We look back at this fascinating feature on our young England keeper, first showcased during Black History Month 2022.

One of the Club’s brightest prospects discusses her personal journey into professional football...

Part of the new generation of Mancunian talent hoping to blaze a trail for people of colour in sport, Khiara Keating shares her personal experiences of being raised in Ardwick - on the doorstep of our current home: the City Football Academy.

She made her senior debut for the Club at the beginning of 2022 when just 17 years old, signing her first professional contract at the Academy Stadium this summer.

An England youth international, the young goalkeeper has worked her way through the ranks to become a regular member of Gareth Taylor’s matchday squad.

Alongside testimonies from her team-mates, she reflects on the key foundations in her family and footballing life that have helped her along the way so far…

This feature was originally published in October 2022 as part of Manchester City's Black History Month celebrations.

Khiara Keating’s initial steps into football took place just under two miles from where she signed her first professional contract this summer.

Growing up in Ardwick, the beautiful game was always a major part of her life, even in her earliest years.

“I think what I remember most with Ardwick was the community,” she reflects.

“You’d get in from school, get changed and run to the park straight away

“You’d see everyone there. That was a big part of growing up, going to the park, having a kickabout. Football was always top, but we’d play basketball as well.

“When you’re little you just run around without being in a certain position, but playing that kind of football, with boys as well, it makes you stronger and quicker.”

When City beat Reading in our first competitive fixture as a professional outfit in April 2014, it would be fair to assume that a nine-year-old Keating was just a stone’s throw away, casually – but subliminally - honing her craft alongside her schoolmates.

Her talent was obvious from a young age, attracting plenty of interest from professional clubs by the age of six, but there was a key difference between a young Khiara Keating at that time and the stopper we know today.

Rather than looking to stop the ball from going in the net, her objective was instead to put them in!

She smiles: “I started as a striker, but when I went to trials at Manchester United and saw how many people were there, I said I wanted to go home.

“My mum wouldn’t let me. She said: ‘your brother’s gloves are in the car’, so that’s how I became a goalkeeper!

“I had a trial with gloves ten times bigger than my hands, it was so bad, but I was always that reckless kid anyway that threw themselves at anything, so I think being a keeper fit me.”

Keating turned out for a local boys team, Reddish Vulcans, during her early years in football, but it’s at this stage in the conversation where it becomes clear how important Khiara’s mother has been in her career to date.

Like so many parents across the country, the City stoppers’ typical routine following a full day of school demonstrates the time and effort both she and her family put in to fulfilling her dream.

“Mum would pick us up from school, we’d eat, drop my sister off at City and then we’d go to our own session.

“After training, we’d come back and pick my sister up from City again. It was chaos, but my mum managed to do it and we’re here now.

“I really appreciated it but at the time it must have been stressful, she’s got grey hairs now!

“My first team was actually run by my mum as well. She got the kids my age and younger to make a team and play in some little Sunday League matches. This was when I was about five.

“It was a different challenge in a way. You’d have people going: ‘oh my god there’s a girl’, but you get used to it, and when you scored against them or made a great save, it was the best feeling.”

In 2015, Keating made the defining switch of her young career and signed for City. She was already featuring for the Under-16s as a 12-year-old alongside the likes of Esme Morgan and Jess Park in her first year with the Club.

The rise through the age groups represented a big change for the youngster, but one that she ultimately credits as a key moment in helping her to realise she had a real opportunity to create a future in the beautiful game.

She said: “It was when I came to City [that I realised I could make it]. I was playing U16s in my first year.

“Everything was different, the net, the pitch, but it made me stronger and mentally mature at such a young age. Esme [Morgan] and Jess Park were there, it was a good team.

“I thought then I might be able to do something in football.”

The rapid rise continued. By 15, she was training with the first team and even featured on the bench in a handful of competitive matches.

“At first, it was so surreal. I went from being a normal academy kid that was going to school, to missing lessons to play football with these legends of the game.

“It was a shock. City had already approached the school about it, but I always had to do the work I was missing whether that was here at the CFA or by myself.”

Rubbing shoulders with senior internationals on a daily basis is invaluable for any young professional, and it was a similar story for one of the players that Keating is currently hoping to emulate.

Like the young stopper, Ellie Roebuck made her senior debut for City at just 17, coming on as a second half substitute in the final match of our 2016 double-winning season.

With legendary goalkeeper Karen Bardsley the Club’s number one at the time and experienced Irish international Marie Hourihan also waiting in the wings, she had to patiently bide her time for a regular opportunity between the sticks.

But for Roebuck, learning off her more experienced peers was essential in her becoming the player she is today. It’s something she’s keen to now pass on to Keating.

