Long considered one of England's most promising female players, Natasha Dowie finally fulfilled the potential in 2013 – and is aiming for even bigger things next year.
Impressive at youth level for England and constantly on the fringes of the senior squad while at Everton LFC, Dowie's move across Merseyside 12 months ago to join Liverpool LFC proved the catalyst to an upsurge in form. A revamped Liverpool side won the 2013 FA Women's Super League a year after finishing bottom and Dowie was the division's 13-goal top scorer, capped by receiving the Players' Player of the Year prize at last month's FA Women's Football Awards
"I'm really pleased to get the Golden Boot and to get the Players' Player is a massive achievement for me," Dowie told UEFA.com. "I really appreciated everyone that voted for me. I really have been working hard on my individual game and it has been a dream 2013. To win the league with Liverpool and pick up these individual awards, it's been a perfect year."
At 25, Dowie is now becoming the player many thought she could be when leading England's line to the 2007 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final. Indeed, having missed out on the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 squad, she has taking part in all four of their subsequent FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers, scoring twice. She puts it down to the full-time training regime Liverpool manager Matt Beard introduced when building their title-winning squad, as well as support from the men's club.
"Just training full-time at Liverpool rather than training two times a week, having the support from the men with regards to the professionalism, the facilities and just that confidence the club have given us," Dowie said. "We are just going from strength to strength and I think the men were willing to invest a lot in this football team and we repaid them by winning this title and hopefully we can win more titles next year."
Liverpool's title has earned them a UEFA Women's Champions League debut for 2014/15 and Dowie, who helped Everton to the 2010/11 quarter-finals and scored against FCR 2001 Duisburg, believes they can immediately challenge. "I played in Europe for Everton and it's a great tournament to be involved in," she said. "With the squad we've got at Liverpool I really think we can go far in that. Hopefully strengthen the squad with two of three new faces, win more trophies and then focus on Champions League."
First they must defend their WSL title in the face of a strong bid from newcomers Manchester City LFC, who with several months to go to the new season have already signed England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Dowie's former Everton colleages Toni Duggan and Jill Scott, with more to come. "Bring it on!" Dowie said. "You want the league to be competitive because it is good for you as an individual player and for the women's game in England."
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