Welcome to our first ever digital Women's matchday programme, as FA Women's Super League action returns to the Academy Stadium...
An astonishing 203 days since our last competitive home fixture, City host Brighton and Hove Albion in our first home league game of 2020/21.
Safe to say, a lot has happened since City and Chelsea played out that enthralling 3-3 draw in what turned out to be last season's final league contest.
We have a new season, new manager, new faces, new league opponents, new challenges and a new hunger. The the squad are very much raring to go.
Sadly, this weekend's game arrives too soon for the return of fans to stadiums and so, we strive to keep gamedays as normal as possible for our beloved supporters.
Although we can never replicate the matchday experience, we hope to bring you as close to the action as possible, such as with this digital programme.
As always, we have the thoughts of manager Gareth Taylor and captain Steph Houghton, plus a Q&A with Ellen White and an in-depth insight into PFA Young Player of the Year Lauren Hemp's defining moments.
We also catch up with our MCWFC Official Supporters Club and take a look at this weekend's opposition, as well as getting to know our summer recruits. (You may have noticed we've signed a player - or five!)
As the excitement builds with kick-off edging closer, let's get this show on the road! Without further ado...
A WORD FROM THE BOSS...
Hello, City fans.
It’s nice to be on home soil at the Academy Stadium for this weekend’s FA Women’s Super League game against Brighton and Hove Albion. Welcome to their manager Hope Powell, her players and staff.
The first home league game of the season is always a special occasion but of course, the circumstances of this game are difficult for us without our fantastic supporters. It would have been great to meet you all in person but we will try everything we can to make you happy, while you’re staying safe at home.
We had a great start last week against Aston Villa and now, the important thing is to gain momentum from that win and try to build on it.
I think there were definite areas of improvement – and the girls know that – and a little bit of nerves but in the first game of the season, with some new players too, that’s to be expected and the most important thing was to get three points.
During this week in training, the signs have been good. The players have taken on the challenge with a high work ethic, which is an important trait to improve.
I’m coming up to four months as Head Coach now and I’ve really enjoyed it so far. Sometimes, I take a moment to reflect and I’ve learned a lot. It’s been pretty crazy – even during lockdown, it was full-on, and we were straight into things in terms of recruitment and interaction with the squad – but it’s been enjoyable and the players have adapted well.
As a Club, we’re delighted with the signings we’ve made over the summer: Chloe Kelly, Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood. We knew we needed some support in certain areas and we’re looking ahead towards the next few years.
The players we have brought in will bring a winning mentality and another level of quality, complementing the talent we already had. You can see with the number of high-profile players coming into the WSL that the league is strengthening and of course, we want to be at the forefront.
When new players come in, it is always difficult to manage expectations in terms of playing time but with five trophies to play for, squad rotation will be important and the players have been made aware of their roles and responsibilities in all situations.
In addition to the signings made this week, there has been more good news with Lauren Hemp’s PFA Young Player of the Year award, Caroline Weir and Chloe Kelly's inclusion in the WSL Team of the Year, Steph Houghton’s record-breaking WSL win and the Northwest Football Award nominations. Congratulations to all players – these awards are an acknowledgement of performing at an elite level and the Club are immensely proud of such achievements.
It’s no secret what we want to achieve this year. The Club has been successful previously and we’ve seen the bar being raised throughout. We want to be there again, making sure we can raise it further – for us and for the league.
We’re looking to achieve something more over the next few seasons and mentality, belief and momentum will be crucial. Both us and Brighton made a winning start on the opening weekend so the early exchanges will be important for us to gain the advantage that we are looking for.
Enjoy the game.
It’s matchday again and as I always say, there’s nothing like playing at home.
Of course, we really miss you – the fans – and we’ll have to do our best without you there supporting us.
As you know, we played at Villa Park last week and it was a great experience to play there but it’s just not the same.
We just have to focus on the fact that over the last few seasons, our home form has been outstanding, which has been really important.
It was good for us to start off with a win last week. It was a bit strange with the way Georgia’s goals came about but they all count!
We work hard at our pressing game and that always starts from our number nine. That was the case with G and it was great to see her get two goals.
Overall, we were happy to get the three points – in the first game of the season, it’s crucial to get points on the board.
Ultimately, we know we can improve but it’s also important we don’t peak too early and look to keep improving every day.
It’s been a big week (and a big summer) for the Club in terms of new signings and it’s great to have them here all together, training and integrating into the camp.
The calibre of player we’ve brought in can only improve us as a squad. Their careers speak for themselves.
