Every world-class player has their breakout season. Nikita Parris’ was 2018-19.
Scorer of 19 goals in 19 FA Women’s Super League games, and three in four FA Women’s Cup outings, the forward was handsomely rewarded for her efforts with winners’ medals in both competitions, while also being named the FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year.
Her six goals in qualifying also helped seal England’s place at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, all resulting in a transfer to the biggest club in the game, Olympique Lyonnais.
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for the 25-year-old, who has worked her way to the very top from the days of relegation with Everton, and she captured the emotion embedded in that journey with a passionate celebration after netting on her World Cup debut against Scotland.
But despite how hard Parris has worked to get to where she is now, there is no forgetting her roots and those who have helped her achieve this incredible rise.
Explaining why she held up four fingers in celebrating her strike in England's tournament opener, she said, "It was for me, Mary Earps, Toni [Duggan] and Abbie [McManus]. We’re the four musketeers
"We’re constantly together and they’ve helped me throughout my journey with England and Manchester City and I appreciate them so much.
“Moving forward I’m going to need them more than ever.”
Parris and Duggan’s friendship goes all the way back to her Everton days, where the two Scousers were stand-out players in a struggling team.
The latter left Merseyside in 2014 after netting 17 goals in 40 games, and she would be reunited with her former team-mate just a year later, as Parris joined Man City on loan following an impressive return of six goals from 13 WSL games for a relegated side.
She impressed, scoring eight times in 18 appearances and, after signing permanently, has never looked back.
“Nikita can be as good as she wants to be; that’s the truth,” said Lucy Bronze, Parris’ former City and future Lyon team-mate, who has formed a deadly partnership with her down the right flank.
“She has all the attributes she needs to be one of the best strikers in the world; she has been showing that all season at City.
“She’s been prolific, she’s got an eye for goal, she’s tenacious and she has the speed and energy. We’ve got a really good partnership; we enjoy playing together.”
The pair terrorised Scotland’s left-hand side on Sunday, giving Nicola Docherty a torrid time, particularly Parris, whose skilful turn and nutmeg on the full-back went viral.
The second half was less flair and more grit as Scotland came back into the game, but it served as perfect preparation for the winger as England prepare to take on an Argentina side who have made no secret of their plan to implement a defensive game plan this summer.
“[After half time] Jennifer Beattie went deeper and the full-back got tighter, they tried to limit my running, but ultimately, I just had to try and pop in the space and that came in between the lines,” Parris explained.
“As they work you out, you’ve got to try something different and that’s going to happen throughout the World Cup.”
That creativity is exactly what England will need on Friday evening. Japan have some of the most technically brilliant and intelligent players at this tournament, but even they couldn’t break down Argentina, playing out a goalless draw on Thursday afternoon.
But that won’t faze the Lionesses’ star player as she rides this wave of confidence and self-belief.
“I thrive off challenge,” she said. “There’s so much more to come from me. I’d probably give myself a six and a half or a seven [out of 10 against Scotland].”
Her manager, Phil Neville, agrees.
“We challenged players 16 months ago with their own individual development plan and being the best player in the world in their position,” he said.
“And in Nikita, we’ve seen a player develop from being a really, really good WSL player, to now signing for the best team in the world in Lyon, scoring goals in the WSL, making an impact on the big games on the big occasions, and she’s someone who’s still got another five to 10 per cent in her.
“The ability to score, the ability to create, the ability to play left, right and through the middle, and I think [against Scotland] you’ve seen a little snippet of what a special player we’ve got.
“She's world class, that's a given now.”
But the comments that defined Parris came in her excitement about this England team.
“Did you see that out there?” she bragged after the Scotland game – but she wasn’t talking about her goal, or that nutmeg.
She was talking about the team spirit.
“I’m excited what the World Cup will bring but I don’t think my individual performance will dictate whether we do well or we don’t do well in this tournament.
“It’s about the team and ultimately I will fight for each and every one of my team-mates.”
That mindset is shared throughout this tight-knit group, but it’s the flair Parris provides on top of that which makes her so special and, with that likely to be on display again against Argentina, it’s no wonder the best club in the world have snapped her up.