BUNNY SHAW

ROAD TO THE RECORD

By George Kelsey

Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw couldn’t have chosen a more fitting occasion to write her name into City history once again.

Picking up play from Jess Park, the Jamaican shrugged off the attentions of Manchester United defender Maya Le Tissier before confidently slotting home past Mary Earps.

It was City’s third goal of a 3-1 derby win, coming just 30 seconds after the restart at the Etihad Stadium.

Pace, power, a sharp touch and a clinical finish. It epitomised everything that Bunny has become known for since joining the Club from Bordeaux in 2021.

In just her 82nd appearance for City, that goal also saw her surpass Georgia Stanway and become the Club’s record scorer in the process.

Shaw enjoyed a remarkable 2023/24, going on to win the WSL Golden Boot with 21 strikes in just 18 games.

And the individual honours followed, such as being named Joie Player of the Season, FWA Footballer of the Year and WSL Player of the Season.

But perhaps the most historic moment of all was reserved for the Etihad Stadium on a memorable March afternoon.

Below is a retelling of the key strikes which led to her history-making 68th against United which is being resurfaced on the anniversary of her City arrival in June 2021…

The one that started it all.

City had taken the race for the Barclays Women’s Super League title to the final day in 2020/21 and began the new campaign as one of the pre-season favourites.

But Gareth Taylor’s side were handed what seemed a difficult first assignment, away to Everton at Goodison Park in September 2021.

It would prove to be the perfect setting for Shaw to announce herself in the English game…

“Outside of the World Cup, that was probably the biggest stadium I’d played in,” Shaw reflects with a smile.

“I remember the atmosphere and my adrenaline. It was a crazy game. It was my first for the Club and I remember telling my family that I was nervous..

“The game went on, Hayley [Raso] picked the ball up and went down the line, I went into the box because the space was there, and she played it across, and I tried to do the best I can.

“That first goal was a great feeling.”

City had cruised into a two-goal lead through Vicky Losada and Janine Beckie but, with half-time approaching, it was Shaw’s turn to get on the scoresheet.

As the Jamaican mentions, a penetrating run from Hayley Raso against her former club created another opening for the visitors, with the Jamaican peeling off her marker to create the space.

That clever movement presented her with a simple finish back across goal, and past her current City team-mate Sandy MacIver.

We’d go on to win 4-0 at Goodison – three points and the first of many strikes for Shaw.

Three weeks later and a first hat-trick would follow for Shaw in a much-needed FA Cup win over Leicester City.

That early season promise from Goodison Park had been dealt a significant blow by an unprecedented injury crisis, and City came to the Joie Stadium on the back of a Champions League exit and successive WSL defeats to Tottenham and Arsenal.

But after a first half of few clearcut chances, Shaw’s first goal on home soil sparked a devastating attacking display.

All three were with one touch, and all three were inside the six-yard box. They might not have been spectacular, but that didn’t matter to the Jamaican as she reflected on the win after the game.

“That’s one of the things I’ve been trying to work on every day, to get in the right spots and time the ball as they come.

“When it comes off on the pitch, you’re so happy because I’ve been practicing so much.”

A stunning Losada strike, Alex Greenwood penalty and Filippa Angeldahl effort earned a 6-0 triumph over Leicester, but it was Shaw’s treble which had underlined the dominant display.

The forward provided a coy response when asked if we’d see a few more three-goal hauls from her at City in the future.

“It’s a team effort, I’m scoring the goals but without the team it wouldn’t be possible.

“As long as I get the balls, I’m in the right positions and can help the team, you can see more.”

Shaw was right – we’ve certainly gone on to see more…

Shaw’s eyes lit up as Demi Stokes swung the cross in from the left.

City were up against it at the time, having been reduced to ten players following Georgia Stanway’s early sending off against Manchester United in October 2021, but found ourselves ahead when the Jamaican marked her first derby appearance with a goal.

Spinning away from Aoife Mannion, Shaw powered an unstoppable header into the bottom corner of Earps’ net from Stokes’ ball in, before being mobbed by her team-mates in front of the travelling City fans.

We’d ultimately have to settle for a share of the spoils, with Ellen White cancelling out two quickfire goals from the hosts when she was first on the scene after Jess Park’s effort had struck the bar.

However, given the context of the game’s early dismissal, Shaw’s goal certainly made it feel like a point gained, rather than two dropped.

It also wouldn't be the last significant goal that the Jamaican would grab against our rivals...

Rather prophetically, Shaw would reach another milestone on the same day that the player she’s now overtaken at the top of the scoring charts broke the record herself.

Our FA Cup fourth round trip to Nottingham Forest in January 2022 will always be remembered for Stanway’s hat-trick, which saw her surpass Nikita Parris as the Club’s record scorer.

Gareth Taylor’s side were six to the good by the time the former City midfielder grabbed her 63rd goal in blue, with Shaw grabbing a brace.

