Welcome to a very special issue of the Official Manchester City Magazine, celebrating a decade of professional women’s football at the Club.

On 24 January 2014, Manchester City’s Women’s team were officially relaunched ahead of the new WSL season and, it’s fair to say, it’s been quite the journey so far!

With 329 matches, 240 wins and eight major honours to look back on, this magazine is crammed full of insightful interviews, intriguing stats and iconic imagery to commemorate ten very special years.

Don’t worry, we’re not covering each of those games(!), but we’ll reflect on what’s been a fantastic decade for the Club, and some of the records and milestones along the way.

City have had two permanent managers in Nick Cushing and Gareth Taylor across the past ten seasons, and both look back on their respective journeys in the dugout.

Elsewhere, our iconic former captain and Club legend Steph Houghton chooses her ultimate City XI after she announced her retirement this summer… some big names make the cut, and some miss out!

There’s also a deep dive into the records of both Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw and Karen Bardsley, our all-time top scorer and clean sheet holder, while a look at some of City’s footballing ‘firsts’ is sure to jog some memories and also show how the Club has influenced the wider game.

The past ten seasons have been littered with some remarkable derby wins since that first professional clash with Manchester United in September 2019. That story is told through some of the breathtaking imagery our photography team has captured as the action unfolded.

Caroline Oatway, who worked as a Club journalist at the time of the official relaunch and was in the press box at that first Etihad derby five years ago, also talks about her experiences of covering the Women’s team in those early years.

One constant across the past decade has been the support of Nissan, shown by their name being printed on the back of every women’s shirt since 2014, and a special interview with our Official Automotive Partner delves deeper into that close relationship.

This magazine wouldn’t be complete without a nod to you, the fans, though. A special interview with members of our Official Supporters’ Club, who have followed the team from day one, pays tribute to the incredible support the team have received over the years from the stands.

But without further ado, we hope you enjoy our special magazine below!

The Relaunch

On 24 January 2014, Manchester City’s professional women’s team was officially launched at a special event taking place at the Etihad Stadium. 

The Club can look back on an incredible ten seasons of success since that point, as well as an exciting future both on and off the pitch. 

But City’s history extends much further back, almost 36 years to be precise, when our original ladies team played their first fixture against Oldham Athletic. 

We came out on top at Boundary Park with a 4-1 win on 27 November 1988, starting an exciting new era in the process. 

Originally formed on the back of a City in the Community initiative and led by Neil Mather, the Club would enter the North West League Second Division the following year. 

Having narrowly missed out on promotion in their first season, City would move up to the North West Women’s Regional Football League in 1991, a division they would stay in until relegation in 1997. 

But an immediate return followed, winning the title en route to an unbeaten season in 1998, before another promotion in 2000 to the Northern Combination, as well as a Cup double for good measure! 

Not content with two promotions in two years, City added a third in 2001 to progress to the second highest tier in English football. 

The formation of the WSL saw the FA National Northern Division become the third division in 2011, but another title win for the Blues saw us join the FA Women’s Premier League North ahead of the 2012/13 season. 

And in that final season before the official professional relaunch and entry into the WSL, City finished fourth, with several of that original side going on to play for the new-look outfit under Nick Cushing’s guidance. 

The likes of Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Karen Bardsley, Toni Duggan, Izzy Christiansen and Betsy Hassett would join them ahead of that first WSL campaign, training full-time while the rest of the squad sharpened up in the evening after work. 

It took time for this new-look side to gel in the top tier, and City endured a tough start by losing four of our first five matches in all competitions. 

But we recovered, finishing fifth in the WSL and reaching the Continental Cup final where we’d face Arsenal at Wycombe’s Adams Park. 

City famously won that game to clinch our first major silverware, but the goal which decided the contest against the Gunners demonstrated our incredible journey to that point. 

It was Krystle Johnston, a member of our original Ladies team, who rather poetically sent an inch-perfect cross in for Christiansen, one of our new recruits, to head home. 

The rest, as they say, is history… 

The
Managers

When talking about Manchester City’s professional era, two names deserve a special mention: Nick Cushing and Gareth Taylor. 

Of the Club’s 329 competitive fixtures as a professional outfit, the pair have taken charge of 326, with Alan Mahon stepping in as interim for three matches in 2020. 

Cushing, our first-ever manager, would preside over six major honours in as many seasons before leaving the Club to become assistant manager at New York City FC. 

Taylor would take over ahead of the 2020/21 campaign and has since gone on to guide City to FA Cup and Continental Cup triumphs, our highest-ever WSL points tally and the longest winning run in the competition’s history over a single season. 

But while one replaced the other, their stories already intertwined before their respective time in the hot seat at the Joie Stadium, having each earned their stripes coaching in the Club’s academy system. 

But ahead of our first WSL season, Cushing made the move over to our Women’s team at just 29 years of age. 

While it ultimately had a happy ending for the Club and the man himself, he admits it was a massive learning curve.

