Keira Walsh

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Keira Walsh
Walsh with England in 2018
Personal information
Full name Keira Fae Walsh
Date of birth (1997-04-08) 8 April 1997 (age 26)
Place of birth Rochdale, England[1]
Height 5 ft 6 in (1.67 m)[2]
Position(s) Midfielder
Team information
Current team
Number 21
Youth career
2008–2014 Blackburn Rovers
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2014 Blackburn Rovers 9 (3)
2014–2022 Manchester City 118 (6)
2022– Barcelona 26 (1)
International career
2009–2011 England U15 4 (0)
2012–2013 England U17 9 (2)
2014–2016 England U19 9 (0)
2016 England U20 0 (0)
2017 England U23 4 (0)
2017– England 65 (0)
2021 Great Britain 3 (0)
Medal record
Women's football
Representing  England
UEFA Women's Championship
Winner 2022 England
Winner 2023 England
FIFA Women's World Cup
Runner-up 2023 Australia and New Zealand
*Club domestic league appearances and goals, correct as of 20:35, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals, correct as of 16:17, 20 August 2023 (UTC)

Keira Fae Walsh (born 8 April 1997) is an English professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Liga F club Barcelona and the England women's national team. She is considered both a playmaker and a defensive midfielder.[n 1] She has previously played for Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City, and Great Britain at the Olympics. With Manchester City, she topped the Women's Super League in 2016; won the FA Cup three times; and won the League Cup four times, taking one domestic treble. At Barcelona, she won the league, Supercopa, and UEFA Women's Champions League in her first season. She was part of the England team that won the UEFA Women's Euro 2022, and was named player of the match in the final.

Walsh became a first-team regular at City as a teenager during their 2014 campaign, playing a key role in helping the team secure their first League Cup.[11][12] She stayed with the side for nine seasons (in eight years), briefly captaining them several times, and in March 2022 became the second player to reach 200 appearances for them; when she left to join Barcelona later that year, she jointly held City's record for number of appearances and set a world-record fee for a female footballer.

She represented England for their age-group teams from the age of twelve before making her senior debut in 2017, for 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying, and starting as captain in a match a year later. She has played in three major tournaments with England: the 2019 World Cup in which they placed fourth, the 2022 Euro that they won, and the 2023 World Cup that they finished as runner-up. With Great Britain, she competed at the 2020 Summer Olympics. She was named in the Team of the Tournament for the 2022 Euro, and is considered one of the best midfielders in the world.[n 2]

Early years

Keira Fae Walsh was born on 8 April 1997[2] in Rochdale to Peter and Tracy Walsh, and was raised by the Pennines in Syke, a rural suburb of the town.[20][21] Here she practised football with her father on the field across from their house from about the age of five.[20][22] She played for local boys' teams Pearson Juniors under-7s, and then Samba Stars[23] – both coached by the father of her primary school best friend, who initially took her along[21] – until she turned eleven.[24]

Walsh attended Haslingden High School and Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School Sixth Form, both in Rossendale;[25][26] Haslingden High School had girls' football teams in the first few year groups, in which Walsh played.[21] She joined Manchester City, the team she and her family support, in July 2014,[27] when she was seventeen; City sent her to St Bede's College in Manchester to finish her A-Levels while she trained and played with them.[22] Future teammate Georgia Stanway would also attend St Bede's.[28]

Though a dedicated Manchester City fan, having had pet fish named after Shaun Goater and Nicolas Anelka, Walsh was inspired as a child by Spanish football,[7] in part due to having family in Spain and often playing in the country when visiting them,[29] and because her father encouraged her to watch Barcelona play.[30][29][31] She also briefly supported Arsenal, due to being a fan of Cesc Fàbregas, until she saw David Silva, her favourite player, with City.[7][32]

In 2008, aged eleven, Walsh was named Greater Manchester Young Sports Person of the Year.[33] She was ranked number 1 in the county in under-13 badminton between 2007 and 2009,[23][33][34] having taken up the sport aged nine[35] and representing Rochdale in it. She also played cricket for Lancashire, represented Rochdale in swimming and netball, and played football with the Blackburn Rovers Girls' Centre of Excellence at the time.[33] Eleven Blackburn Rovers players were included in the 2013 Lancashire Schoolgirls football team, including Walsh,[36][37] who captained the side.[38] She played for them in 2012 and 2013 for the Northern Counties Championship and English Schools' Football Association (ESFA) County Cup. In both years they won the Northern Championship and were runner-up in the ESFA Cup.[39][40][41]

