Welcome to the latest edition of our digital Women's matchday programme, as we entertain FA Women's Super League action at the Academy Stadium for the final time in the 2020/21 campaign with the visit of Birmingham.
It's a 15:00 (UK) kick-off on Sunday 2 May with the game available to watch live via the BBC Red Button.
As ever, we hear from Head Coach Gareth Taylor and captain Steph Houghton, while Ellen White tells us what is key to maintaining 'White-hot' form.
Plus, Keira Walsh recalls a super strike against Brum - her best yet? - Lucy Bronze looks back on a memorable clash against the Midlands side, and we catch up with Caroline Weir in our Q&A feature.
We also learn more about our opponents, hear the latest news from the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club, and meet our Junior Cityzen of the Match and Barclays Mascots...
The final push...
A WORD FROM THE BOSS...
Hello, City fans,
The final home league game of the season is upon us. Welcome to our opponents Birmingham and their manager Carla Ward, their players and staff.
The mood in the camp has been really good this week. It’s still an objective to win the final three games (with the FA Cup) - nothing’s changed in that respect. We just want to finish strongly because that's all we can control. While we were obviously disappointed not to have gained the points we needed last time out against Chelsea, I was really proud of the performance - the way I have been with many performances this season. The girls left everything out there - I felt there was only going to be one winner - but we just ran out of time in the end. I'm sure it was an exciting game for the neutral!
I'm proud of the football we've played throughout the season and the entertainment we've brought by scoring goals and playing exciting football. We showed we're capable of going toe-to-toe all the way with the best and I can only see us improving. We can see the game going to new levels and some of the play and goals have been of real quality.
On Sunday, we face Birmingham, who are a side fighting for their lives, and we're expecting a tough game. There aren't any easy games and they will make it difficult for us. People may expect us to roll teams over on our home turf but we’ll pay the ultimate respect to Carla and her team by implementing our gameplan and concentrating on what we can do. In the reverse fixture, for us, it was a case of staying calm. Composure was important and I think that will be the case again. We'll need to move the ball quickly and take our chances when we get them. If we do that, we should be okay.
In other news, I would like to welcome Jayne Ludlow MBE to the Club and our staff as Girls Academy Technical Director. I was fortunate enough to complete my pro license with Jayne and I feel she's a really good appointment. Her work ethic is top drawer and although it is a difficult ask to raise the levels of our Development Squad and RTC, we believe she can be successful and we'll be delighted to give her whatever support she needs.
This weekend, the Club, players and staff are taking part in a social media boycott to try and tackle online abuse. The stance everyone’s making is great to see - this statement is saying: ‘We’ve had enough’ - but everyone could do more: every Club, every governing body, and certainly the social media sites. A lot more needs to be done to highlight these issues and the examine the opportunity for people to say what they want. It has to change and this is the right step for it. We have to be dogged and determined in this fight and make sure everyone pulls in the same direction to eradicate this.
Let's finish the season on a high.
Enjoy the game.
Well, here it is: our last home league game of the season! It seems to have come around quickly after what has been a long and busy season, but we're ready and raring to finish off on a high. We're all feeling positive and we're focused on gaining three wins from three in our remaining games.
Of course, we would have liked all three points in our last game against Chelsea, which would have put us in pole position for the title - and perhaps our performance warranted it - but Chelsea are a good side. Sitting on the sidelines, I was so proud of our team. We did everything we possibly could, taking the game to Chelsea, and it took a world-class save from Ann-Katrin Berger to prevent us from scoring in the final minutes. Now, we have to concentrate on ourselves - we can only control what we can control - to finish the season strongly.
We're always looking to improve and we use every experience as a learning curve. For us, if we're being harsh on ourselves, looking back, this season has shown that we have to be better in the early games to ensure we're in a stronger position come this stage. Lessons have been learned but in terms of effort, application and attitude, I couldn't be more proud of the squad. We've worked so hard all season and we have to keep positive and focused. We still have a job to do if we're to give ourselves a shot of winning the trophy, if Chelsea are to slip up. I'm sure the girls will be professional.
