Women's Team

Walsh: We’re fired up for Derby Day!

Keira Walsh says the days cannot pass quick enough until Friday’s mouth-watering Manchester Derby.

City host Manchester United for just the second time in professional competition, welcoming the Reds to the Academy Stadium in a crunch, top-of-the-table FA Women’s Super League clash, looking to leapfrog Casey Stoney’s side and reclaim the local bragging rights.

A lifelong Blue, Walsh needs no added motivation to psyche herself up for Derby Day but the midfield maestro is not the only one counting down the hours to the eagerly-awaited encounter.

Now no longer the only Blue in the ranks, the 23-year-old has reinforcements in Esme Morgan and Jess Park and the trio have been more than happy to take the responsibility of educating their teammates on the meaning and importance of the Manchester Derby.


“Everyone’s really fired up for the game!” Walsh stated. “It’s going to be tough but we’re all up for it.

“It’s nice not being the only City fan in the squad now and it’s nice to know I’m not going into a Derby as the only one! I’ve got some back-up now, haven’t I?!

“Esme is particular is a mad Blue. She has a Seasonticket so she definitely understands and I’m sure Jess does too.

“We always talk about the men’s games: ‘Did you see this? What did you think of that?’ and it’s nice to have that in common.

“We’ve been trying to explain to the Americans (Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Abby Dahlkemper) what Derby Day is and how much of a big game it is.

“They’ve played in big games of course but we’ve been trying to explain the emotional side of the game and our connection to the Club.

“There’s a lot riding on this one with the importance it has in the league. We both want to take points off each other to claim top spot and secure a Champions League place.

“We’re on a great run, playing great football and scoring a lot of goals, and our main aim is to keep that going and see where it takes us.

“Hopefully, we’ll edge it on the day.”

So deep-rooted is her passion for the Club, Walsh has admitted to letting her emotions override logic in the past, asserting the key to success is to remain logical and fully focused on the task at hand – a perspective aided by Gareth Taylor’s leadership style.

“I have been emotional in the past but that isn’t the right way to approach the game,” she added.

“It’s all about focusing on the tactical side of the game – being in the right places and doing the right things – and that’s easy to take on board with Gaz’s management because everything is so well thought-out and logical.

“When you’re focused on those things, it doesn’t leave too much room for emotion.

“Naturally, the changing room will be pumped before the game but it’s important to stay calm and logical.

“The additions of world-class players as well – and we have some unbelievable players – makes the game a lot easier for everyone.

“When you have players of that calibre around you – the likes of Sam Mewis in midfield and Abby Dahlkemper at centre-back for example – your job is made easier.”

City and United have met twice already this season – once in the league and once in the Continental Cup.

The Reds salvaged a point from a two-goal deficit in the WSL encounter at Leigh Sports Village before edging the final Conti Cup group stage game on penalties, following a 0-0 draw which earned City a place in the quarter-finals.


Now, the pair meet in a potential title-deciding clash and Walsh believes the lessons learned from November’s meetings could prove significant.

“They’re very similar to us,” she reflected. “We’re both top clubs with great players and they also have a good manager.

“It’s fantastic for the women’s game that they have a team and I don’t think anyone is surprised (by their rise) but our job is to take points off them and that’s what we’re looking to do.

“We probably should have killed the previous games off, especially in the league game. In the first half, we were really all over them but we couldn’t score and we let them into the game in the second half.

“Ultimately, we showed the football we want to play – the style we do play. That’s something that’s become our trademark – you look at City and you see the way we want to play – and it’s something we’re really proud of.

“Regardless of the situation, we stick to that but we’ve learned to kill games off. It’s something we’ve been working on and putting into practice in the games we’ve had since Christmas.

“Hopefully, we’ll keep that going.”

As the excitement builds to Friday’s clash, the absence of fans in stadiums becomes all the more noticeable, especially given the comparisons with the previous home league Derby, which drew a record-breaking crowd of 31,000 to the Etihad Stadium for the historic 2019/20 curtain raiser.

Walsh concedes the silence in the stands will prove a huge miss for the players and staff but asserts the players will give their all for the beloved supporters watching from home.

“First and foremost, we’re so disappointed the fans can’t come to the game,” she said.

“The priority of course is to keep people safe but we do miss them and hopefully, we’ll have them back soon.

“When you look back to that game at the Etihad, the fans were the cutting edge for us – they drove us through, right to the end.

“There were patches where we had our backs up against the wall and it’s times like that when the fans really help get you through.

“It’s up to us this time. The team will have to stick together, pushing the standards ourselves and driving the game forward. We’ll be looking to do that for the fans.

“We’re really looking forward to the game. We know it’s a big one but we’re not looking too far ahead.

“I know it’s a cliché but we’re taking one game at a time. That’s what you have to do with so many top teams in this league.

“We have an opportunity and we’ll do all we can to take it.”