Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at Lucy Bronze.
When one considers the stand-out female footballing role models in this country, among the first names that will spring to mind is Lucy Bronze.
The 29-year-old has enjoyed a superb career at the very highest level and has a mightily impressive trophy haul, that includes three Women’s Champions League winners medals and three Women’s Super League titles.
Bronze also boasts a series of personal accolades, which includes the PFA Women’s Player of the Year award (twice), the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award and was named the Best FIFA Women’s Player in December last year.
Returning Players – Lucy Bronze
First Spell at Manchester City
Bronze arrived at Manchester City for the first time in 2014 after winning back-to-back Women’s Super League titles with Liverpool and her first PFA Women’s Player of the Year award.
She arrived at City ahead of their debut season in the expanded Women’s Super League, in what was still an early stage in the defender’s career.
Nick Cushing’s team would go onto achieve a respectable second-place finish in her first season at the club, as a side with an English core of Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes, Jill Scott, Toni Duggan, Keira Walsh, Isobel Christiansen and Nikita Parris began to assert themselves as one of the new powerhouses within the game.
But the 2016 campaign was to be the stand-out season in Bronze’s first tenure at the club and was part of the team that won City’s first-ever WSL title along with the Continental League Cup.
The statistics from that season were also impressive; 13 wins and three draws in an unbeaten league campaign and only a solitary defeat in all competitions – in the FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea.
It was Bronze that stole the headlines in that League Cup Final victory, scoring an extra-time header to overcome Birmingham City 1-0 after extra time in the match at the Academy Stadium.
Those exploits were recognised by her peers after being named the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year and winning the FA WSL Players’ Player of the Year.
An interim FA Women’s Super League Spring Series campaign was introduced in 2017, as the top tier transitioned from an all-summer schedule to one that largely mirrored the men’s calendar.
City missed out on retaining top spot and secured a second-place finish in the shortened competition, but Bronze still proved she was a woman for the biggest occasion with a goal in a 4-1 victory over Birmingham City in the FA Cup Final.
Teams Bronze Played for in Between
The Northumberland-born defender then made the move across the English Channel to French giants, Lyon, where Bronze’s trophy cabinet began to overflow.
She became a household name across Europe, playing in a stellar team that included the first Women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg and France captain Wendie Renard.
Bronze won eight of nine major honours available during her time at Lyon, which included three Women’s Champions League titles, three league titles and two French Cups.
But after winning everything possible in France, it seemed a question of when rather than if one of England’s brightest footballing stars would return home.
Return to Manchester City
After her contract with the French club expired in August, she returned to a Manchester City side that were showing serious intent in their bid to start a golden new era for women’s football at the club.
Under new head coach Gareth Taylor, City brought in United States World Cup stars Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis, while talented forward Chloe Kelly arrived from Everton.
Bronze was another piece of the jigsaw to add fresh impetus to City’s title push, which is now going down to the wire in an enthralling tussle with Chelsea.
Whether or not she claims another Women’s Super League title with City this season remains to be seen, but her impact on the women’s game in this country and with England cannot be questioned.
Having already featured at two World Cups and an appearance at this year’s Olympic Games seemingly certain, it is hard to imagine that there will not be more highs in what has been an incredible career for a humble girl from Berwick-Upon-Tweed.