Sam and Rose have won World Cups and they’ve played at the highest level in the National Women's Soccer League, Lucy and Alex have just won the Champions League with Lyon and Chloe is a young player who impressed against us last season with Everton.
They’re really good people too and that’s important for the group. They want to challenge for trophies and that will only push us further forward.
It’s quite scary how many Lionesses we have in the squad too! That’s going to be great for City and for England – we’ll be able to build relationships and take them onto international duty, which will be a real advantage with big games coming up.
On a personal note, it’s been a special week for me, winning my 100th FA WSL game and being nominated in the Northwest Football Awards. It’s always an honour to be shortlisted and I actually didn’t even know about the WSL record until after the game!
It’s not a bad record to have – 100 wins in 140 games – but I’m not sure whether that highlights how old I am, or the fact I love to win! Joking aside, I’ve been fortunate to play in two great teams in Arsenal and City and over the last six years, I’ve won a lot of football games. Hopefully, there are more to come!
Congratulations also to Lauren Hemp on her Northwest nomination and PFA Young Player of the Year award. Hempo has so much talent and she thoroughly deserves the award. I like to say she has an ‘old head’ on her – she listens and learns and she’s an unbelievable talent going forward.
Although she’s sadly injured at the moment, these things make you stronger and she’ll come back stronger. Our young players are the future of the Club and we’re proud to have an environment where senior players have the responsibility to help them come through.
The competition for places in this squad is so good and it’s just going to improve us as players. Everybody has worked so hard over the last few months – we’re trying new things, syncing those relationships and implementing Gareth’s style, which is really good.
This season, I believe we can achieve anything we want to, if we have the right mindset with a winning mentality. I say it in every interview but we’ve been told to take each game as it comes, always looking to the next game.
This weekend, it’s Brighton, which is a tough ask but throughout the season, if we keep pushing and finding a way to win, being ruthless in both boxes, we won’t to do badly at all!
Come on, City!
The 2019/20 PFA Women's Young Player of the Year
talks us through the key moments of her career...
1. First footballing memory
Playing in the backyard every evening with my sister, as the sun was setting until about 10 o'clock at night!
My sister used to play football. She's a couple of years older than me and I used to go and watch her play at Norwich.
I was just there. I wasn't actually really keen on watching the football! I enjoyed dancing and I'd just be doing my little dances in the corner, while she was playing!
She'd play out in the garden and I joined in. We both enjoyed it and we both wanted to win and from there, I became interested.
Dad noticed something in me and encouraged me to give it a go so my sister and I played together and joined a local boys team, North Walsham.
From there, I found a real love of the game.
2. First game
After North Walsham, I joined Norwich City's Centre of Excellence (I was accepted in the second year) and there was one game, which really stands out for me as probably my earliest memory of a match.
We played Millwall, who were a really strong, physical team. It was a massive game for us.
Being that young, you just want to take everyone on and be a gloryhunter, scoring loads of goals! At that time, I was scoring five or six every week!
We won that game 2-0 and I was treated to a McDonald's afterwards, which of course doesn't happen now!
3. First senior club
From Norwich's Centre of Excellence, I made the move to Bristol.
Going from Norwich to Bristol was a massive step, especially aged 16. It was quite daunting - I never liked being away from home.
It was a massive challenge for me and my parents felt it more. During the first couple of months, they'd ring me all the time.
I was living with a few of the girls my age on the team, which was nice - we got on really well - and I had college so I was always busy or out with my friends, which helped.
That was the first big club I played for. Bristol were in the WSL 2 at the time so it was my first experience of professional football.
4. First senior goal
I scored my first goal for Bristol on my debut against Watford!
I came on at 60 minutes and scored two minutes later!
I was played this through-ball and I beat the goalkeeper and slotted it in. Everyone came charging towards me, celebrating. They were so happy and I couldn't believe it.
I got this feeling in my stomach and I was pinching myself, thinking: 'Is this really real?'
I'd never played in front of a crowd bigger than 10 and there were around 100 people there. For me, it was massive - playing professionally for the first time and getting a goal!
From then on, I noticed I was quite quick compared to others and despite being so young, I was able to get past a few players.
The manager Willie Kirk started to believe in me and he kept putting me on with 20 minutes to go, although I was only 16.
He was the first one who really believed in me, which I'm really thankful for.
5. Joining City
It was so unexpected! I never thought it would ever happen.
When City first made contact, I didn't really believe it! I was sitting at home in Bristol and I was completely shocked.
