After lifting the Continental Tyres cup at the end of the 2014 season, part one of Manchester City Women’s transformation was complete. With a strong foothold placed in the Women’s Super League, the club went about the next phase of their project – Champions League qualification. Andrew Gibney reports.
There may have been pangs of disappointment for Manchester City last month when they finished behind Chelsea Ladies and missed out on their first title. But the club’s phase two had been realised and next October, Nick Cushing’s side will compete against Europe’s finest.
Rather than rest on their laurels, this is a club that wants to go as far as possible. Manchester City are playing the long game, but where do they go next to take that next step up the ladder?
While Chelsea were losing against German giants Wolfsburg in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final, City were making the first move of the WSL off-season, signing Scotland international Jane Ross from Swedish side Vittsjo GIK.
The 26-year-old is a No.9 style striker, tasked with adding a finishing touch to the talent and impressive wide players in the City attack. Ross is a proven goal scorer for both club and country, ready to help her new club find success.
“The German and the French leagues, PSG, Lyon, Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, they have pedigree behind them, they’ve got quality players,” Man City forward Natasha Harding told The Offside Rule (We Get It!) this week. “We’ve got good and great players in the WSL, but it’s whether those players can compete at the next level.”
Harding joined from Bristol Academy before the start of last season, and although her own performances were hindered by injury, she believes she is in a stronger position personally for the new campaign.
“Playing in the Champions League is one of the main reasons we came to City,” continued Harding. “Now we’ve got it, just rolling with it and doing the best we can and becoming one of the best teams in it.”
“The goal should be the quarter-finals. I think that’s a realistic target. Even if we do get knocked out, it’s taking that experience on to the next year.”
There is little doubt that the Lancashire club is quickly becoming one of the strongest in the country. After the World Cup they went on a fantastic winning run, and only one slip up away at Notts County halted their second half charge.
City’s professional status, helping the players move from training two days a week, to a full-time basis has helped some of the squad reach new heights. Isobel Christiansen is now a full England international. Playing and training with exceptional talents has helped take her game up another step.
Bringing together a squad of players that want to progress and strive for greatness creates a positive environment; one that they will hope gets the best out of both new and existing players during the upcoming season.
Ross won’t be the last addition to Cushing’s squad, but anyone who joins will need to know what is expected from them in the next 12 months.
Chelsea may start the new WSL campaign as champions, but with a realistic plan and ambition to achieve their goals, City will be the team to aspire to, both on and off the pitch.
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