Natasha Harding is back in contention for Manchester City Women.
The Welsh winger, who joined the Club in March, has been out of action for Nick Cushing's side since sustaining an injury just 15 minutes into the second half of the season against Birmingham City Ladies in July.
The 26-year-old has been on the sidelines for the last nine games, but the Blues have received a timely boost ahead of Sunday's visit of Sunderland Ladies, with Cushing deeming the forward fit and ready for selection, as his side begin their final push for a league and cup double.
We caught up with the charismatic midfielder, who told us she cannot wait to step onto the Academy Stadium pitch again...
In Natasha Harding's words...
I'm really excited to be back in the squad. I’m hoping to have at least 20 to 30 minutes on Sunday.
Obviously, I had a taste of the action last weekend in the warm-up before the Liverpool game and I was raring to go. This week, I feel like I’ve signed for City all over again!
I had an 'okay' start to the season – I probably didn’t perform to how I’d like to – and in the second half of the season, I thought I'd been given a second chance to show what I can do.
Obviously though, I got injured. It was frustrating of course, but that's just part of the game - injuries happen in football.
We’re bound to come up against physical teams and hefty challenges. It's been tough not being able to play but I’ve been watching from the sidelines over the past few months and the girls have done so well.
I think my timing for my return is spot on! Coming back into a side that’s doing so well at such a crucial time of the season... I couldn't have timed it better!
Seriously though, now I'm back fit, I'm hoping I can add that little bit extra and push us on in the league.
The team have done so well since the World Cup and I think we are, by far, the best team in the league. That probably doesn’t show with our position in the table because Chelsea have been more consistent than us but that’s football.
We can admit when we haven't been good enough but it’s great to see our hard work has been paying off over the last few weeks - we're completely dominating teams.
Our target has always been to win silverware. I play football because I’m a winner and I want to win things – that’s why I came to City. I knew the Club have the capabilities to be successful and to push people to be the best they can be.
If we win all of our remaining games, we can go all the way. Of course, we all want to win the league but even if Chelsea carry on their run and go on to win the title, we’ll still have the chance of second place (and Champions League football) and of course, there’s the Continental Cup.
We have a tough test in facing Arsenal away in the quarter-finals of that competition but we would have been happy to get whoever because when we turn up on our day, I don’t think any team can cope with us.
We have high standards and expectations and we’ve done really well in achieving them so far.
I really think the fans can be massively important over our final games. They’ve been great throughout. We didn’t have the best start to the season and even then, they were showing up – and since the World Cup, they’ve been incredible. They’ve been like an extra player.
They’ve been really good to us. They stay behind after the game for an extra half an hour or an hour just to congratulate us, even those of us that haven’t been playing – like myself. Just to hear them say: "it’s nice to see you" gives you a lift.
I’m sure they’ll help us with our final push by turning out for us week-in, week-out like they have been doing. Hopefully, as the women’s game continues to grow, maybe we can even get a few more in.
We have two big games now to contend with in the next few days. Sunderland, with the likes of Beth Mead, like to hit teams on the counter-attack and they’re a physical team.
They churn out results and we can’t ignore that – we will be wary of them and their threats but I think we’re capable of dealing with them. We’ll play to our strengths and exploit their weaknesses. If we play our game, I think we’ll come away with the three points.
The Liverpool game last Sunday proved to be quite aggressive so if we can take what we’ve learned from that game and put that into Thursday's – and maybe be a bit more aggressive ourselves – we can defeat them again.