Club career

Blackburn Rovers

Youth, 2008–14

Seeking a way to continue playing football when she could no longer play with boys,[21] Walsh attended a Football Association (FA) Skills Centre based at Kingsway Park High School at the age of eleven,[24] where she was coached by Fara Williams.[42] She then went to trials at the Blackburn Rovers Girls' Centre of Excellence, put forward by her childhood coach[21] and encouraged by good performances at the Skills Centre, and joined them in 2008.[24] She played for Blackburn Rovers in their age-group teams from under-12 through under-17.[23][43] Though she began playing as a right-footed left-back, and then a centre-half,[21] she moved to the central midfield at Blackburn[7][44] when a new coach came in for the under-14 team and suggested she try the position.[21]

With the Blackburn youth teams, and despite playing in defense and midfield, Walsh was a prolific goalscorer,[24] making four goals in six games in her first year at the club.[45] She played for the under-17 team in the 2013 FA Girls' Youth Cup final against Arsenal, narrowly missing an opening goal, with Blackburn eventually losing the match.[46] In the 2013–14 season, Walsh played in (and started) eleven matches for the Blackburn Rovers under-17 team, scoring ten goals to finish as their top scorer;[47] in their 2014 FA Youth Cup quarter-final against Sunderland she scored a hat-trick in thirteen minutes.[43][48]

Senior, 2014

In February 2014, when she was sixteen, Walsh signed for Blackburn Rovers' first team[49][50] until the end of the season,[51] debuting as a half time substitute four days later.[52] The club had suffered a poor start to the league that season, and the addition of Walsh was said to be key to maintaining their place in it.[53] Still involved with the under-17 side,[51] Walsh played in nine FA Women's Northern Premier League matches for the first team, scoring three goals, including the team's goal of the season – a "stunning" second goal against Derby County in March[49][54] that brought Blackburn up from relegation.[55] She also played for the team in the final of the Lancashire Women's Challenge Cup, said to be the best player in the match despite the team losing,[56] and in the fourth round of the FA Women's Cup.[51] She left both youth and senior Blackburn Rovers sides in 2014, picking up a Contribution Award for six seasons with them.[49]

Manchester City


Walsh began looking to join a Women's Super League (WSL) team shortly after she turned seventeen when she was still playing with the under-17 Blackburn Rovers side.[57][43] She had been offered a place on Everton's development squad without trialling and was planning to join, despite Manchester City, the club she supports, preparing to enter the WSL and holding trials. Walsh's mother encouraged her to attend the trials for the City development squad in July 2014; before the session was complete, first team coach Nick Cushing, who had gone as an observer, asked to sign her to the main squad as their playmaking midfielder.[57][22] Cushing would later say that Walsh has "the best football brain" of any player he has coached, adding that "some players are almost touched by God";[7] in response, Walsh deflected praise, saying that Cushing's coaching style benefits technical and tactical players.[44]

Within ten days of the City trials,[58][57] in July 2014, Walsh made her senior debut for Manchester City as a substitute in a 1–0 win over Notts County.[59] Too young for a professional contract,[22] she officially trained with the development squad, for which she never made an appearance;[59][60] by the end of the 2014 season she regularly had a starting position in the first team. She was also important within the City side that won the 2014 League Cup,[59] starting in the final. Having not expected to play, she had initially told her parents not to travel for the game;[22] she later said that Cushing putting his faith in her before the match led her to a successful career as it helped her believe in herself.[61] She performed particularly well in the match, marking England legend Kelly Smith out of the game and "leaving the footballing world intrigued" by the unknown talent.[22][58][57]


In June 2015, Walsh signed her first professional contract with the club,[59] until the end of 2017,[62] though did not play for much of this year due to injury.[63] Manchester City added her to their 2015 League Cup squad in August, but the FA "might have" lost the registration documents for the change, causing City to be briefly suspended for fielding an unregistered player before the matter was resolved.[64] The team's quarter-final against Arsenal, which City lost, had been postponed due to the investigation.[65] City still came second in the league in 2015, which also allowed them to compete in the Champions League the following year.[66] A crucial part of his City plans since the start,[60] Cushing started building the team around Walsh and made her one of its vice-captains.[57]


The team were unbeaten in their 2016 league campaign;[67] Walsh was injured again at the start of the season but worked her way back onto the squad and,[68][60] in September, was described as their "unsung hero" by 90min.[69] Having gone undefeated,[67] City won the league in September with a game to spare, Walsh described as "unassuming" and "pivotal" in their success.[70] In October, they won the 2016 league cup for the domestic double.[63] Walsh was named player of the match in City's first ever Champions League match, a 2–0 victory against Zvezda Perm;[71] a month later, on 9 November 2016, she scored her first goal for City,[72] a long-range strike from outside the area, in a 1–0 victory against Brøndby IF in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.[73][74] Two days later, she extended her contract through 2020.[68] For the 2015–16 season, Walsh was nominated for the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Women's Young Player of the Year award;[75][76] she would see further nominations for this award every year up to and including the 2018–19 season.[77][78][79]