We need to get three points but Birmingham will be a tough game - they're fighting for their lives, as are next weekend's opponents West Ham - so it's not going to be easy. We played them at St. George's Park back in February and we know they're going to be battling for everything. Carla Ward has done a great job to get them to where they are and they'll be doing all they can to fight for survival. They have a lot at stake but so do we and we'll be looking to give our best performance.
This week brought great news with the announcement of Jayne Ludlow MBE as our Girls Academy Technical Director. I was absolutely delighted when I found out - I text our Managing Director Gavin Makel straight away to say I think it's a great appointment. When I first moved to Arsenal, Jayne was the captain and I learned a lot from her. She's an absolute legend of the game and to have someone of her calibre come in - someone who has won the quadruple and represented her country the way she has, with the character she has - is incredible for our young talent. It's the perfect match for the Club going forward.
Congratulations also to Gareth Taylor, Sam Mewis and Chloe Kelly on their FA WSL End of Season Award nominations. I'm thrilled for all three of them, and it's actually scary to think we could have had a few more City representatives in there! For Gaz to earn a nomination in his first season as Head Coach says a lot. Although it took us a bit of time as a squad to get used to his way of working, you can see now his coaching is second to none in terms of the tactical detail, and the way he sets us up against any opponent. I can say with confidence I feel we play the best football in the league and our performances have shown that.
As for Sam and Chloe, they've both had great seasons. Sam has really brought an amazing level of experience, showing why she's one of the best players in the world, and Chloe has shown her potential as one for the future. They've both really settled in well with consistent performances and I'm delighted for them. Ultimately, those individual performances benefit the team and hopefully, our players and staff will continue to gain the recognition they deserve over the coming months.
This weekend sees the English game taking part in a social media boycott against discrimination. I feel this is really important. No-one should ever be subjected to any form of abuse in person or online. Football is one of the most popular sports in the world and we have to do all we can as players and as Clubs to try and stop discrimination. It's something people have spoken a lot about but now, it's time for change and I'm fully backing this campaign. Hopefully, people will sit up and notice, and we are able to make a change.
As a final positive note, I would like to wish the very best of luck to Fara Williams on her new chapter. What an unbelievable career she's had. To achieve 172 caps for your country is phenomenal and it speaks volumes of Fara as a player and a person. When I first joined the England squad, I looked up to her - you look up to those who have been there and done it. She's an incredible talent with an amazing knowledge and love of the game, which you can see in every single training session. She led the group in different ways and I'm so proud to have played a part in her career. She's someone I'll always admire and she should be proud of what she's achieved - not just for herself but for the women's game. Congratulations, Fara.
Come on, City!
THE KEY TO ELLEN'S 'WHITE-HOT' FORM
"You're never too old to learn."
Approaching her 32nd birthday, Ellen White stands as one of City's most experienced - and successful - stars.
A summer recruit in 2019, having become England's record all-time top World Cup goalscorer, the Lionesses forward is nearing her two-year anniversary at the Club.
During that time, the striker has clocked 52 appearances in sky blue, scoring 22 goals, and although she joined the Club as an already-established, prolific goalscorer, she feels she's reached new levels.
What has been key to her development? The advice, experience and talent of those around her, as the 31-year-old explains...
"I'd say it's the attention to detail, which is really helping me develop and learn as a player," White revealed.
"It's the time taken talking to analysts, to Gareth about improving my game - those little tweaks: your body movement, being in the right place at the right time...
"Doing that and practicing on the training pitch, taking the time to work on finishing and movement, is what makes the difference.
"I'm learning from my teammates too. It's an easy one to say but I always feel I'm learning from Steph Houghton in particular - her leadership style, the way she conducts herself, her professionalism is infectious.
"I'm learning every day by watching her."
The 'tweaks' to White's offensive game have worked wonders. In 34 appearances this campaign, the forward has netted 13 goals - 22 in total for the Club - including nine since the turn of the calendar year.
Her pinpoint first-time finish at the nearpost has become somewhat of a trademark, and White is proud to have found a style as iconic as her famous celebration!
"Not a lot of people like to go to the front post!" she laughed.
"To be fair, it's all about the cross - the timing and the delivery - and I'm lucky to have wingers like Chloe and Hempo, who want to cross the ball!
