Welcome to the latest edition of our digital Women's matchday programme, as we return to FA Women's Super League action with the visit of Aston Villa.
It's a 12:30 (UK) kick-off on Sunday 17 January, as we look to ignite the New Year on a high and continue December's fine form.
As always, Gareth Taylor and Steph Houghton share their thoughts on the clash, while we also take a look at our opposition.
Plus, we also hear from The Best FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Lucy Bronze and catch up with Janine Beckie, as the Canadian reflects on what was a challenging 2020 for everyone.
Plus, the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club tell us what they've been up to and we meet our Junior Cityzen of the Match...
Let's kick the New Year off with a win!
A WORD FROM THE BOSS...
Happy New Year, City fans.
I hope you had a restful Christmas period. We’re looking forward to returning to action with Sunday’s FA Women’s Super League visit of Aston Villa. Welcome to their manager Gemma Davies, their players and staff.
While it was nice to have some downtime over the Christmas break, it has been a long time between games and we’re really raring to get back out onto the pitch and hopefully, pick up where we left off.
This weekend, we welcome Aston Villa to the Academy Stadium. Of course, we faced them in pre-season and in my first league game as Head Coach back in September. Although it doesn’t feel that long ago, a lot has changed since then.
Understandably, there were some first-game nerves in that trip at Villa Park, plus the fact we had a new system with a new manager and new players. It wasn’t our best performance by any means but we got the job done to start off on a positive note.
I always pride the team on performance and in the run up to Christmas, I felt we were really starting to gain some momentum. There are still elements of our play we’re looking to improve on but there were some really good individual and collective performances and we were really pleased to progress in the Champions League and climb the league table to put ourselves in contention.
We’re in amongst it and that’s where we want to be. We just need to keep producing that level of performance to ensure we’re there or thereabouts come the end of the season. We know our targets and we’ve put ourselves in a decent position. We need to maintain those standards.
In other news, it has been really pleasing to see our players earning individual recognition for their performances. Congratulations to Lucy Bronze and Sam Mewis for their respective Player of the Year awards. Needless to say, we’re delighted to have players of their calibre within our squad and with their hard work and ambition, they are helping to drive this Club forward to reach the next level.
With so long between games, it can be hard to regain the level of performance reached whilst riding a period of momentum – but although we have had to be patient after the disruption, which has also affected other teams, we're fortunate to have a squad capable of reacting positively to unexpected situations.
As always, we hope to deliver our best level of performance to give ourselves the best chance of success – in this game and for the remainder of the season.
Enjoy the game.
Hey everyone and Happy New Year!
It's great to be back in action on Sunday. It feels like ages since we last kicked a ball competitively and everyone is really excited to get going again.
Games are coming thick and fast again so for us, it's about making sure we approach each one properly - no matter who we are playing. Of course, we'll strive to do that this weekend.
It was nice to have a bit of a break over Christmas, seeing some of the family on Christmas Day. We'd had a hectic end to the year before the break so it was good to have some time to switch off a little bit. We were able to recharge and now we have some energy back to tackle the games coming over the next few months.
In truth, the break probably came at the wrong time for us in that we were really hitting form and gaining confidence. Ultimately though, it's the same for every team and we just have to deal with it and try to carry on where we left off.
We were finding a bit of rhythm and that happens when games are coming in quick succession - you get into a flow and you get used to playing with the players around you.
Needless to say, we enjoyed winning and winning well. People were starting to stand up and take notice of our results and the way we were playing, which is a credit to the girls and the staff.
Everyone was really hitting their stride on an individual basis and you could see that with the recognition players were getting. Congratulations to Lucy on her FIFA Women's Player of the Year award, and Sam on being named US Soccer's Female Player of the Year. They've both had big rounds of applause for what they've done and it's fantastic that they've been recognised for the talent their have and for their efforts. We're very proud to have them here.
As individuals and as a team now, we just need to try and rekindle that momentum by continuing to push ourselves and each other in training - and then put those things into practice on the pitch come matchday.
On Sunday, we face Aston Villa. They remind me of us when we first started out in the top flight. They're an ambitious club with young, enthusiastic players and a lot of energy.
