BIRMINGHAM City Ladies striker Kirsty Linnett is determined to continue repaying the club’s faith in her as the side bid to cap a memorable season by winning the Women’s Super League 1 title.
Although still only aged 20, Linnett has already experienced her share of footballing despair having sustained two anterior cruciate ligament injuries in quick succession in the 2011/12 season which ruled her out of playing football for more than two years.
However, having fought her way back to fitness, the amiable Leicester-born Linnett – who lives in the East Midlands city – is relishing her role leading the line for Blues Ladies, who remain undefeated at the top of the table having played half of their 14 league matches.
This season has already seen Blues Ladies reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League and, with a thrilling end to the league season in prospect, Linnett has a big part to play for David Parker’s side.
Linnett, who suffered the first ACL injury on England U19 duty before enduring the same cruel fate soon afterwards – just three matches into her Arsenal career after a switch from hometown club Leicester City – said: “I missed the first two seasons of the Super League and, even though this is my second season at Birmingham, it is the first in which I have been fully fit and able to play my best football for the club, so it’s been brilliant for that reason alone.
“Being top of the league and having reached the last four of the Champions League has obviously made things even more exciting. The time has gone so quickly since those injuries and I have had to work hard to get to this point, but you don’t get rewards in football without working hard.
“Certain things in football can be out of your control, such as the injuries I had, so it’s made me appreciate every single game I play. You never know when your last game could be so I am determined to play football with a smile on my face.”
Linnett’s performances have certainly put a smile on the faces of Blues Ladies supporters, as her goals and assists have played a big part in putting the side in such a lofty position.
“As I striker you do feel a bit of pressure if you go a few matches without scoring, but it’s a team effort at Birmingham and I also pride myself on the number of assists I can provide,” said Linnett, who first began playing football at the age of eight for Oadby & Wigston Girls in Leicestershire before spending a season playing boys’ football soon afterwards.
“Football is always about getting the three points for the team and everything else is second to that. If I am scoring goals on top of that then great but the main thing is to be making a contribution to the team and having everyone pulling in the same direction.”
The team spirit which Linnett alludes to is evident to anyone who has watched Blues Ladies in action and Linnett – who switched to Blues in December 2012 after her luckless spell at Arsenal – believes it is key to Birmingham’s success.
She added: “We are the only team in Super League 1 without any overseas players and I think that does show in how we play. Nothing against any of the international stars who have been signed by some of the other clubs, as they do help grow the women’s game, but Birmingham have their way of doing things and it’s credit to the club we are succeeding this way.
“There’s lots of homegrown talent or people recruited from nearby. After my spell at Arsenal I was without a club and Birmingham took a chance on me after my injuries. It was a risk for the club but I am so grateful they did and it makes me even more determined to repay their faith.
“The management and coaching staff at the club really do help the girls develop as players. They make you understand the importance of hard work, but listening to them and putting things into practice has brought us results.
“Also Karen (Carney, captain) is such a great person to have as skipper. She’s a local girl, one of the best players in England, and has won all of the major honours, so who better for us to look up to?
“Jo Potter is also brilliant with the team. She’s another fantastic player but also coach and we are lucky to have Jo and Karen helping us both on and off the pitch.”
When asked to pick a highlight of the season so far, Linnett said it was opening the scoring in Blues’ victory at Arsenal in March which clinched a 2-0 second leg and 3-0 overall victory in the Champions League quarter-finals.
“Knowing that goal had more or less got us to the semis was an amazing feeling and it was special to score against my old club in such a big game,” said Linnett.
“It meant we went on to play against Tyreso FF of Sweden in the semis and even though we lost that tie it was incredible to play against the Brazilian Marta, who is one of my idols and won FIFA World Player of the Year five seasons in a row.
“The two games against them were incredibly hard as they kept possession so well, but to prevent them from scoring until the final half an hour of the second leg showed how great a team spirit we have.”
Linnett, who is about to start coaching an U9s team at Birmingham and also coaches in partnership with former Leicester City stars Muzzy Izzet and Steve Walsh, is delighted with how the women’s game is progressing in this country and believes it can thrive even further if more figureheads are found.
She said: “If we can get more role models in place, such as Karen Carney, for young girls to look up to then that would be fantastic. Karen does lots of work in the community and it’s about growing the game in schools at as young an age as possible. There’s been lots of good work done but we need to keep moving forward.”
Having represented England at four age levels ranging from U15 to U23, Linnett would love to earn a call-up to the senior team. Whether the call comes remains to be seen, but whilst she continues to impress for the table-topping Blues then she will be giving herself every opportunity of getting the nod.
Kirsty Linnett and Remi Allen celebrate the latter’s winning goal in the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Arsenal. Picture by Roy Smiljanic and courtesy of www.bcfc.com.