With Manchester City, Walsh won all three women's domestic titles over what would be a regular 2016–17 season (2016 FA WSL, 2016 WSL Cup, 2016–17 FA Women's Cup);[80][81][82] the WSL ran calendar year seasons until 2017, curtailing the season in spring to start a new one in autumn that matched European schedules.[83] For the 2017 Women's FA Cup final, in which City defeated Birmingham 4–1, Walsh (who was not among the goalscorers) was named player of the match, saying only that "it was a real team effort" and that it was special to win a trophy at Wembley;[80][84] Cushing heaped praise on her performance and maturity.[82] City were the first team to hold all three England women's domestic trophies at the same time,[85] but were denied another title by Chelsea, who won the interim league (known as the Spring Series) and left City second in a tight race decided on the final day.[86]


Walsh with Manchester City in 2017

During the summer pre-season for their 2017–18 season, Walsh captained the team.[87] At the end of 2017, also accounting for the previous season, Walsh was listed at number 98 on The 100 Best Female Footballers in the World list by The Offside Rule/The Guardian.[60] In 2018, Walsh was nominated for the FWA Women's Footballer of the Year Award[88] and the FSF Women's Player of the Year Award,[89] and was the only PFA Women's Young Player of the Year nominee in a senior international squad.[78]


Early in the 2018–19 season, Walsh captained City for the away leg of their Champions League Round of 32 tie against Atlético Madrid, drawing 1–1 when away goals were an advantage.[90][91] City lost the return fixture 0–2 to be knocked out in the Round of 32 for the first time,[92] the start of a five-season pattern of exiting the Champions League by Spanish opposition[93][94] that helped prompt Walsh to leave the club (for Spain) in 2022.[95]

At the end of stoppage time during City's 3–0 victory over Liverpool in November 2018 – in which Walsh provided the assist for the only open play goal and got in several shots on target (all saved) herself – Liverpool's Rinsola Babajide made a harsh tackle that took down Walsh, who stayed down in pain before being stretchered off and the game ended. After initial fears of a broken leg, assessment confirmed she only suffered a minor knee injury. She was named player of the match by City's official supporters club, having been on the shortlist before the injury.[96][97] On 2 December 2018, Walsh became the sixth City player to make 100 appearances for the team;[98] in the match she provided a "glorious 60-yard pass"[99] to set up City's second goal in a 2–0 victory that extended their season's unbeaten run and ended Arsenal's winning run.[100]

After having exited the FA Cup in the semi-finals in 2018,[101] City reclaimed the trophy in 2019, defeating West Ham in the final 3–0, with Walsh scoring the opening goal.[102][103] They took a domestic double, having also won the League Cup, not losing a domestic match prior to their final game against Arsenal.[102] In April 2019, Walsh was nominated for both the PFA Women's Young Player of the Year and Women's Players' Player of the Year awards.[104] In September 2019, also accounting for the international season, Walsh was shortlisted for the dream team FIFA FIFPRO The Best Women's World 11, the only English midfielder to be so.[105][106] At the end of the year, she placed joint-ninth (with Jennifer Hermoso) on the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) ranking of the Women's World Best Playmaker.[107]


With doubts about her career following criticism at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, Walsh did not want to play football in England, thinking she was not what the domestic fans wanted to see in a holding midfielder.[108] Prior to the 2019–20 season, she handed in a transfer request amid interest from Lyon and Atlético Madrid.[109] On 29 July, she withdrew her transfer request;[110] Cushing had convinced her to stay by encouraging her[108] and joking that he would dress like Pep Guardiola,[111] one of Walsh's idols,[31] to be more like him.[111] Cushing said that Walsh was integral to City's system and it was imperative the club retain her, while adapting to other transfers.[111] He re-emphasised Walsh's importance to the side after she scored a goal from distance then created the opportunity for a second in an October 2019 match that saw them defeat Birmingham 3–0.[112]

During a Manchester derby in the League Cup on 20 October 2019, Walsh was given a straight red card for a tackle on Manchester United's Kirsty Hanson. City lost 0–2,[113] with Walsh later reflecting that her conduct came from being a fan of her team and frustrated that their rivals were winning, and that she had since come to practice more control over her support than she displayed in the match.[22] Around this time, Walsh's abilities were said to be maturing. While still "an energetic presence in midfield that at times needs to be dialled down", and sometimes requiring the presence of experienced midfielder Jill Scott in support, she had tightened her defensive capabilities and discipline to complement her excellent positioning and playmaking skill, in which she was also becoming more assured.[114]

After scoring from distance against Birmingham again in January 2020, for a 2–0 win,[115] Walsh signed a new three-year contract on 7 February 2020.[116] 90min wrote that this was somewhat surprising to onlookers – considering Walsh's long tenure, prior transfer request, and Cushing recently leaving the club – but that City and its fans would welcome her decision.[117] Come the end of the season, her leadership and talent in midfield saw her described as "unmatched".[118]


Walsh started her 2020–21 pre-season with City by scoring a goal in a 6–0 win[119] before they contested, but lost, the Women's FA Community Shield in its first edition since 2008.[120]

