A three-month injury layoff has seen Karen Bardsley return to action with a renewed focus and hunger for success.
Manchester City’s No.1 revealed her time out with a broken leg suffered on England duty has increased her desire to maximise her achievements with the Blues, who face LSK Kvinner in the Champions League last 16 on Thursday.
The 33-year-old returned for the 2-1 Continental Cup win over Everton and was delighted to be back, having felt the frustrating effects of being consigned to the side line.
“It was a really exciting day for me after what feels like an eternity,” she said.
“I’m really grateful for how patient and supportive everyone has been and the fans were terrific, so it was an honour to be back out there.
“I’m just happy to be on the pitch. Not that I wasn’t grateful before, but now I’m trying to make the most of the opportunities I get.”
Bardsley was rewarded with a relatively quiet evening as City dominated proceedings and though frustrated to concede, Simone Magill’s header was precisely placed in the bottom corner.
Keen to make up for lost time, the England international now wants to kick on and see more playing time.
Both Marie Hourihan and young Ellie Roebuck have deputised in her absence and Bardsley believes the quality Nick Cushing has at his disposal in that position, can only benefit the squad.
“Overall, I was really pleased with what I got out of the Everton game,” she reflected.
“Of course, the aim is to get more minutes and become more comfortable, but I’m not deluded by the fact Ellie and Marie have been playing very well.
“We’ve got a good group of goalkeepers and we’re all supportive. Training is competitive and so are the games, but we just want the team to play well.”
That starts, regardless of who is selected, against LSK Kvinner.
The ‘keeper was forced to watch on as the Blues eased into Europe’s last 16 with a 6-0 aggregate win against SKN St Polten, but is expecting a tougher challenge from the Norwegian outfit.
Champions League nights bring a real sense of excitement to the team, she admits, and having laid down a marker with a pre-season victory over European powerhouse, Lyon, Bardsley believes City can compete with anyone at this level.
“The Norwegian league is getting better.
“They’ll be good, both technically and physically, so I’m expecting two tough battles.
“But, the Champions League is where it’s at so we’re all buzzing for it and the belief that we can compete with the best is there.
“We beat Lyon in pre-season and at their place last season, so we’re really looking forward to the campaign and hopefully going one step closer to getting our hands on the trophy.”