Hard work pays off for Man City striker Khadija Shaw after landing WSL award

Shaw netted 21 goals across 18 league appearances this season.

Khadija Shaw is “reaping the rewards” at Manchester City
Khadija Shaw is “reaping the rewards” at Manchester City (Martin Rickett/PA)

Khadija Shaw feels she is finally “reaping the rewards” after three very different seasons at Barclays Women’s Super League runners-up Manchester City.

Ellen White was still Gareth Taylor’s first-choice striker when Shaw signed a three-year contract in summer 2021.

But she enjoyed a breakthrough in the wake of White’s retirement a year later, setting a club record with 31 goals across all competitions, though she also shared in the disappointment of seeing her side finish fourth and lose their Champions League berth.

City came up just short of winning the title again this campaign, but Shaw’s 21 goals across 18 league appearances – averaging one every 66 minutes – led to the 27-year-old winning the Golden Boot and being named Barclays WSL player of the season.

Shaw, who missed City’s final three matches after requiring surgery for a broken foot, told the PA news agency: “I think (this summer I’ll be) just working my ass off to get back to the levels that I know I’m capable of.

“I’ve shown that throughout this season. The good news is I don’t have to be rushing to get back for the season, I can take my time and I can be in an environment where there’s no noise (and) I’m locked in and focused.

“(The award) means a lot. I’m reaping the rewards for my hard work that I’ve put in, day in, day out on the training pitch, and obviously the team that I have behind me that feeds me the ball in the right areas to score.”

City took the title race to the final day, but were unable to overcome what began as a two-goal advantage for Chelsea at kick-off before the Blues thumped Manchester United 6-0 to win a fifth straight title.

Shaw said “(It was difficult to) impact the game, but at the end of the day it’s a team sport, and I know the girls went out there to do the best they could and it just wasn’t good enough.

“It’s fine margins, so now we have to look at how we get to a place where this doesn’t happen, these feelings that we’ve been left with after the season, we don’t want that to come back around and haunt us again.”

Shaw still believes this is the best Manchester City side she’s ever played with, and agreed it took time and patience for them to gel and adapt “100 per cent” to Taylor’s style and philosophy.

“But we knew once we got it right, it was only a matter of time before it clicked, and it’s definitely shown throughout the season,” she added.

Shaw’s City beginnings were marked by a turnover of top talent, from White and Jill Scott’s retirements to the departures of Lucy Bronze, Keira Walsh (both Barcelona), Caroline Weir (Real Madrid) and Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich).

Now City and ex-England captain Steph Houghton has hung up her boots, and while Jamaica skipper Shaw certainly has the CV, she is not looking at joining a leadership group that this season also included Alex Greenwood and Laia Aleixandri.

She said: “It is not something I’m focused on right now. If that happens, it happens, but I just want to enjoy my football and help the team.”

Khadija Shaw averaged one league goal every 66 minutes
Khadija Shaw averaged one league goal every 66 minutes (Martin Rickett/PA)

The prospect of Champions League football – with City now back in the competition – is one of the reasons Shaw says she was originally swayed to sign, last year extending her Manchester stay through to 2026, when a new women’s Club World Cup – announced last week – is expected to launch.

She theoretically welcomes the prospect of more elite competition, though confesses she and her team-mates have not yet had a chance to give the tournament much thought.

Whether it comes to collective success or her individual ability to one-up increasingly impressive seasons, Shaw firmly believes consistency is key. 

She added: “It’s about staying confident and believing in myself. Once I believe in myself, anything is possible.”