I rang my mum to tell her I'd just got off the phone with City and she was like: 'No way!' I think she called Nick Cushing herself to ask if he was being serious!
It was a really big deal. The thought of playing with Steph Houghton and Jill Scott - players I'd looked up to - was incredible.
I was like: 'Are you sure you want me? I'm only in my first major season at Bristol!'
It was a big move. I went to see the stadium and the Academy with my mum and dad and we were all looking at each other, thinking how major it was.
Bristol have a great set-up but you could see how the clubs compared and it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.
6. City debut
My debut for City was against Chelsea and also my first start.
Going into the game, I was really anxious because it was a massive game. The two teams are rivals - both always challenging for silverware - and I wanted to put in a good performance to get a result for the team.
I was nervous about starting alongside players like Steph, Jill, Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway and the other big names but during the game, I found my feet and it became easier.
I enjoyed every minute. I knew this was the Club I wanted to be at and stay at.
7. First City goal
It was against Aston Villa in the Continental Cup.
I'd been injured for quite a period of time - around four or five months with a hamstring injury - and I think it was my first game back.
I came on for the last 20 minutes and scored my first goal from close range, which was a big moment for me.
It had been a long time coming. I'd started the season in September but then suffered an injury, which wasn't a great start.
I'd been so eager to get a goal. I scored it in December and I enjoyed every minute.
I'd made an assist just before and then the goal topped it off. We won 4-0 and went through to the next round of the cup.
8. First trophy
It was the 2018 Continental Cup Final win over Arsenal at Bramall Lane.
There were mixed emotions for me, as I missed a penalty in the shoot-out, but most importantly, we won the game.
Of course, I was disappointed to miss but looking back, I'm glad I stepped up to take it.
I never want to be fearful of taking a penalty. It doesn't matter how hard or clean you hit it, if the goalkeeper goes the right way, she can save it.
It's the luck of the shoot-out but if I could go back again, I would take one again. It was unlucky but I learned a lot from that day.
9. Scoring at Wembley in the FA Cup Final
Winning the FA Cup was incredible. Scoring topped it off and I actually nearly got a couple more towards the end!
I’d never been to Wembley before so having the opportunity to get on the pitch and then to score as well was amazing.
Jennifer Beattie kicked it in behind the defence and I could see the ‘keeper coming out. I knew that if I could get on the end of the pass, all I had to do was kick it!
I managed to get onto it and I was just aiming for the goal, although I didn’t expect it to go in from that far out.
I made contact mid-air and at the speed I was running, it made me fall. I think my feet were moving quicker than my mind!
At the time, I thought it was a good shot but it was only when I did a roly-poly and heard the crowd cheer that I knew it had gone in! It was perfect.
10. Senior international debut
I'd been to the 2019 SheBelieves Cup as a training player and I was called up as a training player for another camp.
A few players went home injured and Phil Neville came up to me and Chloe Kelly and said: "You're in the squad for tomorrow."
We couldn't believe it! We said to each other: "That was casual!" It was crazy.
I made my debut the following day against Portugal. I started on the bench and my legs were shaking!
It was 0-0 and I was thinking: 'Please score so the pressure is off me a bit!'
Phil kept asking me to warm up so I had an inkling and then he shouted me over and I was thinking: 'Oh my God!'
My hands were shaking but I knew that as soon as I was on the pitch, I'd be fine. It was just the thought of getting on it!
I thought: 'I'm going to take this opportunity' and although there wasn't much time left, every time I got the ball, I looked to get forward.
Phil is always telling us to be confident and play with no fear and I think I did that. It was brilliant.
After last season's premature ending, the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club wanted to help fans and members stay connected over the lockdown period.
We engaged full time on our social media, running quizzes, give-aways, polls, virtual branch meetings and online watch-alongs for everyone to get involved with.
We celebrated two awards - our members voted Lauren Hemp as the MCWFC OSC Player of the Season, and our secretary Jayne Comer was selected by the Club as a July Cityzen of the Month.
We also worked together with renowned City author Andrew Waldon to ensure our annual Yearbook came out earlier than usual.
The MCWFC OSC would like to thank everybody who has helped us keep our online community thriving over these difficult times.
MCWFC Official Supporters Club
Brighton and Hove Albion
Nickname: The Seagulls, The Albion
Stadium: The People's Pension Stadium, Crawley
Honours: Premier League Southern Division (2016), Sussex Women’s Cup (x17)
Division: FA Women’s Super League (2018-present)
Highest FA WSL finish: Ninth (2018/19, 2019/20)
Manager: Hope Powell
Appointed: September 2017
The Brighton boss is a familiar face to many of the City squad, having managed the England national team between 1998 and 2013, and the Olympic Great Britain Team.
