Khadija Shaw: Manchester City striker who stepped out of Ellen White's shadow

By Emma SmithBBC Sport
Khadija scores against Everton
Khadija Shaw has been involved in more goals than any other player in the WSL this season with eight goals and two assists

When your talismanic striker announces her sudden retirement 18 days before the start of the season, most clubs would panic.

Not so Manchester City. While Ellen White's decision to call it a day in August took many people by surprise, they already knew who would provide their goals.

Khadija Shaw - nicknamed Bunny because of her love of carrots as a child in Jamaica - had shown flashes in 2021-22 of her capabilities following her summer move to the Women's Super League from Bordeaux.

However Shaw, 25, largely had to play second fiddle to England's record goalscorer White, with even her manager Gareth Taylor saying recently that she had been "overlooked" last season.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Shaw said she agreed with Taylor's comments, but this campaign she now feels she has been able to carve out her own niche at City.

"Obviously Ellen was an incredible personality, I've definitely learned a lot and taken pieces of her game," said Shaw.

"I've always been scoring goals, but I've always tried to stay grounded. Coming into this year, I've tried to add my strengths to the City way of playing."

Shaw says she has not heard from her old attacking partner since White walked away from the professional game shortly after helping England to glory at Euro 2022.

"It was a big surprise, I was anticipating her coming back from the Euros," she said.

"I was shocked to be honest, I was looking forward to working with her, we pushed each other and that helped the team. Learning from each other helped a lot."

Graphic showing Khadija Shaw has scored one goal every 72 minutes in the WSL this season

After joining City in June 2021 on a three-year deal, Shaw hit the ground running with a goal on her WSL debut against Everton.

She scored nine goals in 17 matches in the WSL last season, however it is this campaign where she has truly exploded with eight goals in seven league matches, seeing her joint top of the scorer rankings with Aston Villa's Rachel Daly, while averaging a goal every 73 minutes.

These goals have played a crucial part in lifting City up the WSL table after a poor start to the season, and easing some of the pressure on Taylor.

After losing their opening two league games and exiting the Champions League before the group stages at the hands of Real Madrid, City have now won five in a row in the WSL.

Shaw always felt City would get their campaign back on track, and took responsibility in the changing room as well as on the pitch.

She said: "I think for the team, it was about trusting and believing in the process. New players coming in learning the way we wanted to play.

"When I came in it took me time to understand. I think now, after the first two games, the girls are seeing what the manager wants.

"I just encouraged them, it's difficult in the beginning. It's completely different from where you have been before."

The women's top division is carrying on while the men's has paused for the 2022 World Cup - which, for Shaw, is providing an exciting precursor to what is to come next summer.

She will captain Jamaica at the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next summer, with the Reggae Girlz drawn in a tough group also featuring France and Brazil.

Khadija Shaw playing against Italy at 2019 World Cup
Jamaica finished bottom of their group at the 2019 World Cup without picking up a point

Shaw has scored an incredible 56 goals in only 38 international appearances.

But she is eyeing team success over individual global stardom and she thinks they can take inspiration from an old national proverb - "we likkle but we tallawah" - a Jamaican phrase meaning they may be a small nation but they are strong, fearless and not to be underestimated.

"We're small in numbers but we can be big on the global stage, like in track and field," she says.

"It is the Jamaican way, for an island of three million people to be going to the World Cup back to back is unbelievable. We are proud to put Jamaica on the map in that sense.

"It's a bit weird watching the World Cup in the winter, but you look forward, you can't wait for our time."

Jamaica made their women's World Cup debut in 2019, where they lost all three group games conceding 12 in the process.

However Shaw says they are better prepared to step up this time.

"As a country qualifying for the World Cup we face challenges," she says. "USA, Canada - but we say to ourselves, only our best is good enough.

"We try to represent our country as best we can. We want to show we deserve to be here."

Shaw's physicality and unpredictability will be key for Jamaica next summer, but for now her focus is on her club, with a mouth-watering game against their city rivals on the horizon.

"Coming in last year, I hear about the Manchester derby and wonder what this is," she says. "Then before the game you feel the intensity, the fans make it more intense."

This year's meeting with Manchester United on 11 December is being played at Etihad Stadium, with almost 40,000 tickets already sold. City have never finished below Manchester United in the WSL but trail them by three points.

"It's tough, challenging, we want to show our class," says Shaw. "The team look to me to score goals, and it's important to do it in these games.

"We want to say Manchester is blue."

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