Megan Campbell looking forward to fresh start with Man City
With new contract and squad number, Irish player is moving on from injury setbacks
Manchester City’s Megan Campbell celebrates with the Women’s FA Cup after beating West Ham United Ladies at Wembley Stadium on May 4th. Photograph: Getty Images
Megan Campbell lies on the ground injured during the Women’s Champions League match against LSK Kvinner in November 2017 in Manchester, England. Photograph: Getty Images
After more than a year out through injury, Megan Campbell is looking to make a new start at Manchester City with the 25-year-old set to sign a new deal and take a new squad number, all part, she says, of putting a difficult couple of years behind her.
The Irish left back, who made a name for herself in the US College game before joining the English side in 2016 and initially enjoying considerable success, has had to battle her way back from ankle and serious knee injuries since but seems to have done enough to secure her future at the ambitious Women’s Super League outfit.
The club won two cups this season, largely without the left back from Drogheda whose return to full fitness came too late for her to make a major impact on the campaign.
Her lack of first-team opportunities prompted her to weigh up the option of going elsewhere but manager Nick Cushing persuaded her that, fully fit, she is very much a part of his plans with the ambition now to regain the Women’s Super league title and push on in Europe where the club has twice made it to the semi-final stage of the Champions League in recent seasons. Her new deal should be signed in the next few weeks and she is excited by the prospect of what she hopes will be much brighter times ahead.
“There were times when I thought: ‘Do I just stop football now?’ because it had been so long and I had done my ankle previous to that [the cruciate ligament injury sustained in November 2017 that sidelined her for some 15 months] and so you are thinking: ‘It’s not for me’, or maybe, ‘I won’t be injury free’, or ‘train daily week in week out the way I used to’.
“But with the support of family, friends and others, when I got back to full fitness, I was like: “Actually, I don’t know why you ever thought like that because you’re fine now.” During the time, though, you struggle, you have good days and bad days but it’s trying to focus on the little things that can help get you back to the good days.”
The club, she says, were terrific as she sought to get back playing and it is perhaps one of the more important measures of how things have changed in the women’s game over the past few years that she had access to precisely the same access to support as a male player with the same injury would have had.
“Anything I need I get,” she says, “the same treatment and care as any player from the men’s team in terms of scans . . . whatever you need. You don’t have contact with [the male] players as such, apart from sponsors appearances but you have the same medical care.”
The money is, of course, a long way off being the comparable but with interest levels increasing dramatically, Campbell believes there will be real parity achieved somewhere down the line even if it is, she reckons, still decades away.
In the meantime, she says, she sees the improvements being made year on year and marvels at the stories some of her Irish international team-mates tell of their early days in England when members of an all-conquering Arsenal team that included the likes of Emma Byrne, Niamh Fahey and Yvonne Tracy often had to take on other part-time work at the club to justify even the tiny pay packets they received.
These days, the growing levels of investment are obvious everywhere at the best clubs including at underage level with the improving academy system helping to produce a new generation of even better female players.
“You can see it,” she says, “in the kids coming through now I see 17 year-olds training with us and I wish I had at their age what they have now.”
A fully fit Campbell, though, has plenty to offer and her hope is to show that again when the new season kicks off with a particularly hectic spell towards the end of the summer.
“We’re back at the end of July and then we go to preseason in North Carolina in America for a week,” she says. “We play against top teams over there like Lyon, PSG, and then come back for the start of the season at the end of August, start of September and then as it starts we have an international break, the start of the Euro 2021 campaign. It’s going to be a busy.”
No better way, she hopes, to throw herself into the next phase of her career and put a painful one behind her.
“I’m going to come back, sign a new contract with City in the next week or so,” she says. “I’ve asked to change my number, I want to just start afresh and close the chapter of the injury.”