"I'm glad it works, although sometimes, even if I'm not receiving the ball centrally, I can take a defender away for someone else - Sam, Caz or Hempo for example - to come flying in to score!"
White welcomes her former employers on Sunday afternoon, having spent two years in Solihull.
Whenever strikers are set to face their old Clubs, much of the pre-match talk centres on whether there is added incentive to score!
For White, although there is a touch more excitement, the focus is clear.
"I was at Birmingham for a few years and I enjoyed my time there," she said.
"I suppose there is a little more excitement but being at Man City, you're just focused on doing what you can do to help the team to win every game.
"It's really important for us to keep our foot on the gas, going forward.
"Anything can still happen and we have to concentrate on what we can control - first of all on the training pitch and then in the remaining games.
"We have two league games left and an FA Cup game. It's really important for us to end the season on a high, performing well and training hard.
"We'll maintain our professionalism. The way we go about things, we don't expect anything else.
"We'll give everything, still wanting to improve as a team. Then, hopefully, we'll start next season with momentum."
Reflecting on her journey in sky blue, as she reaches her 'City-versary', White says she's loved every minute.
"I'm really enjoying my time," she declared. "I've won the FA Cup and I'm surrounded by incredible players and staff.
"I still want to develop and learn as much as I can to help the team to win things and move forward.
"I'm really settled in Manchester with my husband and being part of a Club which supports its women's team the way City do is amazing.
"I feel really privileged to be part of it all."
Though regarded as one of the most technically-gifted players of her generation, Keira Walsh is not necessarily known for her goalscoring abilities.
While she stands third in the Club's all-time appearance charts with 176 games for her beloved childhood team, it may surprise you the midfield engine has only seven goals to her name.
She tends to save her super strikes for the big occasions - an FA Cup Final, a worldie in the Champions League or even a late winner in a crucial league encounter.
Of her seven, six have been scored outside the area and perhaps the best of the bunch was a delightful curling effort against Birmingham last season - one of two she bagged against the Blues.
So, would Walsh herself describe it as her best yet...?
"Probably!" she laughed. "Although, I got a bit of stick for it afterwards!
"I think a few people were giving a few shouts, asking if it was supposed to be a cross!
"I'm still sticking with my stance that it was a shot!
"I'm not really known for my goalscoring but it was a nice one to score in a season where I hadn't scored much!"
Possessing a pinpoint passing accuracy, unrivalled range and excellent vision, Walsh is more likely to set up a teammate than she is to score.
Across the board, the squad have all been chipping in this season - a feat she explains is inspired by the boss.
"Everyone can see Gaz has got us playing really good football," she continued.
"With our structure, it gives people opportunities to go forward and try to create something.
"Everyone's scored from many different positions and it comes from a want to win - a will to win - and the fact people have the confidence to try things.
"If you don't shoot, you don't score!"
"Plus, in the latter stages of games - when we've needed a goal - we've kept on pushing and working hard, and then the goals have come from anywhere and everywhere.
"It's been a good season for the team."
For Walsh, it's added another string to her already-impressive bow but the midfielder says it's the defensive side of her game that has improved the most this season.
"Since Gaz has come on, we've spoken a lot about defensive transition - winning the ball back and first and second balls.
"That's probably something that I have added to my game this year - really getting in and around and trying to break up attacks.
"In previous seasons, the emphasis has been on getting on the ball and playing passes but this season, something that I've really focused on is the defensive side of the game - trying to break up play and start attacks by regaining the ball."
While Walsh and co. were disappointed to have missed the chance to move top of the FA WSL table with a 2-2 draw last time out against leaders Chelsea, the 24-year-old - now viewed as a real leader in the squad - has urged her side to show their mental toughness and bounce back.
"After the disappointment of the Chelsea game, I think it's important that we rebound quickly," she added.
"We have our thoughts on the game and what we need to actually improve on going into next season but ultimately, we need to win these next two games and finish strongly.
"For all the hard work we've put in this season, that would be probably the least that we could do as a squad."
At a recent Player Appearance Day, Nissan challenged Georgia Stanway, Janine Beckie, Alex Greenwood, Chloe Kelly, Ellen White and Lucy Bronze to get behind the wheel of the Formula E driving simulator.
