In 2014 the Women’s Super League expanded into two tiers comprising 18 teams and Manchester City were ready to take the opportunity to climb. Having worked their way into the Premier League National Division, they ambitiously bid for a place in the top two leagues. Controversially, the side were granted a place in the top flight, relegating Doncaster Rovers Belles to the second tier to make way.
City were serious about cementing their place at the top, and one of the players they recruited to help do so was Lincoln Ladies’ Karen Bardsley. Now 33, the England international has watched as City have shaken off the discontent around their WSL place to become one of the world’s leading women’s football teams.
With the WSL set for further change next season – the top tier becoming fully professional and second tier semi-pro – she is excited about what this next step will do for women’s football.
“I think what’s really exciting about the women’s game at the moment is the professional interest from clubs,” the goalkeeper says.
“The technical ability and tactical understanding is going to improve massively, which is going to improve the game as a whole. But also, as you can already see, it can start attracting international talent and you’re going to open the league up for even greater global audiences. So that, for me, is what is really exciting about the league and obviously competition for places is also, importantly, going to improve the national team too.”
For Bardsley – who was born, grew up and developed as a player in the US but, with parents from Greater Manchester, chose to play for England – the opportunity to provide young girls with aspirations to become professional is also key. “For girls coming into the game it’s really important that they realise that there is a potential career and a living to be made playing women’s football,” she says.