In November 2020, Walsh scored the third goal for City in an 8–1 win over Bristol.[121] At the end of 2020, Walsh was ranked 62 on the Offside Rule/The Guardian's list of the 100 best female footballers in the world.[122][123] In March 2021, Walsh scored the sole goal on captain Steph Houghton's 200th cap, taking City to a ninth consecutive WSL victory;[124] coach Gareth Taylor (who replaced Cushing as manager in 2020) joked after the match that Walsh "was getting a bit sick of everyone else missing chances", adding that she did not need to score goals as the club recognised the importance of her role. Website GOAL opined that, since her role is often unsung, "such a vital goal served to remind everyone of Walsh's quality."[4] Later in March, Houghton picked up an injury that kept her out for over a month, and Walsh took up the armband as City captain.[125][38][126] She was also handed the armband[127] when Ellen White was substituted off in the team's home-leg Champions League quarter-final fixture against Barcelona, a 2–1 victory that was Barcelona's only loss on route to their first Champions League title. Walsh was also named player of the match with what was described as "the complete midfield performance",[128] "at times suggesting [Barcelona] are mortal after all."[129] In the reverse fixture a week earlier, City had suffered their worst defeat since 2014, a 0–3 loss that saw Barcelona advance on aggregate.[130][131]

For the 2020–21 season, Walsh was nominated for the England Women's Player of the Year award.[132]


With Walsh one of several injured players out at the start of the 2021–22 season, Manchester City began poorly. Walsh returned to playing in October 2021 and,[133] in November, scored a powerful strike against Leicester from the edge of the box to put City ahead, which was shortlisted for the WSL goal of the month.[134][135] She was absent again until January 2022, returning with other players to help City to a comfortable win.[136] The season then turned in their favour, including winning the 2022 League Cup in March.[137] Later that month, Walsh made her 200th appearance for the club, becoming the second player, after Houghton, to reach a double century.[138] She only found out she had achieved the milestone after the match, when teammate Janine Beckie told her and gathered the team to celebrate.[139] From March through May, City maintained an all-win streak,[137] eventually losing 2–3 in extra time in the 2022 FA Cup Final.[140] In May, Walsh was nominated for City's Player of the Season,[19] with the club feeling she had "taken her game to a new level" during it.[141] Manchester City under Taylor, from the start[123] but particularly in the 2021–22 season, played Walsh differently;[9][141] though continuing to have among the highest passing statistics in the WSL,[8] her passing metrics, as well as "almost all of her metrics around attacking play", "dropped significantly" as she was encouraged to stay close to and mainly pass to the defense.[9][123] Podcast The Offside Rule said in early July 2022 that this change had left Walsh, a playmaker now limited in opportunities to progress play and superfluous defensively, "with rather little to do."[9]

Accounting for both the domestic and international season, Walsh was ranked the sixth-best UEFA Women's Player of the Year for 2021–22,[142] and the third-best England Women's Player of the Year in October 2022.[143] Later in October, she was nominated for the FSA Women's Player of the Year Award.[144][145]


After playing two Champions League qualification matches for City in August 2022, as part of the 2022–23 pre-season,[146][147][a] Walsh left the club to join Barcelona in September after eight years; eight major trophies; and 211 appearances,[13] the joint-record number of appearances for the club (with Houghton) at the time.[148] In a post on Instagram, Walsh wrote: "Even though I will no longer play in the shirt, City is in my blood and always will be."[149] Though having been connected with a move to Spain as early as May 2022,[150] Walsh was surprised to be contacted by Barcelona in August.[31] She later said that she had not planned to leave City in the summer of 2022,[151] and so it was a hard decision, but that she felt it was the right time to leave her comfort zone.[152][151]


Transfer and 2022–23

With one year left on her City contract, Walsh again attracted interest from "several top European clubs",[153] including Chelsea and Barcelona, following the 2021–22 season.[154] Over the summer of 2022, several key members of City's women's squad left either through free transfer or retirement.[155][156] Though women's football rarely drew transfer fees, both Chelsea and Barcelona made Manchester City large offers for Walsh.[153][154] Having been inspired by Barcelona as a child, and told by her father that she should endeavour to play for them,[31] Walsh wanted to join this team; Barcelona felt the need to bring in reinforcements after injury to star midfielder Alexia Putellas[157][158] and other departures,[159] and made several offers.[160] Sports director Markel Zubizarreta said that they did not plan for Walsh to be a direct replacement of Putellas, but another option for coach Jonatan Giráldez, as she offers a different playing style to others.[161] After a lengthy high-profile pursuit,[162][163] the last of Barcelona's offers, around £400,000 (up to €470,000 including bonuses),[164] a world-record fee, was accepted shortly before the transfer deadline on 7 September 2022.[165][13] This was considerably higher than the previous women's transfer record, set when Pernille Harder transferred for £250,000 in 2020,[166] and Barcelona's previous record signing of a female player, set when they purchased Mapi León for €50,000 in 2017.[167] Walsh has said that while "the price tag [is] a nice feeling", she prefers not to be the centre of attention.[151] She signed to Barcelona for three years,[168] joining England teammate Lucy Bronze, who also moved from City to Barcelona in 2022.[165][13]