Who do you think passed the finish line first...?
OPPOSITION: Birmingham City
Founded: 1968 (Birmingham City Ladies)
Nickname: The Blues
Stadium: Damson Park, Solihull
Manager: Carla Ward
Division: FA Women’s Super League (2011-present)
FA Women's Super League:
Runners-up (2011, 2012)
Women's FA Cup:
FA Women's League Cup:
Runners-up (2011, 2012, 2017)
FA Women's National League Cup:
Heart of England League:
West Midland Regional League:
Champions (1974/75, 1976/77, 1987/88, 1988/89)
Midland Combination Women's Football League:
FA Women's National League North:
29 Jun 2014, FA WSL: Birmingham 2-0 City
5 Oct 2014, FA WSL: City 1-2 Birmingham (Scott)
29 Mar 2014, FA WSL: Birmingham 0-0 City
12 Apr 2015, FA Cup: City 3-1 Birmingham (Duggan, Parris, Scott)
12 Jul 2015, FA WSL: City 1-0 Birmingham (Duggan)
24 Apr 2016, FA WSL: Birmingham 0-2 City (Corboz, Ross)
2 Oct 2016, Continental Cup Final: City 1-0 Birmingham
(Bronze - AET)
30 Oct 2016, FA WSL: City 1-1 Birmingham (Stokes)
3 May 2017, FA WSL Spring Series: City 1-1 Birmingham (Bronze)
13 May 2017, FA Cup: Birmingham 1-4 City
(Bronze, Christiansen, Lloyd, Scott)
29 Oct 2017, FA WSL: City 3-1 Birmingham (Christiansen x2, Beattie)
3 Dec 2017, Continental Cup: City 2-0 Birmingham (Parris, Emslie)
18 Feb 2018, FA Cup: Birmingham 1-3 City
(Nadim, Stanway, Emslie - AET)
21 Feb 2018, FA WSL: Birmingham 2-0 City
19 Aug 2018, Continental Cup: Birmingham 0-0 (4-5p) City
30 Sep 2018, FA WSL: Birmingham 2-3 City (Weir, Parris, Wullaert)
9 Dec 2018, FA WSL: City 1-0 Birmingham (Stanway)
12 Oct 2019, FA WSL: City 3-0 Birmingham
(Walsh, Wullaert, Geum-min)
3 Nov 2019, Continental Cup: City 2-1 Birmingham (White, Weir)
19 Jan 2020, FA WSL: Birmingham 0-2 City (White, Walsh)
28 Feb 2021, FA WSL: Birmingham 0-4 City (Mewis x2, Hemp, Weir)
Lucy Bronze, Caroline Weir, Jill Scott and Izzy Christiansen are City’s joint top scorers against Birmingham with three goals apiece.
City signed both Ellen White and Aoife Mannion from Birmingham, as the pair swapped royal blue for sky in the summer of 2019.
With 22 goals in 52 appearances, White - who moved top of the all-time FA Women's Super League scoring charts earlier this season - stands ninth in our Club record goalscoring table.
In Solihull, she finished the 2017/18 season as the league’s top scorer, claiming the Golden Boot prize for a prolific campaign. In recognition, she earned the Blues' Player of the Season award.
Mannion, who spent seven years at her childhood Club Birmingham, saw her debut campaign in Manchester hampered by an ACL injury - but returned to action in January of this year.
City also signed Izzy Christiansen from the Blues as one of our first signings as a professional outfit in 2014, with the midfield star having claimed an 2012 FA Cup Winners' medal with the Midlands side as well as vital Champions League experience.
She went on to spend four years n Manchester, winning the FA Women's Super League, FA Women's Cup and two Continental Cups, clocking 110 appearances and scoring 32 goals.
Mel Lawley (51 City apps, 4 goals), Marie Hourihan (12 apps), Georgia Brougham and Alex Brooks (both of whom played for our City Ladies' team) and Fran Stenson (1 app) have also donned both shades of blue.
BRONZE'S FAIRYTALE FINAL
"The best teams always perform under pressure."
Embarking on her second spell at City, Lucy Bronze stands as one of the Club's most successful players.