As a player, she enjoyed domestic success with Millwall Lionesses and Croydon, winning the FA Women's Cup in 1991 and 1996, in addition to the 1995/96 Women's Premier League.
At international level, she won the Mundialito ('little World Cup') with the Lionesses, before managing the team to Cyprus Cup glory in 2009 and 2013.
“Hope is a top manager and we know they’ll be organised. Every game is competitive.”
4 Feb 2018, FA Cup: Brighton 0-2 City (Christiansen, Emslie)
21 Oct 2018, FA WSL: Brighton 0-6 City (Stanway x3, Weir, Parris, Emslie)
9 Jan 2019, FA WSL: City 7-1 Brighton (Parris, Hemp x2, Weir, Emsie, Stanway, Beckie)
27 Jan 2019, FA WSL: City 3-0 Brighton (Parris x2, Bonner)
5 Dec 2019, Continental Cup: City 5-0 Brighton (Houghton, White, Hemp, Stanway, Bremer)
Georgia Stanway is City’s top scorer against the Seagulls, netting five goals. She bagged a hat-trick in the 6-0 triumph in October 2018.
City’s South Korean international Lee Geum-min is on a season-long loan deal with the Seagulls.
Demi Stokes scored her one and only goal for England at the home of Brighton’s men’s team: the AMEX Stadium.
HERE'S TO BRIGHT BLUE SKIES...
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Your wellness, our priority
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We’ve introduced additional deep cleaning at Abu Dhabi airport and on board, focusing on the surfaces that are touched most often. That includes our check-in counters, toilets, seats, and entertainment screens, so you can feel comfortable knowing that we disinfect every touchpoint of your journey more regularly.
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A sizzling summer of activity...
No fewer than five new faces have made the move to Manchester, heading to the Academy Stadium in search of silverware.
Amongst them: two World Cup winners, two Champions League victors and one of England's brightest young talents. A quintet of rather impressive pedigree!
The first to arrive was 22-year-old Chloe Kelly, who blossomed with Everton in the 2019/20 campaign.
City's new number nine became a household name last season, hitting the headlines with nine goals in 12 appearances – several of those long-range Goal of the Season contenders.
Having began her fledgling career with Arsenal, the youngster netted inside 22 minutes of her Gunners debut. After signing her first professional contract with the North London outfit, she headed out on loan to Everton in a move which would be extended following the Toffees' promotion.
Agreeing a permanent deal with the Merseysiders, she became a key component in their impressive first season back in the FA Women's Super League, attracting attention with a string of influential displays.
At international level, since working her way through the youth ranks, which garnered bronze medal success alongside new teammates Georgia Stanway, Ellie Roebuck, Lauren Hemp and Esme Morgan at the Under-20 World Cup, she has also gained three senior England caps.
As with many young players, the opportunity to learn alongside some of the world's best at City proved too good to turn down.
“Players have made huge steps since moving to Manchester City,” Kelly said.
“I've been watching them and seeing how much they've developed and it's made me eager to do the same."
Next to rock up, two sensational signings in United States stars Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle.
Starring for the Stars and Stripes in last summer's World Cup success, the midfield maestros swapped the States for the Super League, eager to embark on new and exciting chapters, testing themselves in England and in Europe.
Mewis touched down first, accompanied by her suitcase and a CV glittering with golden glory.
Originating from a footballing family in Massachusetts – with her sister Kristie also playing professionally – the 27-year-old began her career with the UCLA Bruins, clinching National Championship and National Player of the Year honours.
After winning the NWSL Championship with the Western New York Flash, she then linked up with North Carolina Courage, where she was named in the NWSL's Best XI, having lifting two more league titles and three NWSL Shields. She also played against City at the International Champions Cup last summer!
No stranger to success with her country at youth level with triumphs in the Under-20 CONCACAF and World Cup tournaments, she continued to shine in the senior squad, aiding the USWNT's dominance in the SheBelieves Cup, Tournament of Nations, CONCACAF and 2019 World Cup.
Now ready for a new challenge, she opted to join City on the hunt for European glory.
“This is a really cool, unique and amazing opportunity in my career," she reflected, "and I'm so excited to come and see Manchester as a city, be a part of this incredible Club and hopefully help the team achieve their goals.”
Compatriot Lavelle swiftly followed in her teammates' air miles in crossing the Atlantic, boasting an equally-impressive resume.
