Welcome to the latest edition of our digital Women's matchday programme, as we entertain West Ham United in our final game of the 2020/21 season: a Vitality Women's FA Cup fifth round clash.
It's a 14:00 (UK) kick-off at the Academy Stadium on Sunday 16 May with the game available to watch live via CITY+.
As ever, we hear from Gareth Taylor and Steph Houghton, while our SCM Player of the Season Chloe Kelly shares her thoughts on a superb debut campaign.
Meanwhile, Esme Morgan reflects on her impressive 'breakthrough' season and Keira Walsh looks back on an unforgettable FA Cup clash against Sunday's opponents - one that will certainly live long in her memory!
Plus, we catch up with World Cup winner Abby Dahlkemper, learn more about our visitors, hear the latest news from the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club and 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...? We're inviting fans to share your favourite moments of the season for this weekend's game.
You can also check out behind-the-scenes content and amazing competitions on our @CitySquareLive social media channels! Don't miss out!
Up for the Cup!
A WORD FROM THE BOSS...
Hello, City fans,
The final game of the 2020/21 campaign is upon us - an important game to finish on, as we look to reach the quarter-finals of the Women's FA Cup. Welcome to West Ham and their manager Olli Harder, their players and staff.
Everyone's in fairly good spirits. Although obviously we were disappointed with the final outcome of the league title, I was very proud of the players' effort and application and although we know there are areas for improvement, there are a lot of positives to take from this season.
Since October, we've been unbeaten in the FA WSL - in fact, we've only lost one league game all season. That's an impressive achievement and something to build on - but it also shows just how tight the league is, highlighting that there really is no margin for error. We'd done so well to take the game to the final day, playing some really good football in the process, and give ourselves a chance.
Of course, we knew we'd had the opportunity to put it in our hands with the Chelsea game, which we were unable to do, but we were the only team to run them close. Congratulations to Emma Hayes and her team for carrying on and finishing the job.
It's been a long season with a lot of lessons learned but this team has shown what we are capable of. We know that if we could have improved on some results early in the season, we would have been in a much better position - but a lot of things were new for all of us, including me. Now, we know how important it is not to give points away cheaply, although it wasn't for the want of trying!
We gave the players some extended time off this week - a bit of a breather after Sunday's league game. As we're playing West Ham again this weekend, we were prepped on that front - there wasn't a need to delve too deeply into them, although obviously, we'll be prepared if they change things.
We learned a lot from last weekend's game. We knew they would be difficult to break down - they'd kept a lot of clean sheets in their previous games - but we certainly could have been better in the final third. Any game is won by doing the right thigs in both boxes and we had a lot of chances.
We could have been five or six up at half-time! We made life difficult for ourselves, even outside of the missed penalties, but I think if we'd have scored in the first half, it could have been a different dynamic. We're always looking to improve and we'll learn from that.
It's good to be playing the same team again but on our patch and it's a good opportunity for us to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Of course, this was the first trophy I won as Head Coach so it will always be special to me and the holders, we obviously want to keep our name on the trophy for as long as possible.
It was great to celebrate the our End of Season Awards on the Club's We're Not Really Here matchday show ahead of the men's game against Newcastle. As a Club, we celebrate our achievements together and well done to our three winners: Chloe Kelly, Caroline Weir and Esme Morgan.
Chloe had had a really productive season for Everton so we knew the quality she would bring and she's had a really consistent season. She's had a setback with her ACL injury but you've seen from her personality that she's got a smile on her face and wants to come back stronger than ever, which she will.
As for Caz Weir's Nissan Goal of the Season, we'd seen that chip occasionally in training but everyone knows she's capable of executing that quality! I'd challenged her to score five-yard taps-ins, which she's also done, but to score that goal in a game of that calibre was top class.
And for Esme, she'd also had a really good experience on loan with Everton last season and the minute I started working with her in pre-season, I saw her potential. Sometimes, you just need that platform and we instilled a lot of trust in her. She's a trustworthy person and she's coped fantastically well, even in big games. She has a bright future ahead.
Looking ahead, there are going to be some big commitments elsewhere over the summer for a lot of our players. Minds will be turning to that but we have to make sure we're prepped as well as possible to finish the season strongly to give ourselves the best chance of progression in this tournament.
Finally, I'd like to extend my congratulations to all of our teams on winning their respective Premier League titles. Congratulations to Pep Guardiola, Enzo Maresca, Carlos Vicens, all of their players and staff. It's a brilliant achievement and as a former Academy coach, I'm very proud. Although the emphasis for the players at that age is not necessarily about winning trophies, it's great when you win a competition and you want to do your very best. It's fantastic for the Club. Well done everyone.
