A friendly City split
Man City have a host of England and Scotland internationals in their ranks
The two auld rivals face off in Women's World Cup opener on 9 June
Steph Houghton, Nikita Parris, Jen Beattie and Caroline Weir discuss the friendly rivalry
It is a fairly obvious statement to make that Manchester City, as one of the leading sides in the English Women's Super League, have a host of international stars among their squad. However, a couple of nations take precedence in their roster, with England and Scotland's recent squads boasting a combined 12 names from the Citizens - meaning a quarter of the total number of players heading out for the April friendlies for the two nations will be travelling from the blue side of Manchester.
On the training pitch at the City Football Academy, club matters of course come first during an increasingly tight title race. But there were certainly some discussions amongst club team-mates when the Lionesses were pulled out against their Scottish counterparts for the opening game of the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™ during December's draw.
FIFA.com visited Manchester to speak to a pair of Lionesses - captain Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris - and a Scottish duo - Jen Beattie and Caroline Weir - to get their take on the friendly rivalry that will transition from club training pitch to Women's World Cup opener in a few months' time.
What was the first thing that came to your mind, when you saw the draw?
You kind of have a little bit of a laugh because we’d been speaking about it, in training at the club, as we'd got them in the first game at the EUROs in 2017. We’re excited, it’s going to be a massive game for both countries and it’ll be a good one. Scotland will have a lot more of their players back, fit and healthy [compared to 2017] and our squad’s changed a lot from then so it’ll be two different teams but with one goal: to win the game.
A massive game. As if qualifying for your first World Cup isn’t big enough, you’re going to play one of your oldest rivals in football. It just added to the excitement. The group chat definitely went nuts afterwards!
What's the sense of anticipation like in the club?
You’re not going to share tactics but you’re going to share experiences that help them along the way. As team-mates, not so much as rivals, you want them to do as best as possible as individuals and as a team at Man City. But when it comes to June the 9th, I’m sure the team-mate hats come off and rivalry will take its place. Ultimately, when you cross that white line after the 90 minutes, you’re friends again."
There’s no bigger international game that Scotland can play. To kick things off at our first Women’s World Cup, it’s very exciting. There’s a lot of chat here [at Man City] about the Women’s World Cup because it’s such a big year for women’s football as a whole. I think the game is growing so fast and to see it and be a part of it is very exciting for us all at the club.
How beneficial is it to have club team-mates at international level, and vice-versa?
If you come into the squad and you’ve got eight other [club] team-mates there you’re naturally going to settle in well. Training’s going to be more comfortable for you. However, no matter who comes on England camp, when they come I hope they feel right at home because we try to make it a family environment no matter what club you’re from.
It’s great because you can reflect together and when you go away [with the national team] you’re always on the same page and you’re taking things from club to international and vice-versa so you always have that familiarity with people who know exactly what you’re going through.
Sometimes it can be a tricky transition from club to country and back again, and sometimes you do need to adapt mentally to changes and philosophies. Caz [Caroline Weir] and Claire [Emslie] are great girls and a massive part of both squads.
You'll be in direct opposition with a club team-mate on 9 June. What challenges do they present?
Caz [Weir] is a very technical player, with a wand of a left foot. So we know her strengths from playing against her every single day in training. But it’s about stopping them. I think she’ll try to create chances for Scotland. She can deliver an unbelievable set piece but can also get a goal or two, so for us, we just have to make sure we keep an eye on her - and hopefully don’t kick her too hard when it comes to it! (laughs)
Steph's a great leader on and off the pitch. She’s one of the world’s best defenders, she’s very experienced, she’s fast, she’s agile. Seeing her in training every day you know her qualities - and those of her other England team-mates too. They have a very strong squad. We know they’ve got some top players in their team.