The playmaker, who scored in the World Cup Final with a superb solo run against the Netherlands, had spent four seasons in the NWSL, after playing collegiately at the University of Wisconsin.
Stints with Boston Breakers and Washington Spirit followed and the 25-year-old became the number one pick in the NWSL College Draft and Dispersal Draft respectively, before earning a place in the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League Best XI and 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup Best XI.
With teammate and close friend Mewis by her side, she savoured success with the US's youth and senior teams, also claiming the Golden Ball at the 2014 CONCACAF and captaining her country at the 2014 U20 World Cup.
Lavelle sees City as the 'perfect fit' to develop her game even further.
“I’ve heard amazing things about the Club and it just felt like a really good fit overall," she stated. "I want to challenge myself and feel that Manchester City is the perfect environment to do so and hopefully, I’ll find some success along the way.”
September sparked additional joy with the capture of European Champions Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood, as the pair returned to England following spells with Champions League heavyweights Olympique Lyonnais.
Bronze's re-signing marked the return of a fans' favourite and true legend with the right-back putting pen to paper on a two-year deal to embark on a second spell at the Club, having clinched the FA WSL, Continental Cup and FA Cup in sky blue already. (She also happened to score in both Cup Finals...)
Departing for France in 2017, the defender sought Champions League glory and she experienced it three-fold with consecutive victories in the competition, in addition to successive Division 1 Feminine league titles, two Coupe de France Féminine triumphs and one Trophée des Championnes.
With a new dream of seeing the WSL become the world's top division, Bronze says she always knew she would come 'home' to City.
“Having already experienced everything that City have to offer as a Club, it was a no-brainer for me when the offer came in," she explained, "and there isn’t another team in England that I would have looked at."
Twenty-four hours later, Greenwood followed suit, also bringing a wealth of experience, with the left-back having represented Everton, Liverpool, Notts County, Liverpool, Manchester United and Lyon, whilst also impressing on the international stage with England.
Alongside Bronze, she thrived in France, tasting success on the domestic and continental front, and hopes to transfer the 'addictive winning mentality' over to her home country for the benefit of her new Club, the Lionesses and the English league.
City's commitment to growing the game impressed her greatly.
“This Club has always impressed me with their success, how much importance they view the women’s game with and the players they attract," she noted. "It’s an environment I’m really looking forward to working in.”
Welcome all to the City family.
Q&A WITH → ELLEN WHITE
Catching up with England's all-time top
Women's World Cup goalscorer...
Ellen, after a lengthy absence, women’s football is back! How does it feel to be back playing again?
It’s brilliant. We’ve come back from a period of lockdown, excited and raring to go.
We have a new manager with new ideas and new personnel, and we’ve had a really good pre-season to prepare.
After six months out, we were really looking forward to that first game back – we couldn’t wait to start – and hopefully, this will be a big season for us.
How’s it been working with Gareth Taylor?
We’ve had about eight or nine weeks working with him at the City Football Academy.
He’s similar to Nick in that he’s really meticulous in the way he works and very detailed, although he’s not afraid to be honest.
That’s been really important for us – honesty helps us to develop and learn – but he's also a really great character and really nice person.
He wants us to play attacking, flowing football, possessing the ball. We’re still working on implementing his philosophy and style – everyone is working really hard on the field and in the classroom – and hopefully, in the coming weeks, everyone can see that come to fruition.
It’s an exciting time for us.
One key thing Gareth said he wanted to work on was the team’s belief. Is that something that’s grown already since his arrival?
That’s what he wanted to do. As soon as he came in, he told us: he believes in every player.
He’s been working hard to implement what he’s trying to do on and off the pitch and we’re learning both ways. That’s also really important.
Each game, we believe more and more. We’re progressing and working as hard as we can to nail down the philosophy.
Given the way last season ended for City, what’s the main feeling within the squad?
It’s 100% hunger. There are so many games to come for us – five trophies up for grabs!
It’s a really important season for us. We’ll take each game as it comes but each game is a Cup Final.
We’ll put everything we can into every single game and competition we’re involved in.
Hopefully, after a good start, we can build some momentum and keep going throughout the season.
It’s a great squad and that’s so important to have too.
On the subject of squad depth, what do you think about the players who have come in over the summer?
They’re incredible players.
Chloe Kelly is a fantastic youngster with amazing talent and it’s incredible for us to have the calibre of player such as Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood.
The fact they want to come to City and the FA Women’s Super League says a lot and it’s great for us and for the league.
We’re looking forward to working with them and hopefully, getting that cohesion.
It’s a really exciting season and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.