The FIFA Women's World Player of the Year and three-time Champions League winner returned to Manchester last summer, ready to make new memories in sky blue.
Looking back on some of her favourite moments, the right-back recalls our second Continental Cup success against Birmingham in 2016.
Having clinched our first FA Women's Super League crown the week before, City sought an historic double!
Unusually, the showpiece game would be held at the Academy Stadium with the Champions' home turf chosen months prior. As a result, Bronze explains the pressure was on...
Q&A WITH → CAROLINE WEIR
It's been an excellent season for midfield magician Caroline Weir.
The 2020 Scotland Women's Player of the Year has played a key role in a thrilling campaign, thriving from a more offensive role, increasing her personal goalscoring tally!
We sat down with the Scotland international to reflect on a superb campaign, which she believes is one of her best yet...
Hey, Caz! How are you doing? We haven’t sat down with you since we talked about your cheeky chip in the Manchester Derby! How are things? How are the squad feeling as the season reaches its conclusion?
"That goal feels like a long time ago! I'm good, and the squad are in good spirits.
"We knew we had to win the game on Wednesday against Chelsea. It was always going to be tough and of course, we were disappointed not to get the three points but what makes it easier to take is the fact we know we gave absolutely everything.
"We played as well as we have done all season and it took an unreal save from Ann-Katrin Berger to keep them in it - there wasn't much more we could have done.
"We'd worked so hard over the season to get to that point - we basically had to win every single game from October - but we're used to that level of expectation and we thrive under pressure.
"Football comes down to such small margins. We were disappointed but in fairness, there are still two games left to play... Although it's unlikely Chelsea will drop points, you never know! The pressure is on them and stranger things have happened...
"As far as we're concerned, the vibe has been fairly positive overall. We're just focused on our last three games. The league is out of our hands now but we still have a job to do over these next few games, especially that FA Cup game on the last day against West Ham.
"Admittedly, it seems a bit weird to finish a season in the middle of a tournament but of course, the FA Cup is a competition we want to win - we want to keep our name on that trophy - so that's a big game.
"We want to win all of our last three games, finishing with some good results to set ourselves up well for next season."
And for a lot of the squad, there's still a lot to play for with the Olympics coming up and squad selections to be decided. You in particular have been tipped for a place... How does that make you feel?
"Absolutely, there's so much to play for. From an individual point of view, I would love to go to the Olympics and over the last few weeks, it's become a bigger thought for everyone as it gets closer to squad announcements.
"As a player though, you can't think about it too much. All you can do is try to play well for your Club so we're all focused on that. We'll see what happens..."
You (and others) have improved your scoring form this season. What is that down to - a tactical shift? A change in mindset? Do you find yourself shooting more or getting into more advanced positions than you would have before?
"It's helped that the team as a whole are playing well. The way we want to play, it's all about the build-up - the back four having the ball to build and then finding pockets.
"I've always known I was better going forward in the final third - that's where I like to be: between the lines, in the pockets. Playing consistently, I've been seeing a lot more of the ball further forward.
"I feel like I've really tried to focus on impacting the games. Stats - like goals and assists - are important and something Gaz is big on. If I don't impact a game, I feel disappointed and ask myself: 'What could I have done differently?'
"It's important that everyone contributes with goals and assists - and we've seen that this season. It probably is down to change of mindset because you're aware that if you don't make an impact, someone else can step in and do so."
Upon joining City, players always say they see the Club as the best place for their development. At 25, you're at a potentially pivotal stage in your career so it must please you to be able to add new strings to your bow?
"I'm always looking to improve and I definitely feel that's happened. I still feel 20 but I know I'm not! I'm definitely not classed as a young player but I'm also not an old player... yet! Time really does fly though.
"I do like this stage of being 'in between', helping young players a bit more, bringing my experience to the team, and still learning from the players I'm surrounded by. There are so many players who have experienced different things.
"There are a lot of things I'd still like to work on. It's about pushing forward, helping the team and not standing still."
Leadership seems to be a really strong quality across the squad with so many inspirational players. Do you feel you're becoming a leader yourself?
"For sure. I definitely feel there are a lot of leaders in the squad and at the age I am, I feel I'm taking on that role a bit too.