The Champions League-winning Barcelona squad being received by the Catalan president in June 2023

At the end of 2022, Walsh featured near the top of several women's football rankings,[n 3] including coming third on the IFFHS ranking of the Women's World Best Playmaker;[174] entering the Top 10 of the list of the 100 Best Female Footballers;[175][176] and being named to the FIFPRO World 11.[177] Having been important for Barcelona in the 2022–23 season, Walsh won her first title with them with the 2022–23 Supercopa de España:[178] she helped her team to victory playing in both the semi-final and,[179] despite having gone off during extra-time in the semi-final with an injury,[180] the final three days later on 22 January 2023.[181] In subsequent games, she was rested with the injury;[182] shortly after her return she scored her first goal for Barcelona, on 5 February against Real Betis, with a shot from outside the box.[183][184] On 27 April, Walsh qualified for the final of the Champions League for the first time,[185] with Barcelona defeating Chelsea on aggregate in the semi-final.[186] Three days later, the team won the league at home with four matches to play and an all-wins record.[187] Walsh started in the 2023 Champions League final, with Barcelona mounting a 3–2 comeback to win the 2022–23 UEFA Women's Champions League.[188]

International career


In November 2009, Walsh, aged twelve, received her first call-up to train for the England under-15 girls, making her the youngest person on the squad.[23][27] She played for them in 2010[189][190] and 2011.[191] Though she featured in the England squads for all youth age groups, she did not get a chance to thrive in them, only participating in one major competition;[44] she suffered two serious ankle injuries as a youth international, eventually having surgery in 2016.[192] She later reflected that the lack of youth experience may have contributed to her being unprepared for the criticism players receive at international tournaments when she joined the senior squad.[44]

Moving into the under-17 women's squad as its vice-captain,[24] Walsh was considered a key player in the 2013 season.[193] During the July 2013 women's Nordic Tournament she scored two goals, including one in the first minute of the play-off match against Iceland.[194] In November 2013, she was named as a forward in the squad for the 2014 UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship (held in November and December 2013),[195][196] helping England to a fourth-place finish in the competition.[24][197] She scored their last spot kick in the 0(3)–0(4) third place play-off penalty shoot-out loss[198] and was one of the England players included in the team of the tournament.[199]

Walsh was then selected to the under-19 England squad, for which she was sometimes a striker,[62] while still playing at under-17 club level.[43] Called to training with the second team in January 2014,[200] she made a competitive appearance for the first team a week later.[201] In the youth squads, Walsh was considered the class clown in contrast to Leah Williamson's more serious demeanor.[202] After under-17, Walsh was not always brought in for training camps and, when she was sixteen and in the under-19 outfit, was told by coach Mo Marley that she needed to work harder; Walsh has said missing out on selections at this age and Marley's warning, which she felt was tough love and indicative of Marley believing in her, "was a massive career defining moment". Realising she did not want to lose out on football, Walsh began to apply herself.[22]

She served as under-19 captain for some of their appearances at the March 2015 La Manga Tournament in Spain,[203] and wore the armband again after returning from injury for 2016 under-19 Euro preparation matches in September and November 2015.[204][205][64] She then picked up her second ankle injury while on international duty with the under-19 side in La Manga in March 2016.[206][207] Walsh was named in the squad for an under-20 tournament in September 2016, but had to withdraw.[208] With the under-23 squad, Walsh played in La Manga[209] and won the Nordic Tournament in 2017.[210][211]



Walsh (left) and Tobin Heath in a England v United States match in 2019

In November 2017, Walsh was called up to the senior England squad for the first time, along with Williamson, by interim coach Marley for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup qualification campaign.[210][212] Before Williamson played in central defence, the two were in contention for the same role, with Walsh preferred;[213] in her early years with the England squad, Walsh was considered the "heir apparent" to Fara Williams as the midfield anchor.[42] Walsh received her first cap on 28 November 2017 in England's match against Kazakhstan,[214] providing an assist in the fifteenth minute,[215] to become the 200th England women's international.[216] During the campaign she was one of two senior Lionesses (with winner Beth Mead) to be nominated for the 2018 England Women's International Young Player of the Year award.[217][218] Walsh, aged 21 and the youngest player in the squad,[219] captained England for the first time during these qualifiers, starting with the armband in England's final match against Kazakhstan in September 2018, in her seventh senior appearance; England won 6–0.[220][221]

