“The training ground is buzzing. It’s been crazy. There’s been a real party atmosphere and we are enjoying our football.”
Leicester City forward Shannon O’Brien is living the dream. Five months ago she was staring down the barrel of a Championship relegation battle, playing part-time, studying and battling to keep Coventry United‘s head above water in a vigorously competitive league.
Fast forward to May.
The youngster is hitting headlines with game-changing strikes that topple Women’s Super League heavyweights such as Manchester United, posing for photos with the Championship trophy at the King Power Stadium and training with childhood hero Emile Heskey, all before she’s even out of her teens.
However, the 19-year-old isn’t prepared to stop there.
The league season may have just completed, but O’Brien and her Leicester City teammates are already preparing themselves to make a big impact on the top tier of English football.
Ready for the Super League
The goalscorer has been kind enough to join me for a Zoom call on a Tuesday night, just hours after finishing training. Calm and composed, she holds herself with an air of confidence. She knows her performances since joining the Foxes in January have turned heads across the women’s game, she also knows she plays with one of the most exciting, ambitious sides in England right now.
Expectations are big, but the forward shows no signs of nerves about what is to come, grinning from ear to ear with sheer excitement at the mention of the WSL. The aim is simple: Leicester City wants to reach the top.
“I think the club are very ambitious. They’ve not been secretive about that either,” O’Brien told Her Football Hub.
“As a club, we want to go as far as we can. I don’t think there’s a limit to where we can finish next season. We have the belief that we can establish ourselves as a WSL team and then, hopefully in a few years, push on from that and rise through the table.
“We look at clubs like Manchester United, who’ve also had great backing from their men’s club, they went on and challenged at the top end of the table, so why can’t we?”
Just last weekend, O’Brien and her teammates were applauded on the pitch at Leicester’s King Power Stadium, with fan chants of “campiones” ringing in their ears. O’Brien feels that strength in unity, and wants to use it to pounce on a unique opportunity to become part of England’s elite.
“Leicester have been brilliant.
“It’s not just providing the training ground. They check in with us, you hear Brendan Rodgers talk about us in the press conferences, the men’s players comment and congratulate us. There’s real backing and it’s definitely a one-club mentality. I know some clubs say that and it isn’t always true, but it is at Leicester. You feel they really want to bring our game forward and support us.”
The ambition certainly doesn’t feel overreaching either. The Midlands club have recently appointed former England and Liverpool striker Emile Heskey, and currently have one of the most highly-rated coaches in the country, and many are excited to see just how Leicester boss Jonathan Morgan fares in the top tier.
“He’s a really great guy. He’s brilliant. He gets on with players, his man management is excellent, you can talk to him whenever you want to. He trusts youth, which is a huge reason for me joining Leicester – because I know I’d get the oppurtunity with him – and I have.”
“I didn’t expect to get as much backing from him this early on to be completely honest, but that’s all credit to him putting his belief in young players. He fully backs us and he thinks if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.
“I’ve grown massively since January. I had to repay the faith he put in me. We’re a young team, but we’re all developing because of him.”