Welcome to the latest edition of our digital Women's matchday programme, as we return to the Academy Stadium for FA Women's Super League action with the visit of Everton.
It's a 14:00 (UK) kick-off on Sunday 7 March ..
As ever, we hear from Gareth Taylor and Steph Houghton, while Demi Stokes hails long-term teammate, compatriot and Everton loanee Jill Scott.
Meanwhile, we catch up with Aoife Mannion, as she continues her return from her lengthy injury lay-off, while Megan Campbell - speaking ahead of International Women's Day on Monday - tells us why it's so important to have such initiatives for women's sport.
Plus, we take a closer look at the Toffees, hear the latest news from the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club and we meet our Junior Cityzen of the Match...
As always, we'd love for you to get involved and share your support ahead of the game! Did you know you can tweet your messages to the Academy Stadium big screen for the players to see by using #CityBigScreen...?
You can also check out behind-the-scenes content and amazing competitions on our @CitySquareLive social media channels! Don't miss out!
Keep marching on!
A WORD FROM THE BOSS...
Hello, City fans,
It’s great to have back-to-back home games and we’re really looking forward to the challenge of facing Everton in the FA Women’s Super League on Sunday. Welcome to Everton and their manager Willie Kirk, their players and staff.
We’re under no illusions – we’re expecting a tough game. Everton made a really good start to the season and they’ve picked up again recently. Every game is hard – there are no easy games. Even games people potentially think are easier can prove to be difficult because we know how hard these teams work to be effective against us. We need to remain focused and not have any complacency. We need to work hard on the training pitches, make sure everyone recovers in the right manner and then go again on Sunday.
The amount of work and effort from the players is huge and no matter who we put out, everyone’s really contributing. The players are enjoying the challenge too, knowing they have to produce. We’ve got players who can come on from the bench and ignite as well. Everyone knows exactly what is required of them – on and off the pitch – and the concepts we put in place for each game. That’s when you know a team is functioning really well; then, it’s just a case of marrying up the importance of training and recovery time to maintain that level.
We’re looking sharp in attack and have hit good numbers this season. We’re not perfect – and we know that – but we’re doing well and we’re working hard on the parts we feel we can improve.
Against Fiorentina in midweek, I thought our second goal showed evidence that our style works. I love a team goal and that one was special. It’s all about the team and we put a big emphasis on that.
It was important to get the third goal too. I always feel we’re likely to score and to come out 3-0 winners in the Champions League is a real positive. We managed the game quite well and clean sheets are priceless. The first two goals were exceptional and sometimes, when you go ahead like that, you set such a high level that it can go one of two ways. At times, we forced the play a little bit and came off the hymn sheet a touch but we have to give Fiorentina credit for the way they defended. They made it difficult.
We always say: we want to stay in this position and to do that, we have to take it game by game. Once you start thinking about what other people are thinking or doing, or looking ahead to games that are three or four down the road, you can slip up. That’s not the right way to do it. It may sound boring but we’ll do our normal thing and just concentrate on the next game.
It will be nice to welcome Jill Scott back to the Academy Stadium, although the terms of her loan mean she’ll be unable to play against us. It would be interesting to know whether she’d want to! We’re really pleased to see her enjoying her football. I’ve been in contact with her – I spoke to her after she scored at the weekend.
There’ll be a respect for her current club regardless. We’ve managed to be successful against them this season but it won’t be easy. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, making the right decisions in key moments and sticking to the gameplan to give ourselves the best chance of success.
Enjoy the game.
Here we are again! Another massive three points to play for... Of course, every game from now until the end of the season is a big game so we know we have to maintain our level of performance. Yes, we're in a good place at the moment - we're in good form as players and as a team, and we're feeling confident - but we're definitely not getting too ahead of ourselves. It's a case of one game at a time...
We go into Sunday's match on the back of a really professional performance in the Champions League on Wednesday against Fiorentina. With three goals and a clean sheet, we couldn't have asked for much more - it's a really good result to take into the second leg - but once the full-time whistle blew, it was a case of: onto the next one...
We've played Everton a few times already this season so we know what they bring. They have a lot of talented young players and they work hard for each other, playing really good football. We know we'll have to be at the top of our game to beat a well-organised side. Willie Kirk is a very good manager and we'll pay them the respect they deserve because every time we play them, it's a tough game.
It's been great to see Jill Scott doing well there too. For Jill, as my teammate and a friend, it was important that she did what was right for her and her career in terms of joining Everton. It's a big year on the international front and it's been so good to see her performing well week in, week out. She brings so much experience and quality to any side and perhaps their recent run of results has been down to that, which is amazing. We're all really happy for her.
