Sunday’s Barclays WSL encounter between Arsenal and Manchester City went the way of the Gunners (2-1), after City had threatened to ram home their case as title contenders, following the previous weekend’s win over holders Chelsea. While the visitors’ 14-match unbeaten run in the league came to an end, the game did see one impressive pattern continue.
Bunny Shaw gave Gareth Taylor’s side the early lead, as she glanced home superbly for her 27th goal (a league-leading 16 in the WSL) of a sensational season for the Jamaica ace. The 26-year-old former Bordeaux striker spoke to us in a one-on-one at the end of her debut season in England, for #SK73 (May/June 2022), which we share with you here now…
You do have family in the city but how much of Manchester’s Jamaican/Caribbean community have you been able to experience so far? Does anywhere especially feel like a piece of home?
There’s a Caribbean restaurant a few blocks from my home, it’s called Sunrise. I think Demi (Stokes) recommended it, so I went there, and I’ve been going there ever since! We talk about football and just life in general, what it’s like for them being here, compared to Jamaica. So, when I feel like I want to go and have a chit-chat, I can definitely stop by Sunrise.
Is it correct you actually spent a few years in England when you were young?
Yeah, my grandma lived in Oxford, so that’s where we were for most of the time. I don’t remember a lot, because I was only about one year old leading up to it, I just knew I was in England.
There’s been a Jamaica flag in the crowd at home games. Are they family/friends of yours or just regular fans?!
I think it’s fans! I was a bit surprised when I saw it at first. Last year, when I think we were walking out of the tunnel, I looked up and I saw the flag, and I thought it was pretty cool. It was a good gesture from them, welcoming me to Manchester.
The WSL is different to the French league and U.S. college soccer (Bunny previously played at Eastern Florida State College and the University of Tennessee). What have you got better at since you arrived?
For me coming here, I think I’ve definitely improved my technical aspect, because our style of play is keeping the ball and fine-tuning the plays, basically. When I was in France, for me, it was just about playing and scoring goals. Here, I still do the same, but it’s been mostly about getting more technical, because obviously I’m physical and I can run around, but technically, I knew that I wanted to take my game to the next level. I think coming here definitely improved that.
BUNNY SHAW scores goals! 🎯
— Barclays Women’s Super League (@BarclaysWSL) April 2, 2023
How happy have you been with your first season, on a personal level? What has also been hard?
I would say it’s being involved in the team, contributing as much as I can. I think I’ve done that well, compared to the minutes I’ve been playing, so I think my goals per minute is definitely good. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. Something I think I’ve struggled with a little bit is being away from family, especially during difficult times. I think apart from that, it’s been great.
So far this year, you’ve travelled with the national team to Kingston (Jamaica), Grenada and the Cayman Islands. When you come back to England, do you need to sleep for a week because of the jet lag?!
One year! It’s very difficult, because this last FIFA window for example, I went to Jamaica, went to Cayman, back to Jamaica, then to London, took the train to Manchester, then the next day took the bus and played a game the next day; I felt like I had lead in my feet when I was running! I think that’s one of the most difficult parts, travelling on one side of the world and then coming back and trying to hit the ground running, but it’s something that I’ve embraced and I’ve known.
You’ve mentioned following City when you were growing up, which players do you first remember liking for the club?
I think growing up, it was always Vincent Kompany. It’s a big guy, strong, so they would always talk about him making tackles and stuff like that, because in Jamaica, they like when defenders make tackles. Having heard the name Vincent Kompany in my ears constantly, I’m like, ‘Who is Vincent Kompany?!’ I went to look and he played for Manchester City, so that’s one of the players who attracted me to it, just by hearing people talk about him.
On the women’s side, the opportunities have not traditionally been there back home, and it’s really your era that are paving the way. Were there any Jamaican men’s players you were a fan of, maybe in the Premier League?
I like Ricardo Fuller; he was a big thing back home. Hearing about Ricardo Fuller playing in the Premier League (for Portsmouth and Stoke City), he was the biggest name for me growing up. Then the closer I got towards becoming a professional, it was Raheem Sterling.
