She may have been one of the final additions to Melbourne City’s W-League side ahead of the 2019/20 season, but Claire Emslie is ready to play her part in returning her new club to glory.
Unveiled by City on November 4, Scottish attacker Emslie arrives in Bundoora on a season-long loan deal from National Women’s Soccer League side Orlando Pride, where she played with fellow new City signing Emily van Egmond.
The 25-year-old however, only moved to Orlando after the World Cup following a two-season stint with Manchester City in England’s Women's Super League, where she helped the Mancunian club lift the FA Women’s League Cup and Women’s FA Cup in the 2018/19 season.
A veteran of 26 appearances for the Scottish national side, Emslie made history at the 2019 World Cup when she darted behind defender Alex Greenwood to receive a ball from Lisa Evans in the 79th minute of Scotland’s 2-1 loss to England and poked home to score Scotland’s first-ever World Cup goal.
After appearing in Scotland’s subsequent fixtures against Japan and Argentina, she then went on to make 11 appearances for the Pride post-World Cup, including nine starts, in a move that the graduate of Florida Atlantic University declared was the realisation of a dream to “to play pro soccer in the USA”.
Though the move to Australia doesn’t quite reach up to the same aspirational levels of playing in the NWSL did, Emslie said she was looking forward to the experience.
“I’ve only been here a day but I’m really enjoying it so far,” she said today. “The club’s great, the facilities are amazing and I enjoyed training yesterday so I’m looking forward to it.
“In the last few years, the W-League has been getting better and better. I’ve got a couple of friends, Kim Little and Jen Beattie, that came and played at the club and they loved it. When I got the opportunity this season to come out, I was delighted and really excited to be a part of it.
“It was the perfect opportunity. Obviously, the only time I could come is if I played in the NWSL and had the five months break and this fits perfectly timing-wise to keep playing and experience a different league, a different culture and a different country.
“Obviously, it’s a short season so it’s going to be really competitive. You look at the signings that have been made across the league, there’s quite a lot of players coming across from the American league that are big players so I think it will be competitive. I’ve heard if you make the finals it’s a really exciting atmosphere so I’m excited about that.”
Entering into 2019/20, the Edinburgh-born attacker will be expected to play a key role as City look to bounce back from a disappointing 2018/19 season in which they missed out on finals football for the first time – a sharp contrast to their first seasons in the league in which they won three championships.
City’s absence from finals football last season, ultimately, came down to an inability to find the back of the net; missing out on goal difference despite possessing the equal stingiest defence in the league.
Though, promisingly for Head Coach Rado Vidošić side, while much of Australia’s attention has been caught up in watching the Matildas in the lead into the W-League season, Emslie arrives Down Under off the back of some ominous international form of her own.
The attacker started and scored within 15 minutes as Scotland continued their unbeaten start to qualifying for Women's Euro 2021 in recording a thumping 5-0 win over Albania on Saturday, backing up an 8-0 shellacking of Cyprus – in which Emslie also scored the opener – in August.
“I love playing on the wing but also have experience playing as a striker as well,” Emslie said. “I’m excited to play.
"We had practice yesterday and I was put on the wing and it’s just starting to get relationships with the full-backs and the strikers so I’m excited to see how it goes.
“I’m feeling good and I’ve had a nice little break. I think I needed it after playing all through Manchester City’s season and then straight into the World Cup and then straight into the NWSL. I’m feeling good and feeling fresh and excited to create.
“It was a big result for Scotland to go away to Albania, it’s a tough place to go, and to get such a good result. We’re buzzing with that and now hopefully the wins keep coming.”