Megan Campbell: 'When I was named in Man City XI, my heart started going mad'Tue, May 16 2017
Megan Campbell's family flew from Drogheda to London to watch her in her first FA Cup final on Saturday more in hope, perhaps, than expectation that they'd see her play a prominent role.
The Republic of Ireland international had been keen to dampen their expectations during the week as she emphasised than even making the matchday squad would be an achievement given her recent injury history.
As it happened, City manager Nick Cushing selected her to start at left-back, and she repaid his faith with two first-half assists as they went in at the break with an insurmountable 3-0 lead. They eventually won 4-1.
“I was saying to my finally over there at the weekend, and even the girls in the team, I just want to be in the squad – I'd do anything to be in that squad and be involved on that day,” Campbell tells extratime.ie.
“It's tough if you're not involved. Credit goes to those girls who weren't involved but still had smiles on their faces because, even though they weren't involved on the day, they were still a big part in getting us to that stage of the competition.
“When he named the 11, my heart started going mad. I didn't expect it at all. When he named me, I said you need to focus now and do whatever you need to do to get that medal.”
She clearly took her own advice to heart as the player, who has often made more headlines for her long throw ability than her crossing, put two on a plate for her teammates.
Campbell's was the free kick from the right touchline, dipping precisely onto the edge of the six-yard box, that dropped perfectly for Lucy Bronze to head in the game's opener after 18 minutes.
And the cross was hers, again, whipped from the left onto the head of Carli Lloyd which effectively ended the game as a contest just beyond the half-hour.
The 23-year-old's performance was all the more remarkable for the fact it was just her fourth game back from injury, and she'd been working her way up to playing 75 minutes in the game.
In the end, she lasted 77 minutes of highly-paced, high-intensity football as Birmingham through the kitchen sink at their more illustrious opponents in the second half.
“I've been on what they call 'restricted minutes.' The physios and strength and conditioning staff would have me on a limited number of minutes every game building up so I can get my fitness back gradually.
“That way there's less risk of me tearing muscles and stuff like that. I'd start with 30 minutes and then go to 45 and then to 60, and obviously the Cup final was when I'd normally be playing 75 minutes.
“At the hour mark, because it was such a high-paced game, Nick called me over and was asking how I was. Thankfully, I felt OK.
“My legs were stiff, don't get me wrong, but they weren't cramping at that stage. He said whenever you do, let me know.
“On the 77th minute mark I was sprinting back from a corner and my legs just cramped up and I couldn't physically move, but it was great to get that amount of minutes within a Cup final in my legs.”
It's been a long and frustrating road to recovery for the 33-cap international, who effectively missed her entire first season with the Women's Super League champions with successive ankle injuries.
Campbell first tore ligaments in her right ankle on international duty at the Cyprus Cup in March of last year, an injury that initially kept her out for two months, before ever kicking a ball for City.
While on the road to recovery, she tore her quad and spent another month on the sidelines, before damaging her left ankle, for which she required reconstructive surgery and an eight-month recovery.
It was Campbell's good fortune, if you can call it that, to have sustained the injury while in the care of one of the world's biggest clubs with one of the finest medical staffs in football.
They've managed her return to play over the past 12 months, opting not to rush her back to action in spite of the knowledge her current contract only runs to the end of the current mini-season.
Which is why it means so much to the defender to be able to repay the faith placed in her by the club and her manager by showing she has a part to play in City's squad of world class players.
“It's tough being injured as anyone would know who's gone through a serious injury or anything serious like that. It was nice to have that feeling of being on the grass with the team again.
“And to have the manager's trust in me to be able, to believe that I can do the job for him on the day at Wembley in front of 35,000 people and perform, I was really pleased [about that].”
A more extensive interview with Megan Campbell will be published next week.