Walsh has represented England in three SheBelieves Cup tournaments. The team came second on Walsh's debut appearance in 2018, losing to the United States by an own goal off the keeper.[222] After the match, Walsh and manager Phil Neville had a "really honest" discussion, setting targets for her development over the year and to instill self-confidence.[223] In 2019, England won the competition; Walsh, one of the three players who featured in every match, provided the long-range assist for the final goal[224][225] and was voted She Kicks player of the match.[226] After Walsh helped the team to victory in the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, Neville said that she was probably the best midfielder at the time, praising her development within the squad after he had been tough on her to provoke this.[227][228][229] He then encouraged veteran player Karen Carney to help mentor Walsh through the 2019 Women's World Cup, her first major tournament.[230]

In May 2019, Walsh was selected as part of England's 2019 World Cup squad;[231] her name was announced by DJ Monki as part of England's social-media facing squad announcement.[232] In the opening games of the World Cup, Walsh did not play to her usual standards, but she continued to be picked to start, with Neville having faith in her game and her development; England fans, however, were heavily critical of her continued selection after the early weaker showing. Her performance in the semi-final against the United States, which England lost, however, was seen as strong:[44] she provided two long passes that produced Ellen White goals (one was disallowed) and sent a narrowly-saved "thunderbolt" strike at goal from 25 yards herself.[233] Walsh felt that the criticism of her performances was deserved, saying she lacked focus, but said this did not stop it from affecting her.[44] She considered quitting football because of it, working with sports psychologists to rebuild her enjoyment of the game.[234][21][151]

Still struggling in January 2020,[235] Walsh was encouraged by Neville and England's then-head of performance "to address her lifestyle habits" so that she could develop further and be able to focus on marginal gains.[236] England came third in the 2020 SheBelieves Cup, held in the United States in March 2020,[237][238] before returning to England and a match hiatus due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. By October 2020, Walsh felt that her mentality was starting to thrive again. At the time, the team were preparing for more international fixtures to return.[235] England's qualification campaign for the 2023 Women's World Cup began in 2021; Walsh was one of four players to captain England during their record 20–0 defeat of Latvia that November.[239][240] Having faced underwhelming competition in the qualifiers, England took on tougher competition in preparation with the 2022 Arnold Clark Cup in February 2022, which they hosted and won;[241][242] they retained the trophy a year later.[243]

Every time Keira Walsh touched the ball, there was a collective exhale from the 87,192 fans inside Wembley Stadium. Everything was going to be fine.

– Molly Hudson, The Times, about the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 final[151]

In June 2022, Walsh was named to the England squad for the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 in July,[244][245] which they won.[246] As part of the marketing in the run-up to the tournament, an image of Walsh was projected on the facade of the National Gallery.[247] Though ill to the point of requiring a nebuliser before the opening game,[248][249] she started every match, playing all but five minutes.[246] She showed "classic understated dominance"[250] and was key throughout the tournament,[251][252] including mounting England's comeback quarter-final win over Spain.[253][254] In anticipation of the final against Germany it was reported that the outcome of the match could come down to whether Walsh or her contrasting counterpart Lena Oberdorf outperformed the other.[n 4] England won 2–1, with Walsh providing the lauded pass for England's first goal scored by Ella Toone in the sixty-second minute;[246][259][260] The New York Times covered the match by saying it "was Walsh's game".[261] She was named player of the match and was subsequently included in the Team of the Tournament.[262][263]

During the 2022 Euro campaign, Walsh reflected that she was able to perform so consistently because of manager Sarina Wiegman's coaching style allowing Walsh to have a good mindset, that Wiegman "[is] not bothered that we make mistakes. ... She knows that that's part of the process and, for me, that gives me the confidence to try those passes";[30] Walsh repeated the sentiment in a press conference after she was voted player of the match in England's first game after the Euro,[264][265][266] a 2–0 win over Austria that saw them qualify for the 2023 World Cup.[267] With her appearance in the final qualification group game, another 10–0 win over Luxembourg on 6 September 2022, Walsh won her 50th England cap.[268] As European champions, England contested the 2023 Women's Finalissima in April 2023, defeating Copa América champions Brazil on penalties to win 1(4)–1(2), with Walsh being named player of the match.[269]

Walsh was part of the squad for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, which began in July 2023.[270] Having been "the oil in the engine"[271] of England's dominance at the start of their second match, a 1–0 win over Denmark in the group stage,[272] she suffered a knee injury when winning the ball back in about the 35th minute.[273][274] The Athletic wrote that "Pondering how to replace Walsh is like asking whether a hairdryer can replace the wind";[271] rather than try to replace her, England drastically and successfully changed formation for their next match.[275][276][277]

Since 2019, Walsh has been "an automatic starter for England, a name on the teamsheet that is never questioned",[9] with sports media and personalities affirming that her role in the England squad is one that cannot be matched or replicated by other players.[n 5] Under Wiegman, England's reliance on Walsh grew;[275][284] media felt the over-reliance gave opponents a target to subdue.[275][285]

Great Britain

Walsh was part of the Great Britain women's football team at the 2020 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo in 2021,[234] making three appearances.[286] Team GB went out in the quarterfinals, losing to the Matildas; Walsh took the first shot at goal in this match, a powerful strike that slammed against the bottom of the post. As the game went to extra time, Walsh again opened striking, with this attempt tipped over the top of the net by a fingertip save.[287]

Style of play

If this contest at Wembley had been a sailing race, you would not have described Walsh as the best yachtswoman involved, nor the finest boat, but as the wind itself.

