My Footballing Icon: Karen Bardsley | OneFootball

My Footballing Icon: Karen Bardsley

Logo: Manchester City Official

Manchester City Official

Happy birthday, Karen Bardsley: one of the greatest goalkeepers ever to grace women's football.

Standing tall as England Women's most-capped 'keeper (second only to Peter Shilton overall), representing the Lionesses at three World Cups, and having played a pivotal role in City's seven-year spell of success, 'KB' is a true legend of the game.

A role model to all young female footballers, Bardsley proudly dons the gloves for all budding guardians of the goal... but who was it who inspired her dream?

Who sparked her love of 'keeping? Whose shirt did she own? Who does she model her game on?

In this feature, presented by Hays, KB reveals her footballing idol...

“My footballing icon is definitely Peter Schmeichel,” she smiled. “He was my hero when I was a kid.

“I wanted to do everything the same way he did.

“He was so dominant with his presence and the saves he made - some were unorthodox but they were awesome at the same time: the star saves, the way he could pluck the ball out of the air, fully extended, with one hand - plus, his communication, the way he distributed, launching the ball from his hands or feet; how he commanded the space...

“It was all of those little bits and pieces. I thought everything he did was amazing. He had a really big impact on me - I even had his gloves!

“I first saw him in the early nineties and I remember seeing him command the area and thinking: 'Wow!'

“There was no nonsense - he was an absolute general.”

Schmeichel is of course famed for his highly-successful eight-year career at Manchester United, although the Denmark international also enjoyed a one-year spell at City in the Club's final year at Maine Road.

He made 29 appearances in sky blue before hanging up his gloves for retirement, producing some sensational stops along the way: most notably at Anfield in our memorable victory at Liverpool in May 2003.

A strong admirer of the Great Dane and a keen student of the game, Bardsley watched her fellow shot-stopper closely, incorporating many of his traits into her own play - even subconsciously at first!

“I'd been playing in and out, rotating mainly between goalkeeper and winger. It wasn't until I got more serious about playing in goal that I really idolised him,” KB explained.

“All my family talked about was football. I'd talk about it with my uncle, my grandad and my dad and any chance we got to watch Schmeichel, we would.

“Before my games, me and my dad would talk about what he did and how I could do that.

“Probably from those conversations with my dad, I learned about presence and communication - those aspects are the things I can remember applying. Everything else is obvious: the goal is the same - to keep the ball out of the net!

“I remember seeing Schmeichel do the star save for the first time and there are at least two or three examples in my career that I actually did it.

“In the 2015 World Cup against Colombia, there was a one-v-one situation and I came out and tried to make myself as big as possible... I took a ball to the face but it was a crucial moment, especially for the momentum of the game, and we ended up winning 2-1!

“To be honest, one of the things I've heard the most from people coming up to play against me is about my presence: 'You make the goal look really small.'

“Knowing you're there adds pressure to an outfield player and that's pretty cool! I didn't really know that was an attribute I had until people told me.

“It's something I had tried to do, although sometimes I don't know if it actually comes across that way.”

So, has she ever met her hero?

“Yes, I met him at St George's Park by accident!” Bardsley revealed. “I was stood talking to Hope Powell in the corridor and I saw him turn a corner.

“She was talking to me and my face just fell open! I looked around her and said: 'Oh my God, it's Peter Schmeichel!' I think he was on a coaching course for his pro licence.

“She turned around and then saw the look on my face. I was 28 - not young - and I don't get starstruck. Growing up in Southern California, I saw celebrities all the time but he was my hero.

“She asked me if I wanted to meet him. Yeah! As he came towards us, she introduced me and I was so shy! What do you say?

“I just said it was great to meet him and that he was one of my favourites as a kid. He probably gets it all the time but he was nice - he saw I was wearing my England kit and asked me how I was doing and when our next game was.

“It was quite funny! A bit weird but it was so great to meet him.”

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