KAREN Carney says Birmingham City Ladies will be “forever in my heart” after announcing her move to double winners Chelsea, writes Liam Moakes.
The talismanic 28-year-old has agreed a two-year deal with the reigning Women’s Super League 1 champions and FA Cup holders because she feels it is time to “embrace a new challenge and step out of her comfort zone”.
However, an emotional Carney – whose contract with Blues expires at the end of the year – said she owes everything in her career to Birmingham City and was at pains to thank everyone connected with the club for the support she has been shown.
Solihull-born Carney, who first joined the club as an 11-year-old and made her first team debut at the age of just 14, said: “From the bottom of my heart I cannot thank the fans and the club enough for all the support they have shown me personally and the team.
“Birmingham City Ladies is a fantastic club, from the chairman and management, to the staff and supporters, and the fans really are the best.
“Blues is my club and always will be. I love the club with all my heart and have so many moments to treasure.
“Winning the FA Cup and reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League are achievements I am incredibly proud of and I have loved sharing those moments with the fans.
“Even when times have been harder, such as our crunch game at Bristol last season, the supporters have always been beside us. Scoring those goals that day and celebrating afterwards with all the singing supporters gave me goosebumps. It was fantastic.
“Leading out the men’s team at St Andrew’s on the day I became the first woman to be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame was amazing.
“To do that and to have played at St Andrew’s are moments I dreamed of as a young girl and for that I will be forever thankful to the club, both the men’s and the ladies’ set-ups.”
Football, however, does not stand still and Carney is now looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Chelsea boss Emma Hayes, whom she has previously spent five years working with at former clubs Arsenal and Chicago Red Stars.
“I’m finding it really hard to detach myself from Blues!” said Carney. “However, I’ve got to commit fully to Chelsea now and work really hard to get into what is an amazing team.
“I will be moving to London at the end of January when the team starts pre-season training and it’s going to be very exciting to have the chance to play Champions League football and work with some wonderful players.
“I am anxious about the move, because I am a homebird and my roots are in Birmingham and Solihull, but I need to be 100 per cent committed to the move and give my all. I always gave 100 per cent for Blues, I hope the fans appreciate that, and I’ll do the same for Chelsea.”
Carney said she had left Blues on good terms and revealed the door had been left open for a possible return and third stint with the club.
“Who knows what the future holds?” said the 110-cap England star, who helped her country to third place at this year’s World Cup.
“The club have said I would always be welcome back which I really do appreciate. I will give everything, as ever, for these next two years and then see how things stand. If the circumstances were right then I would not hesitate (to return) for a second.
“For now, though, Blues need to continue the excellent work they always do in terms of developing young players.
“It’s what they have become famed for and there’s some superb talent coming through like Chloe Peplow, Charlie Wellings and Connie Scofield.
“I really think the future is bright for Blues. In two or three years’ time I can see the side having brought through a new generation of players who will be strong for many years to come.”