– Tom Garry, The Telegraph, in response to 7 October 2022 England 2–1 United States[279]

Walsh plays for possession-based teams.[a 1] She is typically played as a 'number 6' holding midfielder;[a 2] "not a traditional holding English midfielder",[44][291] having instead been described as "built in the mould of a traditional Spanish midfielder",[3] her game has been consistently compared to that of Barcelona and Spain's Sergio Busquets.[n 6] As has been said of Busquets,[294][295] The Athletic has written that "Walsh is one of those players you might not see if you watch the game—but by watching her you see the game."[246] As a regista (deep-lying playmaker), Walsh typically sets the tempo of matches she plays.[a 3] Besides technical ability, she is also praised for her stamina and leadership,[a 4] and composure on the ball.[279]

Walsh is statistically one of the most accurate passers in world football, and most often plays by passing. She is able to execute a large variety of passes equally over all distances and when under pressure,[8][288] and has a high success rate of long passes into the final third.[a 5] With her awareness of her teammates' abilities, Walsh can play long passes with good weight towards space for players to run onto and meet well.[a 6] When not passing long, Walsh may set up opportunities for her attacking midfielders;[303] playing alongside Georgia Stanway (for City and England),[290] she can play to Stanway to attack,[302] as a double pivot,[296][304] or with their positions swapped.[305] Walsh also often shares the pitch with Lucy Bronze (for City, England, and Barcelona); though Bronze is usually a right-back, she can come into a midfield position for link-up play with Walsh.[a 7]

Not usually an attacking player, Walsh is able to strike powerfully from distance[8][302] but is instead typically key in her team's build-up play.[288][302] Like Spanish midfielders, Walsh can use pausing tactics to her team's advantage, spending time with the ball before picking out a pass to draw the opposition out of position or determine the best play.[a 8] She can also disguise her direction, feint passes and make complete turns to break past markers and create space for herself.[a 9] With her frequent scans of the field, Walsh will make herself open to receive the ball in a good position to retain possession or to use her first touch (which she will often take with the outside of her foot) to get away from pressure.[a 10] She has been known to distribute balls quickly, too, accurately passing due to her positional awareness.[114][291] As an often highly-marked player, Walsh can use her movements to "drag opponents around"[8] before passing to openings this has created using her strong vision and range.[a 10]

When not with the ball, Walsh can be seen dictating direction of play, and moving to support players in possession.[a 11] She can also provide defensive cover, shadowing opposition players to disrupt their play when they have possession[302][289] and to allow her teammates space to progress in attack when they are on the ball.[8][289] Walsh is effective in her midfield defensive actions;[8][289] more likely to intercept than tackle,[309] her tackling success rate is still high.[302] She is reliable for interceptions and recovering loose ball situations,[8][289] and supporting the back line. She will move back to support both when they are defending[302] and to act as a stand-in when a defender moves forward in attack.[289] When acquiring the ball during opposition presses, Walsh can break press and switch play to an attacking sequence.[a 12]

In popular culture

Having been described as an artist in the game,[7][247] footage of some of Walsh's ball skills have gone viral. A long-range pass she made in the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, taking eight Japan players out of the game to provide the assist, was popular.[310][42][311] A clip of Walsh in a 2022 England training session, in which she scored a solo goal after creatively evading the members of the opposition five-a-side team, was also shared widely, particularly as it coincided with the high-profile Barcelona pursuit of her signing.[312][313][314] She is nicknamed "WonderWalsh",[58][108][315] referencing the song "Wonderwall",[316] which is commonly played at Manchester City games.[317]

Sports media has noted that the appreciation of deeper midfielders in the women's game grew significantly following the "trailblazing" work of Walsh and Oberdorf.[17][318] Football journalist Julien Laurens said on The Gab & Juls Show in September 2022 that Walsh is "the best player in the world, for [him]";[319] rated by various pundits to be instrumental in England winning the 2022 Euro,[320][260] and described in the media as the unsung hero of the tournament and her team,[246][57] other players and the media reacted with surprise when Walsh did not receive a nomination for the Ballon d'Or Féminin in August 2022.[n 7]

In 2022, bus company Rosso, which runs between Rochdale and Rossendale, named a bus after Walsh.[328][329] She also received the freedom of the borough of Rochdale on 19 October 2022.[330][331] As part of the "Where Greatness Is Made" campaign, a plaque honouring Walsh was installed at Blackburn Rovers.[332]