For us, we're just focused on getting those three points. Everybody is playing their part at the minute and it's great to have players coming back from injury to help. Of course, we don't want to see anybody in the treatment room and to be successful, we need as many players out there on the pitch, challenging each other to be better every day.
Everyone has such a positive attitude that's so important to create a winning environment. The togetherness of this team is incredible. When the pressure is on, we come together and focus on doing things the City way: working hard and sticking to our gameplan.
Everyone is contributing - we even have goals all over the pitch. It's the same with the men's team - there isn't just one person putting the goals in or assisting... it's a real team effort from everyone: the players at the front and the back.
Of course, it doesn't matter who scores as long as it hits the back of the net but it is important that everyone chips in. We're really pushing to be more ruthless in front of goal - we're doing everything we can to keep improving in training and you can see we're making better decisions in and around the box.
Long may it continue!
Come on, City!
JILL SCOTT IS LIKE A FINE WINE!
Demi Stokes says Jill Scott is ‘like a fine wine’, getting better with age!
Both originating from the north east, the pair have played together for years – for Club and country – starting out at Sunderland before reuniting at City; all the while travelling the world with England.
While Stokes has always remained a reserved character, Scott is known and admired for her charismatic personality; in particular, her kindness, carefree attitude and sense of humour.
On the pitch, the midfielder - currently on loan at Everton - portrays a different but equally-respected demeanour – focused, determined and hard-working – to balance both aspects of her persona, ensuring she is the perfect role model.
In 2020, Scott received an MBE for her contributions to football: deservedly recognised for her dedication to the game she has fought so hard to progress, battling the challenges so many women face in sport along the way. In February, she gained her long-awaited 150th cap for her country - a truly incredible achievement.
Aged 17 in 2009, Stokes declared her hopes of ‘following in Scott’s footsteps’ into the Lionesses set-up. Now having played alongside the 34-year-old for so long, she has had a first-hand insight into her compatriot’s journey and the characteristics which crafted it.
Speaking in our series Teammates, presented by QNET, the left-back hails her Lionesses counterpart, declaring the midfield engine her best friend in the squad.
“I get on with everyone but I’d have to pick Jill as my best friend in the team,” she smiled.
“She’s just Jill! She’s on another planet but she keeps us entertained so that’s good, although I probably wouldn’t be allowed to tell you some of the stories! I’d be here all day anyway…
“I always say: she’s like a fine wine – she gets better with age. I think she appreciates that! Maybe she thinks I’m taking the mick but she has played such an important role for City and for England.
“She's even captained at international camp and it’s all those little things put together that make her.”
WHY WE HAVE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
Monday 8th March marks International Women's Day - the day women's achievements are celebrated around the world.
A focal point in the movement for women's rights, it is celebrated on the same date every year, bringing women's incredible stories and experiences into the spotlight...
And yet, people still ask: 'Why do we have International Women's Day?'
Deeply passionate about the topic, Megan Campbell tells us why such initiatives are crucial to female empowerment and the future of gender equality...
"Days like International Women's Day are ideal in terms of giving the opportunity to spread awareness, make things stand out and make a point. It's good to highlight the achievements that women in sport and women in life face - in their roles and day-to-day.
"A lot of the time, it goes under the radar because we're perceived to be the gender who doesn't 'do' certain things - at least to the same standard - so it's nice to have that recognition, although I don't think it should only be done on one day... it should be every day.
"There is a lack of equality. It's improving but women are still looked upon as inferior to male counterparts in some roles, or it's believed that she's 'overachieved' if she's accomplished something impressive. Those kind of opinions are driven by people's own social background and how different generations perceived things. All the while, she just wants to be seen as equal, having earned the right to be there.
"I do think in this day and age, times are changing and things are improving: people are realising that women are just as good at everything as men. It's taken a long time to get to that point but the more we drive it, the more that it will become the normality.
"Personally, I don't try to prove people wrong as such but I've always tried to challenge those perceptions with my on-pitch performance and how I conduct myself as a person and role model off it. Obviously, if you think I'm inferior, I will work hard and show you that I'm not - but I let my football to the talking. Then, there's no comeback.
"Most of the girls around my generation and older all played with boys when they were younger - because there were no girls' teams. There wasn't a lot back then for females in sport. People (often parents) would ask: 'Why is there a girl playing on a boys' team?' so there were definitely challenges - but once you show them on the pitch you're good enough to be on the team (or better), what can they say?
"Things are are definitely improving and if you're doing everything in your power to show others the right steps, the right way forward, perhaps those challenges won't be necessary... The more we can drive ourselves as 'women in sport' or different careers, the more acceptable it will become - and then, it will become the norm. Every day, there seems to be a progressive step towards equality. We just have to do what we can to make sure it continues."