They're very well-organised and they'll have learned a lot about themselves over the last few months. It shows the standard of the league that you can't really predict the outcomes of games this season, and we know we'll have to be at the top of our game to beat a competitive Aston Villa side.
We're all really excited to get back playing - back on the grass - and hopefully, get back into the winning habit.
Come on, City!
The Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have reaffirmed its commitment to eliminating all forms of discrimination from the beautiful game as clubs from both divisions will continue to show their support for Kick it Out’s Take a Stand campaign.
Clubs across the top two divisions have been invited to wear shirt patches depicting the Take a Stand logo to highlight an ongoing commitment to driving positive change on and off the pitch.
All clubs are supportive of The FA’s and Kick It Out’s commitment to delivering a game free from discrimination, however some clubs will show their support by wearing the logo on their training tops, or through alternative campaigns they had already planned to tackle this issue.
All clubs that accept the invitation to don the Take a Stand logo on their shirts will do so for the remainder of the season to highlight the respective league’s commitment to driving discrimination out of football.
A number of football fans may have witnessed some form of discrimination in football – on the terraces, in dressing rooms or on social media – and campaigns like this will help raise awareness and create further conversation.
Take A Stand is a challenge and an invitation for individuals and organisations to publicly commit to their own pledge. It is also a movement that everyone can play a part in and is one the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship are proud to support.
For those who would like to make a pledge, either individually or as an organisation, or want more information on how to do this, please contact Kick It Out at [email protected]. For more information about Take A Stand, visit: kickitout.org/take-a-stand.
You can also make a pledge by joining the conversation on social media, just use #TakeAStand and tag Kick It Out in your posts. You can find them on social media as below:
Anyone who witnesses an incident of discrimination in football - whether it took place online or at a grassroots, non-league or professional game, can fill out an online reporting form at kickitout.org or by using the charity’s app.
Lucy Bronze: The Best FIFA Women’s Player of the Year for 2020!
The 29-year-old has also been included in the FIFA FIFPRO Women’s World XI for the third time in the last four years - a line-up which is chosen and compiled by her fellow professionals.
Bronze saw off competition for the main accolade meanwhile from former Lyon teammate Wendie Renard and Chelsea striker Pernille Harder, with this the latest addition in a long line of personal awards for the defender.
The year of 2020 saw the seasoned full-back win the UEFA Women’s Champions League for a third successive time with Olympique Lyonnais, completing a treble winning 2019/20 campaign that also saw her lift the Division 1 Feminine and Coupe de France.
And following her return to City, she was victorious in the Women’s FA Cup Final against Everton at Wembley Stadium in November.
These personal honours meanwhile are in addition to her being named as BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year back in March.
The European Champion reflects on her 'unbelievable' achievement...
"It's pretty surreal, especially being sat in the Boardroom at the City Football Academy! Normally, you'd go to a big awards night with all of the atmosphere and your legs would be shaking as you go on stage. It's quite nice to be sat down and relaxed! I'm not normally great at receiving awards!
"An award like this is the pinnacle of most players' careers. It's unbelievable. If I were to say I had a favourite individual award, it would have to be (the World XI) - to know that you're the best in your position and that it's what everybody thinks. It's fantastic to get awards from fans and coaches saying nice things but the players who play against you know better than anyone.
"To have been consistently named in it for the last three years means more to me than winning a one-off individual award, especially to be part of a team and be able to share the experience with other players as well.
"Sometimes, you sit down in a meeting with your coaches and discuss: 'What are your aspirations? How would you define that?' Most people say they want to win the Ballon d'Or but I just think: 'I don't want to.' The people who do win it are the ones who are successful as a team. It's cliché but team awards always mean more to me.
"You can't win an award if the players around you aren't at the same level. You're only as good as the people you surround yourself with. I genuinely believe that.
"I want to be part of a successful team. Individual awards are fantastic and something my family are very proud of. They are able to share the experience and I think they enjoy it more than I do!
"I received the award on my brother's birthday, which was quite funny. My mum text me to check I'd said 'happy birthday' so I had the perfect opportunity live on TV! He was joking that I have to give him the award to put up in is new house as another reminder of how I've rained on his parade! He's getting old now so I'm sure he doesn't mind...
