“I don’t think I’ve made it yet, nowhere near” - Halifax born star Kirsty loving life at Manchester United
Kirsty Hanson may be living the dream by playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, but the Halifax born footballer insists she has a long way to go yet.
The 23-year-old winger supported Manchester United as a child and signed a new contract with them earlier this year, having joined the club in July 2018.
Kirsty attended Satlerhebble Primary School and Brooksbank High School, and started her football journey on the streets of Halifax.
“I started on the street with boys, about five or six-years-old,” says Kirsty, who has a degree in sports coaching.
“I went to North Bridge Leisure Centre for a kickaround on a Saturday, and then I went to Warley Blues, played there for a few years with the boys.
“I had to start playing for a girls team then, so I went to West Riding’s Bradford Centre of Excellence, and played for Huddersfield Town.
“I played for Man United’s when I was younger - I didn’t know they had a Centre of Excellence but someone else I knew was trialling there so I said I’d go along.
“It took me a few trials before I eventually got in, that was in Partington in Manchester.
“It only went to under 17s at the time, so I went to Liverpool and played for their reserves, and then I needed to start playing first-team football.
“My mum’s Scottish, and most of my family is, so I started playing for them at under 17s level, and the coach said I needed to start playing first-team football so I joined Sheffield FC on loan from Liverpool, which was my first taste of senior football.
“I was one of the smallest and the youngest so I didn’t get much game-time.
“I started studying at Leeds Beckett around the same time and joined the football team there, and the coach there was coach of Doncaster Belles, and she said I shouldn’t be sitting on the bench at Sheffield and that I should sign for Donny, so I did that, and that’s when I kicked on and thought I might be able to do quite well at professional football.
“I started kicking on, working harder and I think it was about a year-and-a-half into my time there, Manchester United’s women’s team formed and the coach, Casey Stoney, got in contact with me and said they’d like to sign me, which was amazing.”
Kirsty worked at a cafe in Manor Heath while pursuing her burgeoning career in the game.
“In some teams when I was younger I wasn’t really the best player and some coaches didn’t think I was amazing, but most of those players that were better than me don’t really play now,” she said.
“So hard work does get you to where you want to be. I keep getting told by my coaches that I need to believe in myself more, that’s something I need to do better.”
Kirsty played and trained on Savile Park with Warley Blues, and started off as a midfielder before moving to play up-front and then finally finding her best position as a winger.
“I have a brother but I didn’t really play with him because he’s much bigger than me!
“We had a lot of boys on the street, I once saw them playing around and thought I’ll get my own football, started kicking it against the wall, then I started joining in with them and absolutely loved it,” she said.
“They went to join Warley Blues and I said ‘can I come along?’ and luckily there was already one girl there so they said ‘that’s no problem’ and I loved playing with the boys because it was more physical, and I don’t think they expected me to be any good.
“I started getting a lot of player of the match awards and they were like ‘oh, she’s quite good’ and then they started passing me the ball a bit more!”
Kirsty has has won the Women’s Super League Two twice and is a previous winner of the WSL player of the month.
“It’s amazing,” she said of what it’s like to pay for United, “they’ve got everything you need and the coaches are amazing to work with, they push you to get better and the training sessions are hard, but it gets the best out of you.
“Playing in the top league is amazing, to play against players from different countries.
“It’s getting better, with teams getting more money and buying players, every game is difficult. The teams at the bottom can take points off the top teams.
“The top three are Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal, who have the most money, but it’s definitely getting better.”
Kirsty says the women’s game is growing all the time.
“It’s getting bigger and better as I get older, which is brilliant to see,” she said.
“More money is getting put into it and the men’s teams are starting to share facilities with the women’s teams now, which is what you need.
“We recently moved to the same training ground, but because of Covid,,we are separate in case someone gets it.
“You do see the men’s team around and Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer) has come to watch some sessions, he stands on the balcony at the top of the building and sometimes watches us, which is great.”
Does Kirsty see herself as a role model to girls who would like a career as a footballer?
“I’d like to think so,” she said.
“For little girls, I think the main aim when you’re younger is just to enjoy your football.
“If someone tells you you’re not good enough I think you just need to ignore it, that’s what I did.
“Just work as hard as you can and work on your weaknesses, and your strengths, all the time.
“In pre-season, I go and work with different people to make sure I’m getting better each season. I don’t want to stay the same player, I want to get even better.
“Playing for Manchester United, hopefully it inspires others who want to get into football, work hard and get to where they want to be.”
When asked what her ambitions are in the game, Kirsty said: “I would like to stay with Man United, we definitely would love to win the WSL, that’s the main aim, and to get to the Champions League final.
“There’s still a long way to go, we’re still quite a newly-formed team but we’re very close. We were just one point off qualifying for the Champions League last season so hopefully next season we’ll do even better.
“I’m definitely living my dream, but I don’t think about it that much because I’m nowhere near where I want to be yet.
“I don’t think I’ve made it yet, nowhere near, so when I’ve started winning more trophies, playing better and becoming a regular starter, which is my main aim, I think that’s when I’ll be like ‘wow, I’m living my dream’.
“It’s all about hard work, hopefully I’ll get there.”