The first of those strikes saw the forward take her tally for the Club into double figures when she rose highest to power home Angeldahl’s corner after the half-hour.

A second would follow two minutes before Stanway broke the record, when a loose pass back to the Nottingham Forest keeper presented Shaw with a simple finish from six yards.

City would go on to reach the FA Cup final that season, losing out to Chelsea in extra time at Wembley, and the Jamaican would sign off with 19 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions across her debut campaign.

An impressive return in front of goal for a player who’d never sampled English football before, but it pails in comparison to what Shaw would go on to achieve the year after…

It was all change at City heading into the 2022/23 campaign with several new faces coming through the door during the summer.

But from the get-go, Shaw was looking sharp.

Her 20th goal in City colours would come just four minutes into the new season against WFC Tomiris-Turan.

Another clever darting run to the near post, this time to meet a Lauren Hemp cross from the left, would present the Jamaican with an opportunity she wasn’t about to pass up.

She finished the chance in typically clinical fashion, glancing a header across goal and into the far corner to hand City the advantage.

With Ellen White announcing her retirement soon after, it placed a significant pressure on Shaw’s shoulders to lead the line, but one she nonetheless took in her stride.

For Taylor, reflecting on the 6-0 win after the game, the Jamaican was operating at a different level.

“As a striker, that’s what you want [to get off the mark early]. You want to be in there scoring goals, being involved and having chances,” he explained.

“I’ve seen a step up in a lot of the players in terms of the levels they’ve gone through and Bunny’s certainly one of them. When she’s like that she’s very difficult to play against.”

Just over three months later and the Jamaican’s tally would hit 30, this time in a 3-0 Continental Cup triumph over Sunderland at the Joie Stadium.

In the space of ten games, Shaw had found the net a further ten times. That included eight goals in her past six appearances, meaning the outcome of seemed inevitable when she raced onto Steph Houghton’s pass in behind the visiting defence.

The Jamaican duly did the honours, steadying herself before caressing the ball effortlessly into the Sunderland net to round off the win.

By late February Shaw’s incredible start to the 2022/23 campaign had transformed into a potentially record-breaking season.

The Jamaican was on a remarkable 17 goals from just 19 appearances in all competitions when City faced Championship leaders Bristol City in the FA Cup fifth round.

And in a devastating display of attacking football, she would add another four to her tally at the Robins High Performance Centre as City ran out 8-1 winners.

Grabbing our opening three goals, the first a smart turn and finish, the second a powerful low drive and the third a clever near-post flick, Shaw had already got herself the match ball inside 41 minutes.

However, a fourth goal after the break, when the Jamaican demonstrated her unique blend of pace and power to drive through the Bristol defence and find the net, would take her total to 40 in City colours. She’d reached it in just 49 appearances.

She adds: “You want to score early in each game because if you do that it can set the tone for the rest of the game. You get another one and you’re thinking you could possibly get a hat-trick.

“The team seeing that definitely helps sometimes because we talk about us being aggressive and at the top end if we do our bit, it helps the girls at the back.

“I go into every game telling myself I’m going to score, of course I won’t every game but having that belief that when I cross the white line it’s game on is important.”

While Shaw was still just over 12 months from catching Stanway's all-time tally, a brace against Brighton in March 2023 did see her break a different longstanding record.

Having grabbed four against Bristol City, the Jamaican added another match ball to her collection in our next fixture against Tottenham Hotspur at the Joie Stadium.

It meant she came into our clash with the Seagulls knowing she was just two goals off surpassing Nikita Parris’ record for the most strikes across a single season, a feat she achieved in 2018/19.

Shaw would match that tally when she played a neat one-two with Yui Hasegawa to open the scoring at Broadfield Stadium, but Elisabeth Terland’s leveller had seemingly earned a share of the spoils for the hosts.

That was until the 89th minute when the Jamaican cleverly feinted onto her left foot inside the area and fired on the turn back across goal to seal a vital three points and a record 26th goal of the season.

“Bunny Shaw is inevitable”, declared City’s commentator as the Jamaican made it 3-0 to the hosts on the final day of the 2022/23 campaign with her 31st goal of the season.

She’d reach that feat in just 30 appearances in all competitions, and the final strike of that remarkable campaign was her 50th for the Club.

A brace against Everton at the Joie Stadium, alongside a stunning individual effort from Hemp, sealed a 3-2 win for City, and secured the Jamaican’s spot in the PFA WSL Team of the Year.

Our number 21 broke the deadlock when she finished off a swift City counter attack, cleverly disguising her effort to leave Toffees stopper Courtney Brosnan rooted to the spot.

And after Hemp curled home an unstoppable second off the Everton bar, Shaw would get back among the goals again when she plucked the winger’s cross out of the air and fired into the far corner.

