THE female game is on an upward curve and no team symbolises that more aptly than Manchester City Women’s Football Club (MCWFC).
Formerly recognised as Manchester City Ladies, they became an official part of the club in 2012 with the intention of becoming a major force in the women’s game.
“We’re a really ambitious club, but we want do it in the way we feel football should be played,” said Nick Cushing, appointed as manager in 2013 after spending nine years working with schools and latterly The Blues’ academy.
“We want to play attacking football and create lots of chances so that people enjoy coming along and watching us. That’s no different from when I worked within the academy.
“We believe in one style of football, and that is irrelevant whether it is men or women.”
At the end of the 2011/12 campaign the team had just been promoted from the third tier and played in front of just a handful of spectators.
After a couple of seasons of high-profile player recruitment, and fast-tracked by a controversial change in league structure which saw them replace Doncaster Rovers Belles in the top division, they are now one of the strongest outfits in the country.
City are the reigning Continental Cup (League Cup) holders after defeating Arsenal 2-1 in a pulsating final last season.
Perhaps the most crucial part of their future development came last December when the club opened their new £200 million City Football Academy (CFA): a state-of-the-art base that accommodates 450 players ranging from junior teams to the men’s and women’s senior squads.
As a result of the multi-million pound investment, there are six England regulars who have chosen to move to the club. Toni Duggan, scorer of 11 goals in 16 games for the Three Lionesses, was one of four marquee acquisitions at the end of 2013 that coincided with the re-branding of the team as MCWFC.
“The facilities played a major part to why I came here – they are fantastic,” revealed the ex-Everton Ladies striker.
She also adds that it was amazing to go away on a pre-season tour Dubai with the men’s squad and Melbourne City FC: “It’s unheard of that a women’s team goes abroad for their pre-season, and I think it shows just how seriously the club is taking this side.”
The manager will have six new signings to call upon this season, as England internationals Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes are joined by Nikita Parris, Sarah Wiltshire, Jennifer Beattie and Natasha Harding.
Like their male counterparts it could appear that MCWFC are simply just bringing in mercenaries to lead them to glory; nevertheless, Cushing maintains that is not the case.
‘We don’t just go out and buy footballers to add to our team,” he clarified. “We have a profile of player that we want and they have to be good people. Other than their ability they have to have the real ambition, drive and work ethic that any Manchester City employee has.”
At the heart of the CFA is the brand new 7,000 capacity Academy Stadium that will host all future Elite Development Squad and MCWFC’s games.
Cushing’s side got their first taste of their “unbelievable” new ground during a friendly win over Aston Villa in February, and he hails the importance of the togetherness at the club.
“It’s a very unique football club in the sense we have here a men’s and the women’s team; also, we have a team in Melbourne, a team in New York, and another team in Japan,” he said. “We are just one team in this football group and we use the resources and the facilities just like the others.”
As part of a holistic approach that is set across the collection of teams, both in Manchester and on a global scale, each side aims to share the same identity on the football pitch.
“Perhaps we will change it a few bits here and there, but we have a shared methodology and philosophy of how football should be played and I think that is fairly unique,” Cushing said.
While there is no doubting the success of the partnership, City’s path to the highest echelon of the footballing elite has not been fulfilled just yet. Last year they finished fifth in the league; however, Cushing insists it was not due to lack of quality in the side as they aim to improve on that position ahead of the new campaign.
“The goal for this season is to be consistent, because we were inconsistent last year and that is why we finished where we did in the league,” he explained.
“We showed that with consistency we can be a match for anyone. In the Continental Cup we won five out of six then we won the semi-final and final, so we have to be at our best every game and replicate the good days more often.
“If we do that we know we will be successful.”
By Callum Lambert