"Returning to City wasn't quite as smooth as I thought it was going to be but a lot of things have changed. It's nice to be in a place in recognise - the stadium and the changing rooms are the same - but now Gaz is the new manager. I'm used to playing next to Steph but now there are new players who I've never played with before.
"It took a few games for the team in general to keep consistency but we've shown recently - with the games coming thick and fast - that we're starting to hit those heights. As the team is progressing, I'm getting more comfortable in understanding what is expected of me as a City and 'Gareth Taylor' player. I'm enjoying my time and enjoying the new challenge.
"[In terms of targets for 2021], the Olympics is a huge one. I've never been so I would love to go and compete there and win a gold medal. Equally, I want to win the Champions League with City, having had so much success with Lyon. That's something I've mentioned when asked what it is I'm striving for. I want an English Club to get to the Final and win it.
"We're capable of winning every other trophy but that one is the 'be all and end all' in terms of world football for domestic clubs. To keep lifting trophies is always my aim - every single year."
SINGING IN THE RAIN
With her sunny personality, even the Manchester
weather can't dampen Janine Beckie's spirits...
Q&A WITH → JANINE BECKIE
Ever honest, open and humble, the Canada
Player of the Year nominee reflects on 2020...
Janine, Happy New Year! As we start 2021, have you had time to reflect on 2020? What are the biggest things you learned from the year?
For me and a lot of people, there was a revelation of what's really important. At the end of the day, it's: family and health, and I've never been so thankful for both of those things.
Being back home for lockdown was the most time I'd spent consecutively there since high school. My mom was working from home so to have had that time was awesome, and other family members (my niece, nephew, sister and brother-in-law) lived close by so I was able to see them a lot too. I saw my nephew walk for the first time. That was so special and those are moments I'd normally missed. To have been there for that was great.
I definitely have a different perspective on things in general. In our society, we're so lucky to have to many things others don't have. I'm so grateful for the ability to take care of my body and stay in shape, and have the resource to eat healthily and have access to doctors. Some people weren't able to do anything and had to get creative in small spaces. I was lucky - I was able to go and exercise outside.
I've also learned a lot about myself. I'm not glad it happened but I am thankful for some of the time I got to spend with my family. I've also learned to go with the flow, week by week.
I thought a lot about how our time was spent - we're in a high-pressure job and there was a lot of time stressing about games. It's such a privilege to be able to play it so you should just go out and enjoy the experience of playing for City.
What kind of stuff did you get up to during lockdown?
I literally couldn't leave my building for two weeks but looking back, it went by pretty fast. At first, I was experiencing jet lag - up until 2am and sleeping until noon; then, by the time I got up, half the day was over... That made things go by pretty fast.
It's really odd when you have to force yourself to find things to do but I'm glad I had the experience. I can't justify saying: 'I'm bored' anymore.
I found something to keep me entertained for two weeks so if I have a couple of hours to fill, I know I can fill it out. It was quite hard but thank God for FaceTime!
I was able to do my workouts too, as I have quite a wide room. I organised every square inch of my apartment, which was nice, and I got rid of a lot of stuff.
I also managed to finish Ozark - hour-long episodes killed a lot of time - and that was really good, and I did some cooking too.
When you returned, there was a lot of change - a new manager and new faces. How did you find the transition, especially with the restrictions in place?
It was definitely a learning curve for everyone. Personally, it highlighted how lucky we are to be at a Club like City - the Club did a brilliant job of keeping everyone in the loop.
When Gaz came in, he really made an effort to connect with everyone, understanding where they’re at. He tried to get to know us on a personal level before we started back, which is really important. He's an incredible manager.
Pre-season flew by and the intentions were clear. It was different than what we'd had before - some of the girls had played under the same manager for years - and we were learning a new system, which is a challenge in itself. We came in with an open mind and people have really bought in.
Although we haven't necessarily had the start we wanted, we've put ourselves in a good position. We're working hard in training, we've grasped the system now and our new signings are completely integrated. We're finding our feet now, as we're going into big games and competitions.
You've spoken a lot about the impact of our summer recruits. With such high-profile signings across the country, could it prove to be a watershed transfer window for the FA WSL?
The big names who joined the league - some of the best players in the world - are players who wanted to continue to challenge themselves and this is where that is happening right now. That's special.
