Over the last five years, few clubs have developed top talent in the women’s game quite like Manchester City, with their influence on the England team particularly impressive.
Ellie Roebuck, Georgia Stanway and, most recently, Lauren Hemp joined the club as promising talents, and have now become senior internationals – as well as some of the best players in the Women’s Super League.
Roebuck and Stanway joined City in their junior days, as 16-year-olds from Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers respectively. They worked hard in the development squad, were gradually integrated into the first-team set-up and are now regulars for the side who currently sit atop the WSL standings.
It is a path that Jess Park is already beginning to follow.
The 18-year-old signed her first professional deal with City this month, just over two years after joining from York’s Regional Talent Club, where she was captain of the Under-16s.
The move came three days after Park celebrated her 16th birthday, something she did in style.
The striker had spent the previous week with England’s U-17s, scoring five goals and providing three assists in two qualifying games for the 2018 U-17 European Championships.
When she headed to those Euros with England the following summer, Park was the only player to make the Team of the Tournament.
“Jess is a once in a generation player,” Adrian Costello, leader of York RTC’s technical programme, told the York Press.
“Jess’ attitude, commitment and everything she does on and off the field mark her out as a future international senior player and I’m immensely proud of her achievements.
“We could keep Jess at York and win lots of games but, for her development, the best thing for her is to go to Manchester City.”
Like Roebuck and Stanway before her, Park has had to work hard for her chances at the Etihad Campus. After all, such is the quality of City’s title-challenging squad, those opportunities were never going to be easy to come by. However, when she has been handed a chance to impress, she has done nothing less.
Against Ipswich Town in February, Park marked a rare start with a hat-trick as City reached the quarter-finals of the FA Women’s Cup. Her three appearances in the Continental Cup have not been as goal-laden, but they have offered further glimpses of her exciting potential.
A regular goal-scorer for City’s development squad - she has 11 goals in 11 games this term - and for England’s youth teams, Park is a true star at age-group level.
The crucial thing now is that she is showing that quality at senior level, too.
“She’s ready. She’s ready to play,” Nick Cushing, City’s head coach until his move to New York City FC in February, said.
“The problem for Jess is people like Laura Coombs, Tess Wullaert, Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway are pushing as well.
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“She’s got to be patient and we’ve got to find a solution for her because when we brought Georgia Stanway in in 2015, it was a different squad, so it was easier for her to get through and find her pathway.”
The suggestion from Cushing was that Park’s breakthrough could come in a position different to her natural role as a striker.
“I think when you’ve got Jess’ ability, you can put her in a lot of positions,” Alan Mahon, City’s interim boss following Cushing's departure, told Goal.
“She plays up top for us because that’s where we probably feel that she’s strongest, but because of her ability, we can put her out wide, we can drop her a bit deeper.
“At the moment, to develop her, we are going to keep her up top, or in and around the No.10 and No.8.”
With the deadly Pauline Bremer, scorer of 22 goals this season, now set to join Wolfsburg this year, one might expect City to head straight to the transfer market for a replacement.
But the club’s reputation often precedes them in that sense.
“A lot of people obviously want to see us as Man City and we’ve got loads of money and all the stuff that you hear out there,” Mahon added.
“But we work our socks off and pride ourselves on bringing young players through.”
With Park’s talent, and the club’s belief in that talent, there could well be an opening for the 18-year-old to really make her mark on this team in the coming months.