Mary Earps is best known for keeping the ball out of the net, but the England goalkeeper has completed a hat-trick on Tuesday by becoming the third successive female winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
Earps had been the overwhelming favourite to scoop the annual gong in Salford, as she followed tennis star Emma Raducanu and England team-mate Beth Mead in receiving the accolade.
The award furthered confirmed the growth of women’s football with back-to-back winners, as well as Earps own soaring profile in recent years.
Earps, who was part of England’s victorious Euros squad in 2022, helped the Lionesses reach the final of the Women’s World Cup for the first time in Australia and New Zealand.
The 30-year-old conceded just four goals during the tournament, keeping three clean sheets to ultimately claim the Golden Glove award.
Mary Earps has been named as winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award
Earps claimed the World Cup Golden Glove after keeping three clean sheets at the tournament
Her foul-mouthed Women’s World Cup moment became famous with fans after Earps reacted to saving a penalty during the Lionesses’ 1-0 final defeat to Spain in Sydney earlier this year
She was left powerless to stop Spain’s winning goal from Olga Carmona in the 1-0 final defeat as the Lionesses fell at the final hurdle, but Earps had given England hope with a penalty save from Jennifer Hermoso.
The save was made more memorable for Earps reaction having given a now famous foul-mouthed reaction, after being caught on camera screaming, ‘F*** off!’ to her opponents.
‘A few people even had it tattooed on them,’ Earps told Mail Sport. ‘It was a really hard one to get my head around because I had no idea at the time that it had gone viral in that way. But when I got back, I realised it had become quite a thing.
‘I’m not sure my family were too impressed. They have not spoken about it much so that tells you what they really think of it. I had to try and convince my gran that it wasn’t what I really said!
‘But the way I see it, football is an emotional and passionate game and they just caught me in a passionate moment. It was just the wrong time for the camera to zoom in on me.
‘I wear my heart on my sleeve and it just spilled over into that. But I am not advocating for anyone to get it tattooed on them!’
Earps passionate response led to its own its own merchandise range, with T-shirts and mugs having been produced.
While the latest range of merchandise was inadvertent, the England and Manchester United star notably succeeded in forcing Nike into a major U-turn this year.
Earps’ penalty save kept England in the game against Spain, but the Lionesses ultimately came up agonisingly short
Nike were forced into a U-turn and eventually began selling replicas of Earps’ England kit, with the jersey selling out just five minutes after going on sale
Earps celebrated confirmation her shirt would go on sale with her one million TikTok followers
At club level, Earps kept a WSL record 14 clean sheets for Man United in the 2022-23 season
In July, Earps took on the sportswear giant by criticising their ‘hugely hurtful’ decision not to put her goalkeeper shirt on sale for a second tournament running.
‘It’s something that I’ve been fighting behind closed doors. I’ve been desperately trying to find a solution with the FA and with Nike,’ Earps said.
‘Unfortunately it’s become very evident that is not possible and there’s not going to be an acceptable solution for the young kids out there. On a personal level it’s obviously hugely hurtful, considering the last 12 months especially.
‘A lesson I’ve learned is that I should have made a public statement sooner maybe. I look back on it and I’ve tried everything. I offered to fund it myself and my team-mates have been really supportive.’
Earps decision to take on the public battle with Nike only increased pressure for the goalkeeper to deliver at the World Cup.
Nike eventually caved under public pressure, with a petition having been launched to demand the production of Earps’ shirt. The green long-sleeved Lionesses shirt was ultimately released, only for it to sell out in five minutes.
Earps, who has been dubbed Mary Queen of Stops, believes the company have learned a lesson from the saga after claiming their initial decision was an ‘injustice’.
‘On this topic, they know that they got this wrong and that’s why they’ve done this correction – a big company like Nike, they wouldn’t do that if they didn’t know it wasn’t right and that there was an injustice there,’ Earps told Sky News.
Earps emerged from the international wilderness in 2020 to become England’s No1 goalkeeper
England manager Sarina Wiegman recalled Earps in 2020 and installed her as first choice
Earps spoke about her journey when she won the Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper Award this year
‘They did the right thing and, really, I can’t thank the public enough for their support and, really, we wouldn’t be in this position without it.’
Earps has continued to deliver at club level throughout the year, as she secured the Women’s Super League for the 2022-23 campaign, keeping a record 14 clean sheets.
She was also between the sticks as England were crowned winners of the inaugural Women’s Finalissima, saving a penalty to help the Sarina Wiegman’s side win a shootout against Brazil.