It was one he relished though. 

“Initially I was really excited about the role because although I have a passion for developing players, I wanted to work at the top end with the Under-18s, EDS and first team," he explains.

“At 29, when I reflect on it, I wasn’t ready but the opportunity to take on the women’s team was really exciting. 

“I was really honest with them at the start saying I had no experience in the professional game, but was very excited and ambitious, until that first WSL game against Liverpool. 

“It was live on TNT Sport and the first thing I did when I got off the bus was walk right in front of a camera, that’s when I realised this was different. 

“We had a team who were stepping up to being professional, but then also some internationals who were coming here with really high standards.” 

In a new environment and with some of the players still part time, City took a while to get going, losing four of our first five matches in all competitions. 

But after a change in structure which allowed the entire team to train together on a full time basis, things started to click. 

By the end of the season we even found ourselves in the Continental Cup final, with Izzy Christiansen’s late header securing silverware in our first-ever professional campaign. 

“It’s a great example of real team spirit and togetherness," Cushing continues.

“We had inconsistent results in the league but in the cup… it reinforced the belief that we want to be an important team in the WSL. 

“That team had a really good balance, they gave everything and just wanted to win really badly.” 

For Cushing, a trophy win had marked a turning point for the team after a difficult start. 

The same could be said for Taylor six years later, when he guided City to an FA Cup triumph just two months into his time in the dugout. 

Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we locked horns with Everton in November 2020 in a bid to retain the trophy six months after the final was originally scheduled to take place, with wins over Leicester and Arsenal booking our place at Wembley. 

But with two frustrating draws against Brighton and Reading, as well as a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea in the WSL, Taylor admits his side needed time to gel. 

He said: “You make errors because you come in with ideas of how you want things to work but then get to the bottom of things and realise what really needs to improve. 

“[The first trophy] just reinforces the belief around what you do. 

“Especially at Wembley, it was a bit of a weird sensation being there behind closed doors with no fans, but it was great. 

“Winning that first trophy is really important, it just settles everything down, and you’re then hungry for the next one.”  

City would get the better of Everton after extra time at Wembley, going unbeaten for the rest of the WSL season while losing just two more fixtures in all competitions.

In a similar vein, Nick Cushing’s side would use that Conti Cup win back in 2014 as a springboard, taking the league title to the final day the following year while qualifying for the Champions League for the first time. 

In 2016, however, they would mark that progress in style, going unbeaten en route to a first WSL title, with another Conti Cup triumph in tow. 

By the following May, City would add the FA Cup to our trophy cabinet following a 4-1 win over Birmingham City in our first-ever Wembley appearance. 

“The team had grown really quickly, and by 2016 we had a huge desire [to win the title]," Cushing reveals.

"We had a team who had time to gel and then just added that extra quality in the likes of Kosovare Asllani and Jane Ross to name two. 

“We knew we had the capability to be a league winning team, but I think we exceeded our own expectations by going unbeaten.” 

Silverware, of course, provides a barometer for a team's success across a season, but a win in the Manchester derby, something that both Cushing and Taylor have both experienced at the Etihad Stadium, is particularly special.

For Taylor, over 40,000 fans witnessed City cruise to a 3-1 triumph in March 2024, spearheaded by a brilliant individual display from Jess Park.

The youngster’s first half brace set us on our way, before Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw added our third within minutes of the restart, making her our record goalscorer in the process. 

It’s an afternoon that Taylor, and anyone of a blue persuasion, won’t forget in a hurry. 

“[That was] an amazing result and a great day,” he reflected after the game. 

“When we come here [to the Etihad], it seems to get better and better, the experience. It gives us big confidence. 

“I said to some of the players at half-time, I didn’t think we were that good in the first half. We started the game quite well but if we trust what we do then you see really good things. 

“The one thing we were speaking about was ‘you’ve had some assists Jessie, but no goals!’ 

“Jess stepped up to the opportunity really well. When you think about how patient she’s had to be, she’s done well in that space. 

“I felt the first half an hour of the second half though, we were excellent.” 

Once again, it’s an experience that Cushing can share with an almost eerie similarity. 

A nervy start, an incredible crowd, and a memorable goal just after the restart.

“The one thing I remember clearly was hammering home that we couldn’t lose that game,” he revealed when talking about preparations for City’s first-ever professional derby in September 2019. 

“I was so confident in that team, we had players that could grind a result out and players with those moments of quality like Caroline Weir. 

“At the time, for us to play at the Etihad, it was fairly new and the pressure was on. We didn’t play too well in the first half, but it was a great occasion and feeling.” 

As Cushing alludes to, City had to survive a few scares and were thankful to Ellie Roebuck for a phenomenal save to deny her former team-mate Jane Ross early on. 

But a moment of brilliance from Weir settled the tie early in the second half, just like Shaw’s strike did almost five years later. 

At the time, the attendance figure of 31,213 was the most in WSL history, more than six times larger than the previous record. 