Keep an eye on our website, official app and social media for more International Women's Day content on Monday 8th March, including inspirational, eye-opening and heart-wrenching pieces from Lucy Bronze and Joao Cancelo...
Founded: 1983 (Hoylake WFC)
Nickname: The Toffees, the Blues
Stadium: Walton Hall Park
Manager: Willie Kirk
Division: FA Women’s Super League (2017-present)
FA Women’s Premier League National Division (1997/98)
FA Women’s Cup (2009/10)
FA Women’s Premier League Cup (2007/08)
FA Women's Super League 2 Spring Series (2017)
4 May 2014, Continental Cup: City 1-0 Everton (Flint)
21 May 2014, FA WSL: City 2-0 Everton (George OG, Scott)
21 September 2014, FA WSL: Everton 0-3 City
(Scott, Johnson OG, Duggan)
27 August 2015, Continental Cup: Everton 0-2 City (Duggan, Stanway)
7 October 2017, FA WSL: Everton 2-3 City (Houghton, Parris, Bremer)
5 November 2017, Continental Cup: City 2-1 Everton
20 May 2018, FA WSL: City 3-0 Everton (Scott x2, Parris)
20 September 2018, FA WSL: Everton 0-4 City
(Stanway, Parris x2, Emslie)
21 February 2019, FA WSL: City 3-1 Everton (Walsh, Beckie, Parris)
29 September 2019, FA WSL: Everton 0-1 City (Houghton)
21 November 2019, Continental Cup: Everton 1-4 City
(Wullaert, Bonner x2, Hemp)
11 January 2020, FA WSL: City 3-1 Everton (Bremer x2, Bonner)
7 October 2020, Continental Cup: City 3-1 Everton (Lavelle, Kelly, Park)
1 November 2020, FA Cup Final: City 3-1 Everton - AET
(Mewis, Stanway, Beckie)
6 December 2020, FA WSL: Everton 0-3 City (White, Bonner, Beckie)
Nikita Parris is City’s top scorer against the Toffees, having netting six goals in sky blue against her former club.
Jill Scott also has an impressive record against her former employers, with four goals - the same tally as ex-Liverpool captain Gemma Bonner.
There are plenty of familiar faces amongst the squads.
Jill Scott is currently on loan at Everton from City, having donned the royal blue of Everton between 2006 and 2013, helping the Toffees to League Cup and FA Women’s Cup success.
In recognition of their 2008 League Cup win, she has a tattoo of the date in Roman Numerals on her ankle!
Alex Greenwood and Lucy Bronze also enjoyed stints in Merseyside, while summer recruit Chloe Kelly starred for the Toffees after signing from Arsenal.
Esme Morgan spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan with Willie Kirk’s side.
Meanwhile, Everton’s Izzy Christiansen wrote her name into the history books with City, scoring in the 2014 Continental Cup Final to clinch the Club’s first piece of major silverware.
Claire Emslie also had a two-year stay in Manchester, while Stockport-born defender Georgia Brougham (currently on loan at Birmingham) played for the Club in our first seasons in the WSL, having represented the Manchester City Ladies team.
Sandy MacIver and Poppy Pattinson both played for City’s Academy.
Q&A WITH → AOIFE MANNION
Aoife Mannion made her long-awaited return from injury in January, stepping off the bench and onto the pitch for the first time since October 2019.
We caught up with the defender to find out how it feels about being back amongst the squad and discover her thoughts on how much has changed since she last donned the sky blue shirt...
Aoife, welcome back! After so long, it feels good to say that and it's been great to see you back on the pitch in sky blue!
"Thank you so much. It felt so, so good to be back. I was so excited just to put on the shirt, being in and around the girls on matchday. It was really special.
"My recovery had been a real slow burner and I'm so grateful for all the kindness I was shown throughout my ACL rehab, especially through the first lockdown.
"All of the 'keep going' and 'you're doing great' messages were so uplifting and I was surprised how much difference those little bits of encouragement made."
A lot has happened since your last game! What have you made of City's 2020/21 season? Will we go on to lift silverware?
"Absolutely! You only have to look at the quality players we have in our squad, and we feel confident we can take things game by game to maek sure we're in the mix for trophies come the end of the season.
"As a team, we had a slower start to the season than we would have liked but that comes with change. You have to make space for a new influence to take form. It's frustrating that it takes time but we feel like we're now starting to stamp our identity on the performances and wins we've had. "
With such top quality players in the squad, there are multiple battles for every position... Does that excite you as a player?
"Yeah! That is so exciting. When you think about trying to be part of a really elite and top team, you need more than just a team of 11 good players - we want every player of the squad to be pushing for a starting position.