Back home, ‘street ball/road ball’ is big. Is your style of play today pretty much from that, or did you reach a point where coaches started to alter it?
For me, it’s a bit of both. In Jamaica, playing in the streets, it’s all about freestyle. It’s all about entertaining the crowd and doing your thing, it’s all about just fun. I was a midfielder, and when I got to college, my coach told me he would want me to become a striker. We went back and forth countless times, and I then accepted it. I told him I didn’t know anything, and he’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ We spent time and time and time on it, and eventually, I got used to it. He then told me to add my freestyling in, so the two just came together perfectly.
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People know you as Bunny but does anyone still call you Khadija? If you hear that name, does it feel like being in trouble with a teacher or a parent?!
It’s the weirdest thing for me! Even when I was in college, it was Bunny. If someone calls me by my right name, it’s the weirdest thing for me, I don’t know why. Even my mum calls me Bunny!
Watching you in the (2019) World Cup, it looked like it was mostly just you playing up front, and it was really hard to fight against that calibre of defenders (for Brazil, Italy and Australia), especially when you’re new to that level. Did it feel like that?
Yeah, first and foremost, for the group, it was just an experience, because we were one of the youngest teams going into the World Cup. As a young girl growing up in Jamaica, you always hear ‘just get to the World Cup’, so when you get there, you think ‘oh, let me see what the experience is like’, knowing that we also have games to play. When you try so hard to get to a level, and you get to that level, you’re like, ‘Wow, this is how it feels.’ It was that type of energy for my national team. I think with that being said, having inexperienced players, it was very difficult for me, for sure.
The Reggae Girlz squad has had some new faces come in recently, with the English-born players like Becky Spencer, Jade Bailey, Drew Spence. Has anyone in training left you thinking ‘she’s got some definite skills’?
I think most of them! Because they come into the national team, they want to show themselves, they want to prove themselves to the coach; them doing that will then automatically bring out the best in everybody. I would say Drew (Spence). She plays at Chelsea, I play at City, two different styles of play, but I remember October, when we played Costa Rica, she’s like a no-look passer, and I didn’t know that! When I saw that for the first time, that stood out for me, and we laughed about it a few times. And (goalkeeper) Becky (Spencer), she’s good with her feet as well.
You had two years at Bordeaux before City, how did France change you?
I think culturally, because France kind of shocked me. The language, the food they eat, the times they eat; it was just in general the complete opposite to what I’m used to. I got somewhat used to it towards the end of my contract! France definitely helped me culturally, because at the end of my career, I can look back and say, ‘I experienced that in France.’
Are your family able to come to the (2022) FA Cup final? Do they watch your games back home on the app?
Yeah, my family back home in Jamaica watch on the FA Player app; they know if a game’s going to be live without me even telling them because they’re constantly on it! They also watch all the other players and they’re familiar with them. Here, my family try to come to as many games as possible. Now that I’m in the final, I’m sure they’ll probably take a trip down.
You’ve had a lot of praise in recent years from people all over. Is there anybody you’ve met or spoken to that you were slightly star-struck by?
Yeah, I’ve had quite a few, ever since we qualified for the World Cup, but I would say Raheem Sterling. I remember I was doing gym one day, and then when I looked up, I just saw him. We’d spoke on the phone but I’d never met him in person, so when I came here and met him, he was talking and I was just looking at him like ‘it’s Raheem Sterling!’ But then our relationship got better and now he’s my mentor, if I have anything. I can call him and say, ‘Hey, this is what happened, what do you think?’
What else outside football do you enjoy, when you go home from training or when you have a day off?
I’m a family person. My family is literally just five minutes from me, so most of the time when I have my day off or I’m feeling down, having a bad day, I go hang out with them and they definitely help to cheer me up. I’m close with my family and I always try to spend as much time with them as possible.
Finally, if you could take one attribute from a City teammate to add on to your own game, what are you going for?!
Hempo (Lauren Hemp)’s speed!
Interview by @chris_brookes