"I thrive off working with the types of players we have at City - the likes of Steph, Ellen, Sam... Players who have achieved success and have shown real dedication over the years, who can bring so much to the squad.
"One day, I would love to be regarded as a leader like that. It's great to be around such people and have so many captains all over the pitch."
Would you say this is your best season yet in terms of personal form?
"Statistically, it's probably the best in terms of goals and assists, and I've been delighted to have contributed the way I have.
"When a team makes new signings, especially of the quality we have, you're never sure what that looks like for you as an individual but I'm really pleased that Gaz has trusted me to play regularly, even in the big games.
"It's definitely up there as my best season."
What has been the most important thing you've learned at City - on or off the pitch? And who would you say you've learned the most from?
"I've been at the Club for three years now and I do feel I've found a new level, although I still have a long way to do. When the Club signed me, they said they saw the potential and I feel like I've thrived from the environment - every day, you have to be on it and you learn to work under pressure. You change your mindset to have a relentless desire to win and I also feel I've improved physically - I feel so much fitter and stronger too.
"Nick Cushing pushed me to be the best I can be. He knew I was a technical player but he made me so much more consistent. I've built on that now and I also have the benefit of a new perspective, as Gaz has helped with the tactical side, giving me a new awareness of how to play the game. He's simplified it in a way which makes it easy to understand and now, I feel like I can go into a game knowing what to expect.
"Both technically and tactically, being at City has really pushed me to improve and see the game differently."
Although lessons have been learned for City this season, there have been some incredible memories made and some great football played. Does that excite you for what's to come with this squad?
"Definitely. Whatever happens this season, we've learned so much. People forget that Gareth came in and tried to implement a brand new system with six new players. It takes time to adapt and we've done so well to be challenging for the title at this stage.
"I've finished second in the league every season, which is disappointing, but it feels like this season, we've reached new levels and that we're building something great. It feels like we've laid the foundations and now, it's about keeping that momentum going.
"It's super exciting to be part of this Club and see the direction it's going."
JUNIOR CITYZEN OF THE MATCH
Hello and congratulations to our Junior Cityzen of the Match: Theo Christison.
Theo is six years old from Leeds and is thrilled to have won this prize.
His first game for City was an FA Cup fixture and some of his favourite memories include: visiting the Etihad Stadium tour and Sunday's League Cup Final win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
He also enjoys playing football in his City kit.
Theo’s favourite player is Alex Greenwood.
Enjoy the game, Theo!
If you want to be our next Junior Cityzen of the Match, enter now on the Cityzens platform!
Welcome also to our Barclays Mascots: Alex and Zosia Scott.
The siblings' hobbies include: football, swimming, sailing, crafting and reading.
Their favourite players are Abby Dahlkemper and Rose Lavelle.
Have a great day, Alex and Zosia!
Sunday's game marks the last home league game of a unique season in which sadly fans have been unable to attend any games. It has been painful and difficult to have something you love suddenly not available to you anymore, and we hope the safe reintroduction of fans we saw at last week's Carabao Cup Final continues so that next season, we can all be back doing what we love to do, supporting our team from the stands.
One happier side-effect of the pandemic has been our OSC 'watch-alongs' and we have another planned for Sunday. Fun, banter, chat and a half-time prize draw, while watching the match together is a great way to stay connected. We have had members worldwide join in with these and we have forged new friendships that will continue forward -even after the current way of life changes back.
One member, Anastasia (many of you will know her as Ellie Roebuck's number one fan!), has been nominated by The Women's Football Magazine as their Fan of the Season. She is up against two other candidates and you can vote now on Twitter at either @womensfootiemag or @mcwfc_osc for her to win.
She is already a hardcore City fan and she trains hard every weekend to be just like her hero, Ellie. We are sure she will one day be City's number one!
With last week's news of Gemma Bonner's departure, we would like to place on record our thanks to her for both all the fantastic service on the pitch and her support of the OSC off it.
Last year, she visited the Football Museum to donate her boots from the Etihad Derby match - a prime example of the person she is. Good luck in your new career, Gemma. We will miss you.
Let's hope City can finish the season in great style. We have two league games and an FA Cup tie left so... COME ON CITY! We are right behind you, as always.