"It's definitely, a competitive environment, and I would say that it's no shame to be on the bench at City. You could look one way and see someone that won the World Cup and when you look the other way, you see someone that has won a Champions League.
"We have a great level of respect for every player on the team and we know that anyone on this team is here because they can deliver what we expect of them on the pitch. That will naturally drive the competition and the great thing about that is that it will drive the level of quality on the pitch up further and further."
Now you're back to full fitness, you're also learning a new style under a new manager too... What's it like, working with Gareth?
"For me, the goal is to adapt and pivot a little bit - to get on board and try to absorb the new ideas. It's a different era because Nick Cushing was with the team for so long but I think that most of what he and Gareth Taylor coach - the philosophies and the style of play - is very similar.
"Of course, Gaz has his own ideas that he wants to stamp on the team and there is a slightly different emphasis on certain things but whether you watched a game managed by Nick or Gaz, you would still say: 'This is a City team' and the best indication of that is probably our attitude towards being on the ball, creating chances.
"Look at the two games against Brighton: the first one, we drew 0-0 and the second one, we won 7-1. I think most fans would watch our performances now and recognise: 'This is the City I know and this is the City that's going to take us places.'
A lot has changed in the FA WSL too over the past year or so. What have you made of that?
"I believe the FA WSL is the place to be right now - and you can see that from the players who are coming in. We're attracting some of the world's biggest names. We have players who have won World Cups and Champions Leagues - and that's just at City!
"Other teams are doing similar things so I can certainly say that the WSL is one of the most exciting. Do you think Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood would have come back if they didn't believe it was the place to be? They were at a team that was winning the Champions League every year!
"Even in the space of a year, the quality has really stepped up and when, you think about many players that we have - and how many can make the starting line-up - some of the best players can end up sat on the bench. I think that just really indicates how competitive this league is."
While you were out injured, you helped out with some co-commentary for our CITY+ games. Did you enjoy it? Could there be a future career there?
"I really enjoyed the co-comms. It was the first time I'd done it and I think that I enjoyed it so much because the main commentator was so so welcoming and accommodating. He encouraged me and I was able to bring out a little bit more self-expression and more views and opinions that I probably wouldn't have.
"He was complimentary and gave out good vibes. You can't see our faces so the fans wouldn't have been able to see him giving me a big thumbs-up when I'd say something and he'd like it. It gives me a big Cheshire cat smile!
"It's lovely to commentate because there's so much to talk about with the girls that I play with - and obviously, I only know them because I'm playing with them every day. I get to see a little bit more than most people would, but even if I didn't, it would still be nice to commentate on a City team because you don't need to know Keira Walsh to be able to commentate on the passes that she makes!
"It was just a joy really and I guess my only bit of sadness was that it's probably the last time that I'll be able to do it for a while! I would have loved to have been able to do it for a real choppy, spicy game, trying to navigate that with the comments. When I did it, it was very easy to be because were were so dominant that day. I guess it would have been interesting perhaps if it was a little bit more give and take.
"I could see the fans on Twitter were enjoying it, which gave me more confidence. I'm glad the City fans liked it and I felt really appreciative and really supported by their comments. It was just a nice thing to be involved with and certainly something that I would be open to again in the future!"
BARCLAYS JUNIOR CITYZEN OF THE MATCH
Hello and congratulations to our Junior Cityzen of the Match: Will Snowden.
Will loves playing and watching football, as well as Formula One and FIFA.
His favourite players are Ellen White and Phil Foden.
Enjoy the game, Will!
If you want to be our next Junior Cityzen of the Match, enter now on the Cityzens platform!
Everyone at the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club was extremely proud on Wednesday evening to see our junior member Anastasia be selected by the Club as the Junior Cityzen of the Match for our Champions League tie against Fiorentina.
Anastasia received a lovely letter from her idol Ellie Roebuck along with a kit and City goodie bag to celebrate the occasion.
The biggest thrill however came when she was announced as the 'new signing' and had her name read out with the team with her image displayed on the big screen prior to kick-off.
Another young OSC member who has had an amazing recent experience is Akalyna (Nina) Boynton. Under the Club's #SameGoals initiative, she was invited to an online workshop with players Sam Mewis, Caroline Weir and Esme Morgan.
They chatted about their careers and trophy wins, and offered advice for young aspiring footballers.
Akalyna's question of what they would be if not footballers raised a few laughs as Caroline stated: "Maybe a TV presenter on Place in the Sun!"
We'd like to say a huge 'THANK YOU' to all at the Club for creating these fantastic initiatives for young fans, especially in these troubling times.
Our OSC social media is open as ever for anyone struggling who needs a chat.
Come on, City!