A matter of weeks ago Gareth Taylor’s sanity would have been questioned had Manchester City’s manager suggested his side could still secure the Women’s Super League title.
Late last year there remained a sense that the former City men’s under-18s coach was on borrowed time but, suddenly, no one is underestimating Taylor when he talks about stealing Chelsea’s crown.
“We want to win the league,” said Taylor before Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa. “We just need to stay in the hunt.”
City finished second to Chelsea last season but their start to the new campaign was disrupted by injuries to key players, several of whom travelled to the Tokyo Olympics.
When Taylor’s team lost four of their first 10 fixtures he seemed on the way out but the recent return to fitness of his England defenders Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton after long-term knee and ankle problems respectively has transformed City’s landscape.
Last Sunday they won 6-0 at previously high-flying Brighton, their third straight league victory, and they sit fifth, nine points behind the leaders, Arsenal, but only four in arrears of Tottenham, occupants of the third and final Champions League position. “I think we’re in a good place,” said Taylor. “Confidence is high and I wouldn’t want to put limits on what we want to try to achieve. We just need to stay in the hunt. If we can do that, who knows what can happen?”
The return of Bronze and Houghton also represents good news for England as they limber up for hosting this summer’s Euro 2022 with a four-team tournament also involving Canada, Spain and Germany next month.
Neither player has featured for the Lionesses since Sarina Wiegman became manager but Houghton is not thinking about reclaiming the England captaincy just yet. “My first focus over the next few weeks is to get my form and confidence back for Manchester City,” said the 33-year-old, who has signed an extended contract. “It’s just about playing well for City and then everything else will take care of itself.”