Enjoy the game.
Here we are: the last game of the 2020/21 season! It seems to have come around so quickly but the final game is here and it's a big one. We're all ready and raring to finish the season on a positive note.
It's no secret how special the FA Cup is and how much it means to everybody, and as the holders of the trophy, we want to keep it for as long as we can. We won it for the third time this season, which shows just how seriously we take the competition. The fact we've won it three times at Wembley is something I'm really proud of - as players, you want to look back on your career and have those memories. That's why we all play for City.
Although obviously, we'd love to reach the Final again, that's a long way off and we have a lot of work to do if we're to get to that stage. We know from Sunday's league game against West Ham that this one is not going to be easy. Plus, when it comes to the FA Cup, previous form goes out of the window - it could be a completely different game than it was even when you played the same team the week before - but the one thing we do know is that it's going to be tough.
The most important thing last week was winning. While our performance could have been a little better - we could have finished a lot more chances - we got the three points, which was a tough ask against a very defensive West Ham side. As always, we'll pay them the utmost respect but we also know we're capable of hitting another level. Our aim is to get through to the next round and we'll do all we can to make that happen, whether we're on the pitch or cheering on our teammates from the sidelines.
It's been a proud week for this Football Club with Premier League success across the board. On behalf of the women's team, I'd like to say a big congratulations to all involved. That's an amazing achievement and it shows the culture and winning mentality this Club has. There are some unbelievable people behind-the-scenes and it's credit to everyone to have brought those trophies back home. You could see how much it means to the Club and that makes me so proud to be part of the City family.
Hopefully, that will be us next year! We gave our absolute all in the title race this year but ultimately, just fell short. Of course, it was out of our control on the final day but the girls left everything out on the pitch to try and put pressure on Chelsea. Congratulations to them on winning the title.
I'm so proud of the team that we were able to push them to the wire. If you look over the season as a whole, our run from December to now was outstanding. We know we should have picked up more points at the beginning but looking at things logically, it was an impressive feat to take the race to the final day, given how much change we went through. Credit to the girls and the staff.
We had a new manager and a lot of new players, and we were all trying to learn a new system, plus like every team, we were trying to deal with the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone had to adapt and learn and we've been really pushed and challenged. We've seen the results of that hard work now but unfortunately, it just came a little too late.
Needless to say, we wanted a little more silverware this season - the league is always the priority and then we wanted to go a step further in the Champions League - but in terms of performance and development, we've really stepped up. Players have taken their opportunities to shine and claim a place and we've shown just how good this team is. The ambition is always the same - no matter who is playing - to be successful, and having seen what we can do this year, I'm so excited for next season. We know there are things we can improve on but we're heading in the right direction and we'll continue to work hard and work together.
Finally, I'd just like to send my best wishes to Chloe Kelly in the first steps of her rehabilitation. I can't speak highly enough of Chloe. She's made a huge impact in terms of providing assists and scored goals but she's also an amazing person and a great teammate. We were all gutted to hear the news of her injury but her attitude has been unbelievable, especially for such a young player. Of course, we'll all be there to support her every step of the way and although it's going to be a long journey, I know she'll come back an even better player than she was.
Congratulations also to Chloe, Caz Weir and Esme Morgan on their respective accolades at the Club's End of Season Awards. Without doubt, Chloe ha been our best player this season, especially with her consistency, while we all know what Caz is capable of with her technique (that Derby goal was outrageous!) and Esme has really come on this year in terms of her development. All thoroughly deserved. Well done to everyone.
Now, let's finish the season on a high!
Come on, City!
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Upon the closure of the FA Women's Super League transfer window in the summer of 2020, the eyes of the footballing world lit up, savouring the array of talent that landed on English soil.
Some of the biggest names on the planet opted for the lure of our country's top-flight, which is rapidly earning a reputation as one of - if not - the most competitive.
For City, five new faces were recruited - a top quality quintet. With two pairs of Champions League winners and World Cup winners, people would be forgiven for plating their focus on the 'big name' stars but as it turned out, it was our first newcomer who would go on to have the biggest impact.
A 22-year-old Chloe Kelly was the first to join the ranks, full of enthusiasm for a new challenge, having made a name for herself as a prolific goalscorer at Everton. Swapping Merseyside for Manchester, she shone brightly in a lighter shade of blue and quickly became an integral cog in Gareth Taylor's attack-minded machine, scoring 16 goals (including her first hat-trick for the Club) and crafting 14 assists in 34 appearances.
