Here at City Women Blog, we think it’s great to hear from fans. That’s why we reached out to City Women home and away regulars Jude Morris-King and Darren Page to get their views on the season ahead.
CWB: There have been plenty of ins and outs at City over the off-season, most notably Lucy Bronze going to Olympique Lyonnais with Pauline Bremer coming the other way. How do you feel about City’s business during the transfer window and how do you think it’ll impact the coming season?
Jude: City undoubtedly still have a strong squad however, it’s fair to say that our fans are not used to seeing big names leave the club. It does show that the level of football at City is of a standard high enough to be sparking interest from the biggest clubs in Europe, with City now being viewed as a serious contender in the UWCL. I’m keen to see Bremer play given that there was upset when she wasn’t named in the German squad for the Euros whilst Claire Emslie scored against City at Bristol and has been scoring for Scotland too. It has also been reassuring to have key players such as Steph [Houghton], Izzy [Christiansen], Jill [Scott], Meg Campbell and KB [Karen Bardsley] signing new deals. Nick [Cushing] does still need to fill the Number 10 shirt so I’m interested to see what might happen in the next transfer window – especially as he said during an interview that there was a player that he was not able to get.
Darren: Personally I don’t think we are as strong this season as we were last season. Our signings have potential but losing Toni [Duggan] and especially Lucy have left massive gaps to fill.
CWB: City are defending WSL 1, FA Cup and Conti Cup champions. How do you think City will fare this time around? What are your predictions?
Jude: City will be looking to retain their “Treble of Trophies” and are more than capable of doing so. The squad is strong with a balance of experienced internationals and keen, young talent. Our new forwards will be eager to start racking up the goals to give Jane Ross some competition and we have a solid defence. For me, I would like to see us have another good run in the UWCL, especially as we are seeded for the first time.
It would be far too obvious to go with City, City and City but I think this season could be tighter than previous seasons. Other teams have been strengthening as they know that City are the team to beat and had to do something in order to compete. I will go for: City to retain WSL1 and Conti Cup. Arsenal to win the FA Cup.
Darren: It all depends how our new signings settle in. I think we will win a trophy, but I have us behind Chelsea, sadly, and possibly Arsenal in the league (hope I’m wrong).
We’ll finish 3rd in the league and I think we will win 1 of the 2 domestic trophies. I couldn’t say which though – we could easily win both.
Keira Walsh chases Ellen White in the FA Cup Final at Wembley
CWB: Who do you think will be City’s key player this season?
Jude: Keira Walsh started to own the midfield and controlled many games last season and I think that she will continue to grow and play an integral part in her calm and confident manner. Keira is a firm favourite with the fans and came 2nd in the MCWFC OSC Player of the Year award last year. It was great to see Keira wear the Captain’s armband against Bristol in the FA Cup and we are all waiting for her first call up to the England Senior Team – one of the WWC Qualifiers maybe?
Darren: After losing Lucy [Bronze] I don’t think we have a key player as such, but I’m hoping Izzy [Christiansen] can rekindle her form from 2 seasons ago. I think Claire [Emslie] and Jane [Ross] upfront will be huge – they’ve shown good signs in pre-season.
CWB: We saw a few of the development squad feature during pre-season. As followers of the development squad, do any stand out to you as having the potential to establish themselves as a regular member of the first team squad in the coming seasons?
Jude: The City Development Squad have already proven that they are nurturing some brilliant young talent and seeing Georgia Stanway, Ellie Roebuck and Ella Toone becoming regular players in the Senior Team is a fantastic accolade to the players and the Girls Academy coaching staff. It was great to see Esme Morgan and Beth O’Donnell (or BOD as we like to call her) travel to Frankfurt and the Toulouse tournament. That experience must have been invaluable alongside what they are gaining as being part of the England U17s squad. BOD has a great footballing brain and can really read the game well. Brenna McPartlan had a great summer taking part in the U19 Euros with Northern Ireland and can certainly score a screamer of a goal! Hopefully with the return of the group stages in the Conti Cup, we might see them featuring in the First Team.
Darren: Difficult to be honest. Maybe Esme Morgan who is an England international but a lot of last season’s Development Squad have moved on. There are some promising youngsters but I’ve not really seen much of them.
CWB: The FA WSL has returned to a winter league schedule. Do you think this will impact the way City plays and how well they do in competitions?
