'Liverpool struggles shaped me into player I am now' - Title-hungry Coombs back in hunt with Man City

Laura Coombs Manchester City 2019Getty

Title races aren’t for everyone. The trophies might be, but the pressure, the intensity and the mentality required can be too much for some.

That’s not the case with Laura Coombs. Manchester City face fellow FA Women’s Super League contenders Chelsea on Sunday, and the idea of fearing such a fixture is laughable to the midfielder.

After all, Coombs’ senior career started in the iconic Arsenal team that dominated English women’s football in the noughties, with her just 16 years old when she made her debut for the Gunners.

She made the short journey from north London – where she shared a dressing room with the likes of Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey and Faye White – to the south west to join Chelsea at the age of 20, where she would also scoop up silverware alongside many faces that remain in the Blues’ ranks today.

But as she prepares to reunite with a number of them at Kingsmeadow on Sunday, it is her three years with struggling Liverpool that she picks out as her most vital experience to date.

“That’s really shaped me into who I am now,” Coombs tells Goal.

“Obviously, we had some tough times at Liverpool and those do really push you.

“It wasn’t always easy for us in games, so it taught me a lot positionally, technically, tactically, as well.”

But after growing up on the books of teams who were always chasing titles, the 28-year-old is delighted to be at Man City now, aiming to add more trophies to the six that Nick Cushing has already guided them to since their WSL debut in 2014.

“That’s one of the main reasons I felt the time was right to leave Liverpool,” Coombs says.

“I wanted to be back playing and competing in finals and title races. I felt like it was the right time in my career to do that and I’m really happy to be here.”

Cushing is happy to have her, too. After suffering with a knee injury, the midfielder made her first league start for City at the weekend and more than played her part in a 1-0 win against former club Liverpool.

After the game, her manager raved about her return, excited about the prospect her becoming an “important” player for his team.

Laura Coombs Liverpool 2018Getty

And he could claim some credit for the quality of her performance, too.

“Nick’s always been really good with me. He’s kept me in the loop, given me things that I could work on when I wasn’t fit and given me pointers for what he expects of my position,” Coombs says.

“Before I joined [Man City], when I was thinking about it, I spoke to past and present players and they all spoke really highly of him and it definitely edged my decision.

“At the end of the day, most players just want to improve or better themselves and everyone said, whether they’re here now or they’ve left, they’re a better player than they were when they came here.

“I came here to be better and I knew it would maybe take some time and I’m going to be patient with it, but I’m not here to make up the numbers.

“Nick is a great coach. He’s technically, tactically, one of the best I’ve worked with and I’m learning a lot from him.”

Cushing knows how to get the better of Chelsea too, with his title-winning team of 2016 finishing five points clear of the second-placed Blues.

Eight players from that squad remain and with players such as Coombs, Gemma Bonner and Ellen White, who have all won titles elsewhere, added, this is a team well-positioned to challenge once again.

“It’s dog eat dog,” Coombs says of a competitive and hungry dressing room.

“Everyone pushes each other every day and everyone wants to be on the pitch and that reflects in training.

“Everyone does get on very well, but on the pitch it’s all business.”

It will be all business on Sunday too, with Coombs leaving no room for sentiment when she returns to her old stomping ground.

Laura Coombs Pauline Bremer Manchester City 2019

“I really enjoyed my time at Chelsea. I was a young player and it was great to get experience there,” she says.

“I went out on loan to continue that experience and get increased playing time, so I feel like it’s all been good to lead me to where I am today.

“I think everyone is pretty calm but focused [ahead of Sunday].

“To us, it’s just a game, that kind of thing. It’s going to be tough, we know it’s going to be tough, but there are no easy games anymore or any given points. It should be a really good game.

“Whether you’re playing Chelsea, Arsenal, any team in the league, it’s the teams who compete and want it more who win the game, more often than not. It doesn’t really matter if it’s your old team.”

And as for any nerves or fear going into Sunday? Not a chance.

“If you’re in a team like this, you have to really look forward to these games because they can have a big impact on who wins the title.

“I definitely look forward to these games.”