Although her maiden campaign was sadly cut short due to an ACL injury, Kelly's contribution was so influential, she earned the Club's SCM Player of the Season award, as voted by the fans. Needless to say, in reflection of her maiden campaign in sky blue, she has been delighted.
"It feels brilliant to have won this award. I'm very thankful to the fans who voted and I feel it's been a great season for me. Long may it continue. I'm looking forward to continuing the journey. Obviously, my injury has brought a bump in the road but I'll be back stronger. I can't wait to get back on the pitch, wearing this badge.
"Thank you all so much for your messages of support over the last few weeks. I'm doing well, keeping positive and feeling good. I've been working hard in the gym and I'm on the first step to recovery now. I have great people around me to help keep me positive, staying in a good frame of mind and I really appreciate everyone's support.
"I've really loved every minute of playing for this fantastic Club and I feel like I'm at my best when I'm enjoying myself. Coming here was a big step for me but I've just tried to take everything on board and enjoy myself. To be able to feel so confident and relaxed in this environment is a great thing. The team have been brilliant and welcomed me into the group and I'm very thankful for that.
"I feel I've added new things to my game and working with such a great manager like Gaz has been great for my development. I'm learning from every training session and I'm just adding new things into my game.
"I'm only young so I feel like I've got a long way to go to be where I want to be. I'm definitely not where I want to be yet - I've got a lot of room for improvement still. That's why I enjoy training so much - because I'm learning and this environment is great for that. I just want to learn each day to improve every day.
"I'm quite a grounded person. Even when things are going well, I try not to focus on what people are saying. I don't want to get too caught head of myself or equally, when things aren't going so well, I don't want to be caught in negative mindset. That's helped me along the way.
"I really want to be successful as an individual and as part of the team. Of course, I came to this Club to win trophies and that's what I want to do.
"In my first season, we won the FA Cup, which was brilliant and that's made me hungrier to win even more in the coming years. I came to Manchester City to win trophies - cups, leagues, Champions Leagues... and I'm excited for the future.
"Until then, I just hard to keep working hard. Obviously, I'm gutted I'm injured now and I haven't been able to play in front of the fans or meet them yet... but I definitely will get the chance next season. I'll be supporting the team as much as they will. I'll be City's number one fan!"
LEARNING FROM THE BEST
Whatever Esme Morgan goes on to achieve, she will never forget the 2020/21 season.
In addition to the magical moment of her first goal for her beloved childhood Club, our eighth term in the top-flight also marked the defender's breakthrough into the first team, her maiden Wembley appearance, her Champions League debut and first senior England call-up!
Dream scenarios for any footballer – never mind a lifelong City fan at the tender age of 20!
Fully immersed in all things City and holding a deep passion for the Club, the defender is in the perfect environment for her development, learning from the very best - in both the women and men's games. Yet, she admits that when watching the Premier League Champions, the fan inside still emerges to take over!
Yet, needless to say, our 2020/21 Gatorade Rising Star has loved every second and believes she’s gained valuable (and unrivalled) experience along the way.
"I probably should watch the men's game in a more tactical way but whenever I watch City, I turn the switch!" she admitted. "I’m in fan mode!"
"I'm just enjoying the game for what it is - not being caught up in how we’re playing...
"I've actually spoken to Gaz about it. He says: ‘You’re City fan... Watch them: watch John Stones and Kyle Walker...' but I don’t watch what they do when they're playing - I just want them to do well like any other fan!
"To be honest, I really like that I can separate that - that I can enjoy it more and just get lost in the game like everyone else!"
However, Morgan has gained plenty of valuable experience and advice from one of her teammates - and what better teacher than the reigning FIFA Women's Player of the Year?!
"I've learned a lot through observation of the players around me," she continued.
"When you play alongside them, you can't help but learn from little things they do well.
"When you play against them in training, it's hugely challenging. No matter who you're up against, you're facing a player of the same standard and intensity.
"It's been the best of both worlds and I've gained so much from that. That's one of the reasons I wanted to stay last summer and one of the reasons Gaz wanted me to stay.
"I was desperate to learn from him and the players around me - World Cup winners, Champions League winners - and see where it takes my development.
"It's been a really positive decision. I've learned so much to help my game and I've got a lot more out of it than maybe I would have elsewhere.
"For example, watching Lucy Bronze on the ball - how confident she is to drive past players and take them on... And seeing how good Alex Greenwood is in the air... Those are things I'm now trying to add to my game.
"They're both so driven as well, always wanting the best for the team; always wanting to win. You want people like that - leaders who can inspire and drag people through when needed.
