Women's Team

Bardsley: City have been enormous part of my career

Karen Bardsley has described her eight and a half years with Manchester City as 'amazing'.

Having announced that she will retire at the end of the 2021/22 season, our goalkeeper has been reflecting on her time in Manchester.

The England shot stopper signed for City in November 2013 ahead of our first season in the top flight and has been a central figure in the Club's rise since then.

GALLERY | KB: A trailblazer between the sticks

During her lengthy stay at the Academy Stadium, she has lifted the 2016 Super League title, three FA Cups and four League Cup trophies.

Injury will deny her the opportunity to play a part in next week's FA Cup final with Chelsea, but the goalkeeper will be at Wembley to savour one last special occasion with her team-mates.

While silverware is an important marker of the success of an individual's career, Bardsley is just as proud of playing her part in the growth of the game in the UK.

Speaking to media on Thursday, she said: "Being at City for almost nine years has been an enormous part of my career.

"I have had the opportunity to work with amazing coaches and players and be part of a methodology that I have never encountered elsewhere.

"I often go back to that five-year-old wandering around a grocery store, just wanting to kick a ball around and signing up for a team on the way out, when my dad was convinced girls didn’t play football.

"Watching the game in this country grow from a 100 or 200 in the stands to some of the great crowds we have seen. Walking down the street and seeing girls wearing football shirts, that’s something I’m really proud of."

Since suffering a hamstring injury in 2019 and undergoing a stop-start rehabilitation process through 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19, her time on the pitch has been severely limited.

Houghton pays tribute to 'amazing' Bardsley

A loan spell with American club OL Reign reignited her passion for the game but further treatment left the goalkeeper in no doubt that it was time to hang up her gloves.

Despite this, Bardsley is yet to fully absorb the reality of retirement from the sport she has dedicated her life to.

"It’s still not really sunk in," she said.

"I don’t think it will sink in until the very end of the contract. Having to walk into the auditorium and saying to the girls: 'Hey guys I am never going to play football again' really hit me.

"I feel really grateful for all of the amazing words, messages and photos. I have many memories of gracing the pitch with players with great talent and there is so much more talent coming through."

The California-born keeper was eligible for England through family connections to Stockport. She went on to play 82 times for the Lionesses and represented Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics.

Now 37, she has seen many changes in the game, including in the on-field responsibilities of a goalkeeper.

Tasked with constructing play from deep and helping to build attacks, City's 'keepers know this more than most.

Bardsley is excited to see how one team-mate in particular develops on that front.

"What you see from Ellie Roebuck is that goalkeepers are essentially another holding midfielder behind the back four. They are there to manage play.

"It’s asking a lot from us technically so I think you’re going to see goalkeepers specialise a lot later in their careers. Ederson is obviously paving the way."

A second life in football is already well under way in two separate guises, with an advisory role in women & girl's football at the Manchester FA and as Legacy Chair for Manchester & Trafford for this summer's European Championships.

But asked how she wants people to remember Karen Bardsley the footballer, she summed up: "My intention was always to do the right thing. Always to be the best, to dominate and hope that whoever I was playing with could feel confident I was behind them.

"Being a good person and a good team-mate, that’s what I want people to remember."

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