‘I’ve been patient’ – Jess Park ready to shine after biding time with Lionesses

<span>Jess Park training with <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a> at St George’s Park for the Euro 2025 qualifiers against <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Sweden;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Sweden</a> on Friday and the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday.</span><span>Photograph: Barrington Coombs/Getty Images</span>

As Jess Park glided over the Etihad turf, taking centre stage for Manchester City in last month’s derby, a captivated Sarina Wiegman watched on, the cameras occasionally panning to the delighted England manager in the stands.

It was hard not to be impressed as Park, a lifelong City fan, produced one of the performances of the season. With two goals and an assist, she was the catalyst for the hosts’s win in midfield with a commanding display on and off the ball.

It will have, however, come as little surprise. Since the new year, the 22-year-old has proved herself to be one of the most dynamic players in the WSL with a series of performances that have catapulted her into the headlines. Her displays have earned her high praise from her manager at City, Gareth Taylor, Wiegman and teammates alike and seen her return to the England fold.

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Park clearly feels at home as she sits in front of the media at St George’s Park. “It feels amazing at the moment,” she says. “I’ve been very patient. I went out on loan and got some experience last year, and I have been able to come back and finally get an opportunity to show a bit about me.”

That patience has been crucial. Park’s talent is unquestionable but her journey has not been linear. She broke through at City during the 2019-20 season, having joined the club aged 16, but her chances have been limited until recent months. Last year proved a similar situation for her internationally after she missed out on going to the World Cup as a standby player due to a shoulder injury.

A loan spell at Everton last season proved crucial as she amassed regular minutes. She was rewarded with her England debut against Japan in November 2022 which she marked with a goal. “[Going on loan] was such a big decision to make,” Park states. “Obviously, I want to play at City. I want to be playing every minute. But there are reasons why sometimes that doesn’t happen … I faced all the teams in the WSL at Everton so I feel more than ready and capable.”

Alex Greenwood, her teammate with both City and England, has taken Park under her wing and has seen her confidence grow. “I think that comes from experience and going on loa,” says Greenwood. “You’re in your comfort zone when you are at the club you’ve been at all your life … There was probably a lot of pressure on Jess at Everton to deliver every weekend and it was probably not something she’s had before.

“As soon as I signed for City, I just clicked with Jess. There was just something about her that I loved. I loved the way she was so exciting on the ball. She had loads of potential but loads of things that she needed to improve off the pitch … I thought if I can help her now, then the journey is a little bit easier.”

Park herself recognises how far she has come in the last 18 months. “My game awareness off the ball [has definitely improved] as well my confidence on the ball,” she reflects. “I definitely feel more confident on and off the pitch. I feel like if I have a point to make then I do want to [say] it because everyone’s point is valued.”

She has also added versatility to her game with a positional switch that has seen her move from a winger to a more central role, something that should stand her in good stead given the wealth of attacking midfield players England have at their disposal.

She is an example of the success of the England youth programme having represented her country at every age group. Emma Coates, the England Under-23s head coach, is not surprised by her success: “I remember watching Jess play – she played for York Centre of Excellence and I was at Leeds Centre of Excellence and every time we played them, they’d go 3-0 up because Jess played; they’d bring her off and go 3-3; they put her back on and it would finish 5-3. You could see her talent from such a young age.”

For now, it is about continuing to develop the consistency she says Wiegman has talked to her about. Establishing herself as an England regular is the next step, but Park clearly has her feet firmly on the ground when it comes to the Lionesses. “I don’t feel that I could ever feel like it’s normal [being here] because being called up is such an honour,” she says. “It’s always been my dream so every time I see that I’ve been called up, it’s amazing.”