"It's the same with the American players. I said to Sam Mewis the other day that I've learned so much from her mindset. She's so driven and competitive but she's also really encouraging and professional in doing all she can to try and win.
"There are so many influential people in the team. You can look left or right and there are so many talented players, who all want to be successful and be the best they can be.
"It's a team effort too - it's not just down to a few players and there are different types of leaders. There are so many naturally vocal people in the team but you can also be a leader by the actions you portray - by your hard work, your effort- and everyone has days where they are needed to step up.
"Even players who are injured can play a part. Although they may not be on the pitch, being recognised for their performance, they can do their bit - shouting encouragement from the sidelines or checking in on people.
"It must be hard seeing other people playing - obviously, they want to be playing too - but they don't let that disappointment show. They're always supportive, shouting positivity from the sidelines.
"That's so important to have and all of the qualities in the squad provide something we can all embrace and have more of. I've learned a huge amount from so many players which I can take forward and even pass onto others in the future."
OPPOSITION: West Ham
Nickname: The Hammers
Stadium: Chigwell Construction Stadium
(Dagenham & Redbridge FC)
Manager: Olli Harder
Division: FA Women’s Super League (2018-present)
Women's FA Cup runners-up: 2018/19
FA Women's Premier League Plate: 2017/18
Isthmian League Women's Cup: 2017/18
Essex FA County Cup Winners: 2008/09, 2010/11
South East Combination League: 2004/05
Greater London Regional Premier League: 2000/01, 2001/02
Greater London Regional League Play-Off Winners: 2001/02
14 October 2018: City 7-1 West Ham, FA WSL
(Weir, Parris x2, Stanway x2, Houghton, Wullaert)
13 January 2019: West Ham 1-3 City, FA WSL
(Weir, Hemp, Parris)
4 May 2019, City 3-0 West Ham, FA Cup Final
(Walsh, Stanway, Hemp)
17 November 2019: City 5-0 West Ham, FA WSL
(White, Stanway x2, Hemp, Wullaert)
31 January 2021: City 4-0 West Ham
(Weir, Stanway, White, Lavelle)
9 May 2021: West Ham 0-1 City (White)
Georgia Stanway is City’s top scorer against the Hammers with six goals.
Scotland international Jane Ross and Netherlands star Tessel Middag both joined West Ham from City in the summer of 2018, having clocked up 84 appearances between them in sky blue.
Ross made the move to Manchester in November 2015 and went on to become the Club's top goalscorer in the 2016 campaign. The striker was a key component as City earned a first league title and second Continental Tyres Cup success, which was followed by FA Cup glory in May 2017.
In total, she bagged 25 goals in 61 games for the Club across all competitions.
A mid-season signing in June 2016, Middag clinched two trophies in her first four months at the Club. The Dutch midfielder’s City career was sadly hampered by a ten-month cruciate ligament injury sustained in the 2017 Spring Series, ahead of the summer’s European Championships in her home country.
Ross has since joined Manchester United, while Middag is now plying her trade in Italy with our 2020/21 Women's Champions League last 16 opponents Fiorentina.
WALSH'S WEMBLEY DREAM
"It's such an unbelievable feeling to play at Wembley and it's so nice to see your hard work pay off."
A lifelong City fan, Keira Walsh is living the dream for all of us.
Stepping out at Wembley, donning the famous sky blue in the FA Cup Final, she has lived that very dream on three occasions - and even better, she scored.
With the players having looked back on some of their favourite moments, our midfield engine recalls our second FA Cup success in 2018.
City regained the trophy with a superb second-half display against West Ham, thanks to goals from Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp...
Q&A WITH → ABBY DAHLKEMPER
The third United States star to join the ranks in the 2020/21 campaign, Abby Dahlkemper became the squad's third reigning World Champion.
The defender, who started every game of her country's 2019 World Cup success, has penned a deal until the summer of 2023.
We caught up with our number 13 to reflect on her City career so far...
Abby, you're four months into your City career... Now that you're more settled in, has the move been everything you hoped for?
"Yeah, it's been great. The staff and the girls have made it so easy - such an easy transition - and I've already learned so much being here.
"I'm happy and I'm learning a lot and just trying to enjoy each moment that comes."
How have you found adapting to City's style of play? Do you feel it's improved you as a player at all - even in these early stages?
"Definitely. Tactically and technically, having to be more aware and more sharp, focusing on the details on the passing and what we want to do with the ball in different stages of the field and whatnot.
"It's been great. I've learned a lot."
Is there anything about the Club or the English game that perhaps surprised you? What has been the biggest difference to the American game?
