own battles and their own stories.

"That makes this award even more special. I am truly honoured. To be the first keeper to get their hands on the award is special and I am incredibly grateful."
 

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