Summer was an interesting time in the world. It's difficult to compare leagues but we were probably the best league that was playing. I would say the WSL is top, along with the French league and the NWSL in terms of competition and the number of world-class players.
It's an attractive league to play in. English teams play wonderful football and it's a culture footballers want to live in. That's part of the reason I came - to be engulfed in the culture - and that's been a shared opinion with other players that have come here.
These players aren't just joining the teams who have been the most successful either... they're joining other teams to help them to be more successful, which in turn makes the league more competitive.
I definitely think this can be the best, most competitive season in history and with the trajectory it's going, the league will only be more and more attractive.
As you mentioned, it's been a somewhat mixed start to the 2020/21 campaign for City. What do you think the team can achieve this season?
Ideally, we're competing on all fronts, challenging for every title. The backroom staff have done an incredible job of building this team and Gaz has done a really good job of delivering the expectations to us.
We know that everyone is going to play so you have to be ready on any given day. No-one's spot is solidified and that's the best place to be as a team when you're competing for multiple titles.
If you look at the best teams in the world, they have world-class players on the bench every week. Look at that as a trend - it's what they rely upon to win titles.
Of course, as a player, you want to play every game but from a physical perspective, when you have the number of games we do, no-one could cope with playing six games every two weeks!
We have a group in which every single player can be called upon in a game. That's a dream for a manager and as a team, we have a good headspace about it. We're doing what we need to do to win trophies, and you have to be ready to support the team in whatever role you're given.
(Formerly Solihull FC 1973-1989;
Villa Aztecs 1989-1996)
Nickname: The Villans, the Villa
Stadium: Bescot Stadium, Walsall
Manager: Gemma Davies
Division: FA Women’s Super League (2020-present)
FA Women's Premier League (Northern Division) winners:
1992/93, 1994/95, 2002/03, 2010/11
FA Women's Premier League Cup winners: 2012/13
FA Women's Championship winners: 2019/20
2 July 2016, Continental Cup: Aston Villa 0-8 City
(Parris x3, Ross x2, Middag, Corboz, Scott)
13 December 2018, Continental Cup: Aston Villa 0-4 City
(Bonner, Beckie, Park, Hemp)
5 September 2020, FA WSL: Aston Villa 0-2 City (Stanway x2)
Nikita Parris is City’s top scorer against
the Villans, having netted a hat-trick in
our first competitive meeting in July 2016.
Did you know...?
Birmingham born and bred, Aoife Mannion began
her youth career with Villa, progressing through their
Centre of Excellence, before joining her beloved Brum.
JUNIOR CITYZEN OF THE MATCH
Hello and congratulations to our Junior Cityzen of the Match: Lottie Coleman.
Lottie has supported both the men’s and women’s teams since she was four, as her brother is a HUGE City fan. Although it is a four-hour drive away from home, she has been to the Etihad to watch City play a couple of time.
Her favourite women's team player is Georgia Stanway, who she met with Steph Houghton at the City FanZone in 2019.
Lottie started playing football from a young age, joining her local Club, Brecon Town Junior Football Club, aged five. She loves playing as a striker.
She is also the school ambassador for ‘Sports Wales’, promoting sport and good health throughout the school. She says that winning the opportunity to become Junior Cityzen of the Match for the day is the best belated Christmas present.
Enjoy the game, Lottie!
If you want to be our next Junior Cityzen of the Match, enter now on the Cityzens platform!
Like so many things in 2020, our Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club Christmas Bash had to be different this time...
We held Zoom meeting and lots of our wonderful members took part. As well as being able to wish each other well for the festive period, we also enjoyed Audrey's tricky Christmas Quiz and our huge Raffle.
Thank you to all who took part and we hope to be able to host a more traditional celebration next year.
We also received some sad news during the Christmas period. Everyone at the MCWFC OSC was saddened to learn of our much-loved member Bernard Holland's passing shortly before Christmas.
Bernard was an avid supporter of all City teams and was a regular at women's games - home and away - as well as a huge supporter of our OSC since our very beginnings in 2015.
We would like to take this opportunity to pass on our sincere condolences to his family and friends. He will be greatly missed. Rest in peace.
With the news of another lockdown hitting us all this week, we would like to wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year, and remember: any fans who need a chat, our Twitter DMs are always open.