Earps has secured a host of individual awards throughout the last 12 months following her displays.
This included winning the Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper award for 2022 and being named in the WSL Team of the Season, while she also finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or. Earps has already won the BBC Women’s Football of the Year prize and was named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year.
Her status in the game was reflected further when Arsenal made two bids surpassing the world record £100,000 record fee for a women’s goalkeeper earlier this year, with both rebuffed by Man United.
Earps has built a fanbase with her charisma and exploits between the sticks for England
The England star was awarded an honorary degree from Loughborough University this month
Earps has previously spoken of the the importance of a year playing for German side Wolfsburg, which has led to her continuing to wear the No27 shirt at club level
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The bids further highlighted the rise of the Nottingham-born shot-stopper, who first began playing football in the garden with her brother and father.
Her early years in the game included playing for a local team called West Bridgford Colts where she first started playing in goal.
Earps then continued playing park football until moving to Leicester City’s centre of excellence aged 14 when she impressed in trials. She then joined Nottingham Forest aged 16 before soon switching to Doncaster Rovers Belles.
Earps previously told how she used to be given a lift by teammates including one who drove all the way from Southampton and would pick her up on the way.
At the time Earps was just moving onto her A-Levels, and worked in a cinema, a children’s toy shop, in two coaching roles and with her father’s business where she did telesales work for him.
She made her debut in the Women’s Super League with Doncaster aged 17, before leaving school and going to Loughborough where she completed a degree in information management and business studies between 2012 and 2016.
Earps received full-time goalkeeping coaching for the first time when she joined Reading in 2016, before moving on to join Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg in 2018.
Speaking to Mail Sport last year, Earps described her time at Wolfsburg as ‘life-changing’ both personally and professionally, which has led to her keeping the No.27 shirt she wore when she moved to Man United in 2019.
A tram was named after Mary Earps in her hometown of Nottingham after a remarkable year
Earps is pictured with players from her childhood football team called West Bridgford WFC
Having been England’s third choice goalkeeper for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Earps previously admitted questioning her future in the camp after being dropped by Phil Neville for a squad the following year.
Earps had said she sank to the floor of her kitchen and cried after Neville named a squad with four goalkeepers, with her name absent from the list.
‘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.’
After a two-year absence from the squad, Earps was recalled and quickly became a fixture under Wiegman, playing a pivotal role in England’s Euros success on home soil.
Her journey from the international wilderness to a leading role in the England set-up was highlighted in her acceptance speech at the FIFA Best Awards last year.
‘This is for anyone who has ever been in a dark place,’ Earps said when addressing the ceremony.
‘Just know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There’s only one of you, and that’s more than good enough. Be unapologetically yourself.’
Earps has used the last line as a slogan as part of a ‘MAE27’ brand of products, including T-shirts and hoodies, which launched earlier this year as she dipped into the business world.
While she has been laser focused on her football career, she has shown a lighter side having been dubbed as England’s ‘TikTok Queen’ by her team-mates.
Boasting over one million followers and 16.7 million likes, Earps has shared fun videos featuring kangaroos, coffee-making and dances with her team-mates, as well as providing insight into her life as a goalkeeper.
A recent clip also saw Earps punching the air after confirmation Nike were placing her England kit on sale.
Earps, centre, has shown her lighter side but sharing a series of TikTok’s with her team-mates
England manager Wiegman has described her first-choice goalkeeper as an ‘extrovert’
Earps followed England team-mate Beth Mead, right, in scooping the BBC’s SPOTY award
Unsurprisingly given the clips, Earps has admitted that she is a ‘big character’ in the dressing room at Man United and England, with Wiegman telling the BBC that her first choice goalkeeper is an ‘extrovert’.
She has also credited her communication skills to singing and dancing as a youngster.
‘I did a lot of dancing growing up which I think helped me,’ Earps said. ‘When you’re doing a singing and dancing solo on stage to Pop Goes the Weasel, demanding your defender to go a little bit right or left doesn’t faze you.
‘That set me apart at a younger age because quite a lot of goalkeepers felt a bit embarrassed to shout or communicate to their team but I was never really like that.’
A special end to the year has seen Earps receive an honorary degree from Loughborough University and have a tram named after her in her home town of Nottingham.
The SPOTY trophy has now found its way into the safest pair of hands with Earps voted as the 70th winner of the award ahead of Stuart Broad, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Frankie Dettori, Alfie Hewett and Rory McIlroy.