"It has but in a good way. The main difference is how technical and tactical things are here. The girls are so good with the ball at their feet and sometimes if you get stuck in a Rondo, you could be stuck there for a while.
"Everyone's so good with the ball so you have to really focus on that - being clean with the touches and concentrating on the details."
Have you been able to explore much of Manchester? What do you think of the city? How are you finding all the different accents in the squad?
"Yeah! I'm in Ancoats and I love that area. I'm making my way around. I have gone more into the city centre now things are a bit more open, although obviously we have to be safe with the pandemic still going on.
"In terms of the accents, it is kind of hard to understand sometimes! I haven't picked up on the Manchester accent yet but I can tell the accents are different!"
People don’t always appreciate the sacrifices elite athletes have to make to achieve their dreams. Newly-married, it was quite a move for you personally. How have you found the transition? And how’s the pup, Bobby?
"Yeah, it's uncomfortable but I'm growing and learning a lot. I just want to make myself the best player I can be and you have to make sacrifices to do that. It's been tough but also good and rewarding.
"The distance has been hard. Obviously, I wish he was here but he's doing his career and I'm doing mine so I'm just trying to stay in the moment and learn as much as I can.
"I miss Bobby a lot too! She's at her grandma's house right now but I will hopefully be able to see her soon."
I imagine Sam and Rose have been quite helpful in aiding that transition. What’s it been like to play alongside the two of them for City?
"It's been great. I have been playing with Sam for a really long time now because we went to school together and then we were on the same professional team back in the States.
"It's been a great journey with her and to be able to play a Club level with Rose is great as well. They're just awesome people as well as amazing players. We can push each other to keep growing and getting better, experiencing new things together.
"I'm really close to Georgia Stanway and Keira Walsh too. I've spent a lot of time with them off the pitch and they've helped me settle in too."
Now that you've had a taste of life at City, and the English game, what are your hopes for the coming season?
"Just to continue to improve and personally, grow and get better as a player and a person.
"I want to try and help the team win in whatever way possible. We fell short of the league and the Champions League this year but we'll be in that next year to try again.
"I think we just have to stay and stay in the moment as much as possible. We have high goals for ourselves and the team as a whole and from what I've seen, we're definitely capable of achieving them."
JUNIOR CITYZEN OF THE MATCH
Hello and congratulations to our Junior Cityzen of the Match: Anna Clark.
Anna is 11 years old from Glasgow and loves watching City!
Her favourite player is Caroline Weir.
"Caroline Weir is my favourite player as she is an attacking midfielder, which is the position that I like best and she also plays for Scotland."
Although she has missed travelling down to Manchester with her family to watch games, Anna hopes to have the chance to watch City at Wembley, should we reach the 50th FA Cup Final in December!
Enjoy the game, Anna!
If you want to be our next Junior Cityzen of the Match, enter now on the Cityzens platform!
We have been very busy here at the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club as the season draws to a close.
We held our final 'watch-along' with our members worldwide for our last home game against Birmingham.
We would like to thank all our wonderful members who have taken part in them over the season. They have been a vital and fun way for us all to stay connected in this difficult period.
We also held our annual OSC Player of the Season vote, which was both our largest and closest ever! The winner was Chloe Kelly - just reward for her amazing first season at the Club. Congratulations, Chloe!
Our member Anastasia, who many of you know as 'Ellie Roebuck's number one fan' , has hit the headlines this week. Her mum - our member Zoe - tweeted a picture of Anastasia in matching kit to Ellie, re-enacting a pose of a life size Ellie wall sticker.
The tweet soon went viral and at the time of writing, the picture has an ASTONISHING 28,500 likes! WOW!
Anastasia what about the orange gloves mummy 🤦♀️ we got her the football boots for winning her first trophy last Saturday pic.twitter.com/dh2ghh6Xuj— Zoe Alison hill (@ZoeAlisonhill) May 9, 2021
Sunday marks the final game of a truly unique season. Our proud record of winning the last two FA Cups is on the line, as we look to advance to the quarter-finals.
It seems a perfect opportunity for us here at the OSC to thank the team for their endeavours this season. Winning an FA Cup and just missing out on the title is a great effort, especially factoring in the pandemic and a new manager.
Also, we would like to thank the Club staff off the pitch for their remarkable work this season in keeping us all connected to the team while we have been unable to attend the games.
The reporting and coverage of the team and games - the live streams, the interviews and the digital programmes have all been greatly appreciated.
We are now all hoping that we can return safely next season and be able to do what we love so much - support our team from the stands.
But for Sunday, for one more time: 'WE'RE NOT REALLY HERE ' and 'COME ON, CITY!'