The shirt Walsh wore in Manchester City's 2022 League Cup victory is part of the collection of the National Football Museum. It was first put on display from October to December 2022 as part of the Crossing The Line: Game On exhibition, the second half of their focus on women's football.[333] She explained that the match marked City's turnaround in the 2021–22 season, as well as being the League Cup, which was special as the tournament of her first professional title.[61] In November 2022, the museum briefly changed their social media to "Natural Football Museum" after Walsh misnamed them in a video for Barcelona.[334][335]

Walsh wrote guest columns covering the men's 2022 FIFA World Cup for the Evening Standard;[336] in the newspaper, she criticised FIFA for going ahead with Qatar as host despite various issues, saying it was "a backwards step" that undermined equality.[18]

Personal life

Walsh is an advocate for mental health support[20][151] and breaking the stigma around getting help.[337] She has a West Highland White Terrier called Narla, who she says helps her switch off;[338][151] she shares Narla with partner Lucy Bronze.[339][271] Walsh maintains good friendships with former youth teammates Abbie McManus and Katie Zelem;[340] having come up through her international football career with Leah Williamson, receiving call-ups at the same time from under-15 to the senior squad, they became best friends.[202] She has a similar close friendship with Georgia Stanway, having gone through their club careers together until 2022.[151]

Career statistics


As of match played 3 June 2023[341][342]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League Cup[b] League Cup[c] Europe[d] Other[e] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Blackburn Rovers 2013–14[53][343] WPL Northern 9 3 1 0 0 0 1[f] 0 11 3
Manchester City 2014 WSL 1 7 0 0 0 1 0 8 0
2015 6 0 0 0 3 0 9 0
2016 8 0 0 0 4 0 4 1 16 1
2017 8 0 3 0 4 0 15 0
2017–18 18 0 1 0 6 0 8 0 33 0
2018–19 WSL 19 1 5 1 7 0 2 0 33 2
2019–20 14 2 5 0 5 0 4 0 28 2
2020–21 20 2 4 0 3 0 5 0 1[g] 0 33 2
2021–22 18 1 10 0 6 0 0 0 34 1
2022–23 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0[a] 2 0
Total 118 6 28 1 35 0 29 1 1 0 211 8
Barcelona 2022–23 Liga F 26 1 1 0 2 0 9 0 38 1
Career total 153 10 30 1 37 0 38 1 2 0 260 12
  1. ^ a b Soccerway statistics credit Walsh with the sixth goal (90+2') Manchester City scored against Tomiris-Turan on 18 August 2022;[342][344] the UEFA match report lists it as an own goal off keeper Aytaj Sharifova.[345] The Guardian match summary described it both as a Walsh goal and as "diverted in off" the keeper.[146]
  2. ^ Includes the Women's FA Cup and Copa de la Reina
  3. ^ Includes the Women's Premier League Cup, WSL Cup/Women's League Cup, and Supercopa de España
  4. ^ Includes the UEFA Women's Champions League
  5. ^ Other competitive appearances
  6. ^ Lancashire Women's Challenge Cup
  7. ^ Women's FA Community Shield


As of match played 20 August 2023[342]
Year England Great Britain
Apps Goals Apps Goals
2017 1 0
2018 8 0
2019 17 0
2020 3 0
2021 5 0 3 0
2022 20 0
2023 11 0
Total 65 0 3 0


Blackburn Rovers

  • FA Girls' Youth Cup: runner-up 2013[310]
  • Lancashire Women's Challenge Cup: runner-up 2014[56]

Manchester City[342]





See also


  1. ^ See #Style of play. A holding midfielder,[3][4] the intricacies of Walsh's position and role are discussed in various football media.[5][6][4][7][8][9] The technical profile on the FC Barcelona website opens: "Keira is a defensive midfielder with outstanding playmaking skills."[10]
  2. ^ As observed by BBC Sport,[13][14] 90min,[15] Sky Sports,[16] Give Me Sport,[17] the Evening Standard,[18] and in a summary provided by Manchester City.[19]
  3. ^ Including the GOAL50,[169] FourFourTwo's lists of the best defensive midfielders[170] and best players in the world,[171] Fotbollskanalen's list of the best in the world,[172] and The Daily Telegraph's list of the best in Europe.[173]
  4. ^ E.g. in The Independent,[255] 90min,[256] GiveMeSport,[257] and The Guardian.[258]
  5. ^ Including in The Independent,[255][278] The Guardian,[258] The Telegraph,[279][280] The Offside Rule,[9] Manchester Evening News,[111] ESPN,[281] and The Athletic.[282][283][271]
  6. ^ By the media,[7][44][202] analysts,[8][292] and commentators.[293]
  7. ^ Players:[321][322][323][324]


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External links