“I got a knock and came off, and then when I came on, I remember saying to myself that I’m just going to press the ball, I don’t care where it goes.”
Bunny Shaw

A commonly used phrase in football simply reads: ‘it doesn’t matter how they go in’, and the goal which Shaw is describing certainly fits that description.

Chasing down a loose pass from Le Tissier back to her goalkeeper, the forward got a boot to Earps’ attempted clearance, and wheeled away in celebration as the ball bounced into the empty net.

She’ll likely never score a goal like it again, but what a place and occasion to do it, sealing a memorable 3-1 win against our rivals at Old Trafford.

“Sometimes you find yourself in certain situations like that where I’m literally just trying to block the ball from going long and it ends up in the goal.

“I think we’ve worked a lot on our pressing so to see it pay off especially in that game helps my confidence as well.”

City came into the game with a point to prove, having lost our last two league fixtures against Arsenal and Brighton.

But after falling behind to an early penalty, the visitors put on a dominant display to deal United their first-ever Old Trafford defeat, with Shaw’s goal adding to earlier strikes from Jill Roord and Hemp.

It was also particularly sweet moment given Shaw had endured plenty of stick from the home crowd when briefly coming off with a knock moments before her strike.

Rather than shy away from that hostility, the Jamaican relished it.

“I remember we were warming up in the corner and the fans were talking a bunch of stuff and Chloe was like ‘I love this’ and laughing.

“That was my first time actually being there, so to hear Chloe say that she loved it gave me the pump to say ‘if I score, I’m going to celebrate’.

“It was a great game.”

City and Shaw would sign off for 2023 with an impressive 4-1 win away to Everton, in a display which Taylor described as one of the best he’d seen from his players.

The Jamaican was at the centre of that success with yet another hat-trick, but things didn’t initially go to plan when she saw an early penalty saved at Walton Hall Park.

Nonetheless, that was soon a distant memory when the forward sent an audacious chip over Everton goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan from distance after beating her to Leila Ouahabi’s lofted pass.

The second, just 13 minutes later, was textbook Shaw, as she spun away from her marker with a clever turn before finding the bottom corner with a clinical strike from the edge of the area.

And the Jamaican’s hat-trick – and 60th City goal – would come when she guided Greenwood’s searching free-kick into the net with a diving header in the second half.

In doing so, she became the first player in WSL history to net three trebles in the competition across a calendar year.

Not content with her record-breaking haul of hat-tricks in 2023, Shaw added another match ball to her collection against Everton’s Merseyside rivals just one month later.

Once again, all of the Jamaican’s goals in a 5-1 rout of Liverpool were different, but all of equal quality.

The first, which put City 2-1 ahead, saw the forward steal possession and confidently slot home, with number two following on the stroke of half-time with a powerful header through a crowd of bodies.

But the pick of the bunch was Shaw’s third.

After seeing her initial effort saved, the Jamaican was first to the rebound but surrounded by Liverpool defenders.

With her back to goal, and in one fluid movement, she sent an audacious backheel into the net for a third hat-trick in her last four WSL matches.

City’s defensive display in a potentially vital 1-0 win at WSL title rivals Chelsea rightfully gained the plaudits.

Gareth Taylor’s side held on to our single goal lead, with some late heroics from Khiara Keating preserving the three points and dealing the hosts their first defeat at Kingsmeadow in over three years.

It was the classic away performance, one where City got the early lead on the counter before staying disciplined and, on occasion, riding our luck a little.

But the decisive strike which gave City something to protect was from Shaw, with the Jamaican latching onto Park’s pass after the midfielder had picked Erin Cuthbert’s pocket just inside the Chelsea half.

Racing into the box, our forward poked the ball past the onrushing Hannah Hampton with aplomb. It was smash and grab, but that didn’t matter in the slightest.

“As the season’s gone on we’ve kept on improving and growing as a team,” she reflected after the game.

“We’re a close group and this is what it’s all about. Coming here, we just wanted to get the job done, and that’s what we did.”

With that, Shaw took her tally for City to 65 in 77 appearances. The record was tantalisingly within her grasp.

Goals against Everton and Brighton meant Shaw went into City’s Etihad derby with Manchester United level with Stanway at the top of the all-time scoring charts.

With the hosts cruising into a two-goal lead before the break thanks to Park’s double, it was shaping up to be an afternoon that few of a City persuasion would forget in a hurry.

And just 30 seconds after the restart, Shaw would get her goal, with an iconic knee-slide celebration to match the grand occasion.

But while it was a moment to savour for our record scorer, she insists her main focus is on a different kind of award which she and the team are in hot pursuit of.

“Knowing I’m at the record is a great feeling, but for me it’s about the team and ultimately our goal is to win the league.

“So, if we can win the league and I break the record then by all means, happy days!”

68 and counting! Congratulations to Bunny Shaw on becoming City's record goalscorer.

Words by George Kelsey. Design by Izzy Rendell.