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Published 03 April 2024 7 min read
England Women's Senior Team

My journey: Khiara Keating’s grassroots story

Written by:

Khiara Keating

Khiara Keating’s journey from playing grassroots football for her mum’s team in Ardwick to becoming an England international

When it comes to my football journey, it really was a family affair.

I started playing football when I was around three or four when I used to go to watch my brother’s games for Stockport County, kicking the ball on the sidelines with the other siblings on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

There are a few of us in my family who got into football. My oldest brother is 26, I have another brother who is 24, then there is me who is 19, my sister is 18, I have another 16-year-old sister and then my baby sister is 10.

Turning up every week to watch my brothers play football, meant I was around it constantly and naturally you are then going to want to be a footballer or do something around sport.

My mum used to drag me to training, so I had no choice but to fall in love with it!

But no, my brothers are so strong and so driven, and when you see that, it kind of rubs off on you.

I started playing football for a team the week before my sixth birthday.

My mum used to make a team up of all the kids in the local community and she used to hire a mini-bus and go around at 7am on a Saturday morning to everyone's house to pick everyone up.

So my first team was actually my mum’s team, Ardwick FC!

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I remember we were so bad the whole year and then when the tournament came around at the end of the season, we won it on Rock, Paper, Scissors because the penalties were going on too long!

The area we grew up in wasn’t the best and some of the kids would turn to crime, plus my mum didn’t have the best upbringing herself, going in and out of care, so I think she saw a gap in the community and she wanted to help because she is a social worker so it is built in her to want to help kids.

She wanted to do her bit for her community and she is still really respected in the area because of what she did.

Not many people can say their mum was their first football coach! She played such a big role there and even things like cooking me healthy meals so I have the right things in my body to go to perform.

My other sisters all played football too so I don’t think she has watched a soap opera in ten years because she has been so busy running us all around the country.

She is superwoman! I don’t know how she does it. Some people struggle with one kid and she had six who she used to run around so I think she is amazing and I have to thank her for everything.

Her weeks were stressful! In the week, we would have dinner on the go to training, drop my brother off at Stockport before we would go to Manchester United, then someone else would have to drop my brother off to United to meet us. 

Khiara Keating broke into the England senior squad in late-2023 at the age of just 19
Khiara Keating broke into the England senior squad in late-2023 at the age of just 19

At the weekends, she somehow made it work, whether that was asking someone to pick one of us up or asking if we could stay at a friend’s while she came back from getting one of us. Somehow she managed to do it all.

My step-dad played a big role as well as he would drive us around too and then we had my older brothers and my grandma so the family unit was really close. I guess we had to be because we had so much going on! But it definitely made us all closer.

We lived in Ardwick for 11 years – where I would often play with my friends from the community on Ardwick Green – and then the summer we moved into a bigger house, was the summer that I signed for Manchester City and their training ground was two minutes away.

It was completely random that it worked out like that but I guess it was meant to be!

I had played for my mum’s team for a year before I signed for Manchester United. You were allowed to still play for other teams so I also used to play for a boys’ team, Reddish Vulcans, which was the same club Phil Foden had played for.

Playing boys’ football is a challenge mentally and physically because generally they are faster and stronger but it becomes an ego thing where you are trying to prove people wrong and then when you do, it gives you so much confidence.

Khiara Keating's beaming smile has become a regular sight during recent England senior camps
Khiara Keating's beaming smile has become a regular sight during recent England senior camps

I was the only girl and I had such great team-mates because they were all so welcoming and they would stick up for me as well if anyone said anything.

The tournaments in the summer were such special memories. You would go jumping on the bouncy castle and get your hair sprayed; they are memories I will cherish forever and no doubt think about when I go to major tournaments!

I stopped playing boys’ football when I joined Manchester City because I went from playing one night a week at Manchester United and once at Reddish Vulcans to doing four nights a week with the City academy.

I had played one half in goal and one half on field for Manchester United and it wasn’t until I joined Manchester City that I stuck to being a goalkeeper. Although I would still play as a striker for my school team!

I was fortunate my upbringing at an early age meant I always wanted to play football.

My message to kids who are thinking of taking up football or are maybe already playing football is to just believe. Anything is possible. Literally anything.

When I was sitting in my three-bedroom house with eight of us living there, I never thought that I would one day be sitting here as an England international.

Belief is such a big thing and it really can take you a long way.

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