Jude: Having fewer gaps in the match schedule will enable all teams to build and maintain momentum which is definitely what both players and fans want in the WSL. This has to help City in the UWCL as they will have had several games under their belts before the Round of 32 in October. Should we progress in the competitions as we did last year, City have the strength and experience to handle a pretty fierce schedule of 3 matches over 7-10 days. It certainly all worked out rather well for City last season didn’t it?!
I am more concerned that the winter league may impact attendance at games due to clashes with the men’s games and the weather may deter families from bringing young children. Let’s hope for a mild winter and not too many clashes as the majority of fans who hold a men’s season card will choose the men over the women!
Darren: I don’t think the fact it is winter and not summer will have any impact, I just think we have a really thin squad so injuries will be key for us.
CWB: City open their WSL campaign against newly-promoted Yeovil, who City beat 5-1 in the Spring Series. What are you expecting and hoping for from the game at Huish Park?
Jude: I’m really looking forward to City’s first trip to Huish Park as it’s a new ground for me to visit. A good number from the MCWFC Official Supporters Club are making the long trip south for the game and I’m sure we will definitely help make a great atmosphere as I hear that the Yeovil fans are a great bunch! Yeovil have used the experience taken from the Spring Series and worked hard to strengthen their squad over the summer. Of course, I am hoping for a dominant performance by City with plenty of goals scored and the important clean sheet. Let’s go with…. 4-0 City and maybe we’ll also sign up our 200th member of the OSC at the same time!
Darren: I think we will get off to a good start and I’m going for a good 4-0 win to start the season.
CWB: City have had a fairly short pre-season, losing two out of the three they’ve played. Do you think City have prepared enough for the upcoming season?
Jude: Possibly a shorter public pre-season than usual due to many of the team coming back from international duties both at senior and youth levels. I think that Nick [Cushing] was shrewd to select the opposition that will have tested the squad and focussed upon where the team needed to develop. That is what pre-season should be about. Yes, you can put 22 goals past a team in a lower league but, how do you grow from that? Remember that one of the pre-season games was another victory against Olympique Lyonnais and that shows that the team do have the strength to seriously compete in Europe!
Darren: I know we have had quite a few pre season matches behind closed doors against some top teams too but not had the best of results in those either, although any win against the European champions is a good confidence booster. Overall, not ideal with so many injured players who haven’t had any pre-season.
Mel Lawley: one of many City players currently injured
CWB: City don’t have a massive squad, and with players such as Jen Beattie, Mie Leth Jans, Mel Lawley and Karen Bardsley out injured, what are your thoughts on how the squad will cope with these injuries and potential lack of options in the opening games of the season?
Jude: I’m not worried at all! The same was said at the beginning of last season and look what happened there. City are the current holders of all 3 domestic trophies and our Invincibles reached the Semi-Final of the UWCL in their debut season.
Darren: As I said earlier injuries will be huge this season and hopefully the above players are out too long … I think we will be too strong for Yeovil but Arsenal and the CL the week after will be huge we need them back and fully fit ASAP
CWB: What are you most excited about for the coming season?
Jude: Definitely looking forward to another European Tour for the UWCL – the trip to Austria for the SKN St Polten game is already booked! Last season I was able to attend the Away Legs against Brondby, Fortuna Hjorring and Olympique Lyonnais along with the stalwart members of the OSC who also made the trips. The Supporters Club always reach out to the local branches of the City Supporters Club to encourage fans to the games both in this country and in Europe. We met many local City fans in Denmark and in Lyon. Hopefully we’ll see some of the South West branches at the Yeovil game on Sunday
Darren: YEOVIL AWAY!
After winning 3 trophies last season it’s really going to be difficult to match that but I’m really looking forward to the CL again as we had some fantastic trips last season …. Austria sounds like it will be a cracker too
I’m just hoping there won’t be too many clashes with the Manchester City men’s team as I’m already missing Arsenal, the 1st home game of the season, due to a clash.
So, there you have it. Mixed opinions on how moving to a winter league will affect City’s chances of silverware, but both Jude and Darren predict a big 4-0 win over Yeovil in City’s opening game of the new season, and who can blame them?! City looked so comfortable when they ran out 5-1 winners the last time the two teams met that it’s hard to bet against a City win.