Palmer: I'm ready to fight for my shirt
Aimee Palmer is looking forward to the challenge of returning to Manchester United Women, following her loan spell at Sheffield United.
The midfielder spent the first half of the season at the Yorkshire club, but was recalled last month to help Casey Stoney’s side during the remainder of our WSL campaign.
Speaking exclusively to club media, Palmer opened up on her hugely rewarding time at Sheffield United and revealed her aims for the rest of the 2019/20 season…
Are you happy to be back after your time away?
"Definitely. I really enjoyed my time at Sheffield United but it’s good to be back with the girls, and back at the biggest club in the world."
You were there with former Red Naomi Hartley – was it good to see her again?
"Yeah, it was. I played with her for England Under-19s last season, so being with her was something that helped me settle into the squad a lot more easily. She helped me out a lot with the travelling aspect as well, because we’d travel from the same area – even for little things like that, it’s nice to have someone you know there."
You had a few games with Mollie Green, too...
"We know our standards and it’s nice having a player like Mollie, who knows what we expect of each other. It was only a few games but playing with her was something I really enjoyed. If I made a mistake, she’d tell me what to do and put me in my place, which I really appreciated."
A few of our players have spent time on loan at Sheffield United, this season and last. Do you think it’s a good club to be at?
"In terms of development, it’s a great club. The staff there are unbelievable and the squad of players create such a nice environment, which is exactly what you need to develop and grow. Obviously, the men’s team are doing well too and you can see that feeds into the women’s team. I think that’s really important."
How was the whole experience for you?
"I really enjoyed it. The girls there allowed me to be who I am, on and off the pitch. They allowed me to express myself and that was something I needed, in terms of growing in confidence. The manager [Carla Ward] and the coaches were unbelievable for me. They were so welcoming and allowed me to thrive and I was able to really reach the top of my game."
"I think it was something I needed to add to my game. Playing higher up the pitch allowed me to get off more shots on goal, and being able to score was something that gave me even more confidence. I knew I needed to do it and being able to do so was a big positive for me."
What else did you learn during your time there?
"I learnt a lot about myself in terms of confidence. It allowed me to really see how I am as a player and gain more confidence, and see how well I can perform when I am confident."
You clearly impressed, to have been recalled so soon. Did you expect to be coming back?
"Not at all. I had a meeting with Casey and Glen [Harris] around Christmas time. They said they were really happy with how my loan was going, so they were going to keep me there for the rest of the season. I wasn’t expecting it but now I’m very happy to be back and fighting for a shirt."
What did you miss most while you were away?
"At Sheffield United, we were fighting for promotion in the Championship, so every game was a big game, but obviously you’re not playing against the same sort of players as in the WSL. No disrespect, but it’s a higher quality of opposition in the WSL."
You were still training here while you were out on loan – what was that like?
"It was the best of both worlds. I was getting 90 minutes each week with Sheffield, but also training against the standard of midfield players at United, like Hayley Ladd and Jackie Groenen, which helped me to improve even further. As well as the game time, I was able to train against those world-class players and develop my game."
"Definitely. I played with Hayley at Bristol City for a short time and I knew from that point she was an unbelievable player. Learning off people like those two, with all their experience, is something that a young player like me can really thrive from, and something I need to take full advantage of in training."
You mentioned recently how good is it to be around such players on a matchday...
"Obviously when I was out on loan, I was still around them in training, day in, day out. But when it comes to matches... in training, you’re against each other; in matches, you’re against the world’s best players, especially in the WSL. People who have been nominated for the Ballon d’Or. Watching how they prepare for games is something that, again, as a young player I need to learn from, because I’ve not been in that many situations where I’ve come up against that sort of player. Seeing how they prepare themselves is something I need to take into account, because it’s only going to make me a better player."
What are your aims now for the rest of 2019/20?
"I want to fight for my shirt and try to get minutes, but also to do as much as I can in terms of training to help the squad be as good as they can. If I’m on top of my game, competing against the other midfielders, then hopefully they’ll be better and improve as a consequence, which will hopefully lead to better results."
What have you made of Manchester United’s season so far?
"I think it was everything we expected it to be. Obviously we were in the Championship last year, but a lot of the players had played in the WSL the season before that. But I think we’re doing really well. We’re in the top half. There are some results we know we could have improved upon but, for our first season here, it’s been a good start."
You’ve also played in the WSL with Bristol City, in 2017/18. How excited are you to be back?
"Really excited. I was a lot younger last time and the other teams and players felt a lot stronger physically at that age, and I didn’t have much experience. I’m really happy to be back in this position. I think I’ve developed technically and physically, so now is the perfect time for me to be back, and hopefully that’s something I can show on the pitch."
Do you have good memories of that season?
"I really enjoyed my time at Bristol. As I said, I played with Hayley, and also with Millie Turner, so having them around me here helps me, too. In terms of the WSL, I really enjoyed playing against people I had aspired to be like when I was a kid. It was something I didn’t expect, but those experiences have made me a better player."
Did you have any particular role models as a kid?
"One of my first games [for Bristol City] was against Arsenal, and I was marking Jordan Nobbs and Fara Williams. Growing up wanting to be a midfielder, they were the two main ones. I was in awe of them, playing against them thinking it was a dream, and how had I come this far? But it makes you realise anything’s possible if you put your mind to it."
What do you like to do away from football?
"I don’t really get much spare time because I’m studying sports science part-time at university, so whenever I’m not playing football I’m usually at uni or doing uni work. It’s a lot of stress, but I definitely want to stay around sport in the future, so I thought I’d do this to keep my options open."
And finally, what does it mean to you to be a Manchester United player?
"It’s the biggest club in the world. When you wear that badge on your chest, you’re filled with pride. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play here, and when you think of it like that, you’ve got to take every chance you can to do well and win trophies. I definitely feel proud to be here and hopefully I can show what that means to me when I’m playing."
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