“I have so much time for Khiara, so I really do try to help and push her as much as KB [Karen Bardsley] and Marie Hourihan did for me.

“I had those figures, so I want to be that for Khiara and try and help her. 

“She’s got huge potential so if she gets her head down and works hard, which she is doing, I’m really excited to see where that goes and play a part in her journey as much as they did for me.”

While taking on those crucial tips and tricks from your team-mates is a key ingredient, getting minutes on the pitch remains the essential component in any young players’ development.

For Keating, that was made possible when she was loaned to AFC Fylde as a 16-year-old in 2021.

Thrust into a new environment, meeting new team-mates and adapting to a new playing style and culture – it proved the making of the young goalkeeper.

“It was a good experience at Fylde, because I wasn’t only meeting new people and playing in a new environment, but I was playing professional games with women instead of academy football,” she smiles.

“It was a good experience. I came back a different player, but the way Fylde played also fit my type of personality.

“We didn’t boot it long, we tried to build. That experience at Fylde really helped.

“It meant that when I did get my call-up, I was ready.”

And that call-up would come, unexpectedly, when City faced Leicester in a Continental Cup clash in January 2022.

Gareth Taylor’s side had suffered an unprecedented injury crisis in the early months of the campaign but, following the turn of the new year, key names were returning to the fold.

Roebuck’s recovery from a calf injury was still a few weeks away, meaning Karima Taieb continued to deputise between the sticks ahead of our final group match.

But ahead of the match, the French international was forced to withdraw through an injury of her own.

“We started the warmup, and everything was quite normal,” Keating remembers.

“But then Karima hurt her groin, I think. [Goalkeeper coach Chris Williams] told me to be prepared but I didn’t think anything of it.

“As I was walking in the boss came over and said ‘you’re playing, so get ready’.

“I think it was better that I didn’t know I was starting because I would’ve just been dreading it.

“The one game my mum doesn’t come to, I actually played! She was fuming but supporting me on the telly!”

The 18-year-old would keep a clean sheet in that 5-0 triumph and would back up that performance with further starts in victories over Aston Villa and Bristol City respectively.

However, just 11 days after making her senior debut, Keating was handed the biggest test of her nascent career – a top-of-the-table showdown with the WSL leaders at the time, Arsenal.

“Everyone wants to play against the big teams but being such a young age and soaking up absolutely everything, it was crazy,” she recalls.

“The team were so supportive which helped the performance. It was just a situation where you had to go in and do what you had to do.

“I think it matured me massively going in there, being 17 and playing against Arsenal, you just have to switch that professional head on for the 90 minutes so the games over.

“My mum there in the front row with my uncles, cousins and everyone! It was a really proud moment for me.”

After some early jitters, Keating was in inspired form against the Gunners, making a fine reaction save to deny future Euro 2022 top scorer, Beth Mead, at her near post.

A stoppage time equaliser from US international Tobin Heath was harsh on both City as a whole and the young stopper, but she had once again proven her capability on the biggest stage.

Given her easy-going, jovial personality, Keating won’t have let the disappointment of conceding late on affect the mood around the dressing room.

A hugely popular member of the group, it’s a safe bet to assume she’s at the centre of any laughs or banter in the squad.

“Khiara Keating, wow - that girl does not shut up,” Esme Morgan beams, before expanding on the sort of practical jokes in the young goalkeeper’s repertoire.

“We’ve got this intercom outside our dressing room which you can talk into, and it becomes a loudspeaker when you press a button on it.

“We’ll all just be sat there minding our own business and suddenly you’ll hear someone scream down the microphone as loud as you’ve heard.

“Everyone’s jumped out of their skin, and then she’ll come sauntering round the corner with a big grin on her face.”

Keating is of course still taking her first steps into the game with City, but she’s keen to pass on some of the knowledge she’s already acquired to the next generation of budding footballers.

Despite always being up for a laugh, the goalkeeper’s pathway to the first team has been guided by a relentless work ethic and focus.

It’s a key message that she delivers without hesitation when asked to provide advice for any youngsters wanting to make it in the professional game. 

“Doing the little things is vital. Like eating right, sleeping right, working hard in the gym and on the pitch.

“As a footballer, to get here, I think everything you do in your life leads up to the moment of signing as a professional.

“But it doesn’t stop there, you have to carry on doing these things.”

After breaking through in 2021/22, that desire to keep improving and build on her current progress with City will form a crucial part of Keating’s future in the professional game.

From kickabouts at the local park in Ardwick to keeping clean sheets in the WSL – all before signing her first professional deal – her journey has surely just begun.