Midfielder Keira Walsh reflects on her road to the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022

i-D and Nike took Keira Walsh back to Rochdale to learn how her formative years led her to become one of England’s most pivotal players.

by Hydall Codeen
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12 July 2022, 10:00am

Keira Walsh has been a diehard Manchester City fan her whole life. In fact, Shaun Goater and Nicolas Anelka lived in her house when she was a kid, in a rural neighbourhood of Rochdale beside the Pennines. Shaun and Nicolas largely kept themselves to themselves. They’d just hang out on the kitchen work surface next to the fridge, waiting for Keira to feed them.

Much like any goldfish, they weren’t the most labour-intensive pets you could ever own. Yet the fact she named them after the cult pair of Man City strikers was testament to her devotion.

Keira first fell in love with football watching live games on television with her dad, Peter, a Man City fanatic. Her father would point out things that superstars like Yaya Toure or David Silva did on the pitch that Keira could copy in her own youth games at the weekends.

Other times, they’d visit the home of nearby Rochdale FC –the players there might not have been household names, but she learnt a lot about guts and determination watching from the family stand. A true community club, Rochdale also ran the girls’ football camps that became a staple of Keira’s childhood summers, as her conviction grew that she could make it as a pro.

When the time for watching was done, Keira and her father would go out to the field opposite their home and knock a ball back and forth to each other. This ritual of theirs started when Keira was just five. Sometimes Peter would grumble about wanting to eat his tea after a long day at work, or having to give up his Sunday golf sessionsto drive her to games. But he never said no.

In this film created with Nike, we return to Keira’s hometown of Rochdale to see the crucial support her family have given her career. If the hours spent honing her passing range with her dad defined the type of player she eventually became –a midfieldmetronome at the hub of all her team’s moves –it was her mother, Tracy, who steered her towards her beloved City.

Keira had trials at Everton, where she thought she’d get more chances as a young, up-and-comingplayer. But her mother insisted she give City a chance. Her hunch proved right: Keira went straight into City’s first team aged just 17 and has never really been out of it since, debuting for the England national team three years later.

England midfielder Keira Walsh standing with her parents in the local park

One of the WSL’s brightest lights, Keira is also a committed public advocate for mental health. “The 2019 World Cup for me wasn’t as special as it should’ve been,” she explains, recalling criticism of her online. “Until you’re in it, you don’t realise every single minute of the day you’re getting tweets. My confidence took a massive hit. I speak to a psychologist now. I think mental health plays such a big part in not just your life but your performance on the pitch.”

Keira is an inspiration to a new generation of girls and young women looking to forge their own path in the sport. After helping the Lionesses win the SheBelieves Cup in 2019, she’s increasingly valuable to an England side primed for this summer’s Euro 2022 tournament.

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Credits


Writer Hydall Codeen
Director Tayo Yusuff
Talent Keira Walsh
Editor Max Siegal
Grader Tom Aston
Sound Mix Robert Colquhoun
Creative Georgina Bacchus
Account Manager Natasha Booth
Production Kate Turner, Aimee Levick and Attie Maas