It was a striking indication of the appetite for women’s football at City and more widely across the United Kingdom, and that’s continued apace. 

Indeed, 44,259 fans packed into the Etihad the next time Taylor’s side played there in December 2022, while a record crowd of 5,409 saw City sign off on home soil for the 2023/24 campaign in May. 

In short, women’s football is growing at a rapid rate, and it’s something that Cushing – someone who was there from the start at City – is proud to see. 

He adds: “One of my reflections is that the game is different now, it’s far more developed and difficult than when I started. 

“The level of player and standard of teams has improved. What the growth of the game brings is a far more difficult job for Gareth. 

“If I look through 2014 to 2018, the league was won or lost on head to heads between Chelsea, Arsenal and City. 

“But now the results across the league, you can drop points to anyone. That’s really good for the game.” 

Taylor echoes Cushing’s sentiments about the upward trajectory of women’s football during his time in the dugout.

But the manager insists that momentum is showing no signs of slowing down in the years to come.

It's a mouthwatering prospect, and one that's made all the more special when considering some of those early barriers.

“I was always aware of Nick’s journey and the cycle of the team, and a big supporter of him and the group,” Taylor finished. 

“With the Lionesses winning the Euros and the type of exposure the women’s game now rightfully gets, it’s just incredible where it as and where it’s come to. 

“The game is changing right before our eyes.” 

steph Houghton's all-time city xi

Following an illustrious career in which Steph Houghton made 242 appearances for City and won eight major honours, our colossal captain called time on her playing career at the end of the 2023/24 season.

Her final outing came in our last Barclays Women’s Super League assignment of the term – a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa as Gareth Taylor’s side matches our best-ever points total in the top flight.

During her time at the Joie Stadium, she played with a swathe of phenomenal players, and we’ve asked her to select her all-time City XI from her team-mates over the past decade.

Here’s who she selected…

GK karen bardsley

“The best 'keeper in the world in my opinion at that time.

"An unbelievable shot stopper, a massive presence in goal and she saved us in so many moments.”

RB Lucy Bronze

“A world class player and one of the best right-backs of our generation.

"[She] can get up and down the line, but also in a one-v-one situation isn’t scared of any winger. She was unbelievable [at City].”

CB Jen Beattie

“Beats’ physical presence, ability with both feet to play out of trouble and to also score important goals was absolutely crucial in that title-winning season.”

CB Alex Greenwood

“She’s been unbelievably consistent for us over the last four seasons and has got better and better each year as well.

"She has a wand of a left foot for set-pieces and can also score a few as well.

“That mentality is scary.”

LB Demi Stokes

“I still say to this day there is no better one-v-one defender than Demi Stokes, but also her ability to get forward and to join in the attack.

"Especially in that 2016 season when we only conceded four goals [Demi was amazing].”

CM Keira Walsh

“Holding midfielder, Manchester’s own Keira Walsh. She came here as a 17-year-old and just slotted right in.

"One of the most technically gifted players I’ve ever played with. It was a pleasure to share all those memories and see how much of a world class midfielder she’s become.”

CM Caroline Weir

“I don’t even know if I need to explain Caz.

“Technically unbelievable, left-foot – I’ll always remember those [Manchester] United goals even by just being behind them and seeing that one at the Etihad, but also the chip at the Joie Stadium.

“Not just one chip, but two chips. I miss playing that little diagonal pass into the 10.”

CM Jill Scott

“The one and only Jill Scott. Her energy, personality, ability to get stuck in, go box-to-box and score important goals were crucial in the first few seasons.

“When you have someone like her in your team you’ve got more chance winning than you have with anyone else because of the energy she brings and also her quality.”

RW Nikita Parris

“Playing with Keats and the energy she brings, her movement, everything she did for Manchester City was always with her heart.

“Her ability to go and press to frighten defenders was really crucial. She scored some unbelievable goals and played in a few positions.”

ST Bunny Shaw

“Bunny’s records speak for themselves. She knows how much I loved playing with her, I think she’s got everything a striker needs. 

“She’s got power, strength, pace and ultimately, she’s able to score goals whether that’s in the air or on the floor. Playing against her in training has made me think of this decision because I hate playing against her.  

“Bunny has to be there for what she’s done in the last couple of years and what she could potentially do in the future.” 

LW Lauren Hemp

“For me, she has the potential to be the best player in the world if she really wanted to be and be dedicated. I feel as though this is the right place [for her].

“So fast, so quick at dribbling, can go inside or outside of full-backs, is now starting to head the ball as well so that brings a bit more of a threat on crosses.

“She drives the team forward with her runs and energy, and that diagonal ball was always on because no one wanted to defend against her.”

Bench
Izzy Christiansen

The timing of your runs, your ability to nail that #10 position and your energy was unbelievable.

Chloe Kelly

Her crossing ability is incredible. She's scored some absolute screamers as well.

Toni Duggan

You ran your socks off and when we needed someone to look to or score the goals, you were there.