Jess Park enjoying ‘incredible’ spell with title-chasing Manchester City

By Sports Desk April 19, 2024

Jess Park admits it has been an “incredible” last few weeks having seized the opportunity she was waiting for.

With Jill Roord sidelined after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury in January, Park, on loan at Everton last term, came into the Manchester City midfield for her first Women’s Super League start this season when champions Chelsea visited the Joie Stadium in February.

The 22-year-old promptly set up the early Khadija Shaw finish that proved the only goal in that contest and has since scored three times and provided three assists across four further WSL victories for title-chasing City last month, including a 3-1 Etihad Stadium triumph over Manchester United in which she notched a brace and teed up Shaw once again.

Park, the Barclays Player of the Month for March, also earlier this month returned to the England starting line-up for the first time in more than a year.

“It’s been incredible,” she told the PA news agency.

“It’s kind of hard to put it into words and I still think I’m reflecting on it but trying to look forward as well. We’re in an important position so I need to keep looking at the next game, but I am very happy with how it’s gone.

“I’ve been working really hard since being back from Everton (for whom she registered five goals and five assists in 22 appearances). I feel like I got a lot of confidence from last season and I’ve just been waiting for that moment to make an impact and it came and I’ve been able to keep that going.”

Park, whose City debut came aged 16 back in 2017, added: “Last year to start in games against every team, it was experience I needed.

“I’d trained really hard for however many years with City and I just needed that exposure to the playing time, and I think that really helped me coming back this season, knowing that when I get that opportunity I’m ready to play.

“I always had that drive to play and you think ‘is it going to come’, but I think I’m a patient person and I’ll work hard no matter what.

“We (Park and City boss Gareth Taylor) have a lot of conversations, what I can work on, get better at, and putting the little pieces together, and that gave me a lot of trust in him, and it felt like he trusted me.

“So I always felt like it would come at some point, I just needed to keep being patient and doing the things he’s telling me to.”

Brough-born Park – who says her current central role “feels a lot more natural” having played it growing up before being utilised on the wing – was a City fan as a child.

And she described the recent derby as an “incredible moment” adding: “I’d never played at the Etihad before so I was really looking forward to it, really excited and nervous – but as soon as the whistle went, I knew what I was doing and we knew as a team.

“We all played fantastic. I’d been working so hard at the end product bit and it just kind of all came together in that game.”

Of her watching parents, she said: “They were really proud, they always believe in me and were just happy I got the moment to show other people what they’ve seen in me the whole time.”

Park has emerged as a key player in a City side who have won each of their last 12 WSL games and are behind leaders Chelsea on goal difference ahead of Sunday’s home clash with West Ham, one of four remaining games.

“As a team we’re just all really focused on what we want to do,” Park said.

“We have the goal and all we can do is control what we can and we’ll work hard at that every game, step by step. As long as we keep doing what we do well, anything could happen.”

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