Manchester City goalkeeper Khiara Keating has described her breakthrough 2023-24 season to date as “surreal” as the 19-year-old prepares for Sunday’s historic derby at Old Trafford.
Having previously made only a handful of first-team appearances for City and had loan spells with AFC Fylde and Coventry United, Keating has played every minute for Gareth Taylor’s side in the Women’s Super League so far this term and also received a maiden call-up to the senior England squad.
She said: “I don’t think it was expected and I feel like just getting thrown in there was quite good.
“It’s been so surreal, I didn’t expect to come in and play so many games, especially against teams like Chelsea and Arsenal.
“You learn something new from every game and gain more experience the more you play, so it’s been good to get out there and get some minutes. The more you play the more confident you get.”
On her England experience, during which she was an unused substitute for a Nations League double-header against Belgium, she said: “It’s anyone’s dream if you’re from England to make it to the seniors.
“I feel like it was just, again, so surreal, but the girls were lovely. Training standards were so high and it was a great experience to just be around (that).”
It has not all been highs for Keating, who was among the WSL player of the month nominees for October after keeping three clean sheets – in City’s 2-1 loss at Arsenal on November 5, having saved a penalty, she saw a late mistake punished as Stina Blackstenius netted the hosts’ winner.
Regarding that game, she said: “I think it’s just things to take away. It was a mistake (and) in that moment I felt like the world was going to end!
“It’s one of those things, it’s football and it happens. The support from the girls, Gareth and the coaching staff around me was unreal, to bounce back and make sure I was ready for the next game.
“Everyone learns from their mistakes, and there’s things like ‘do I come out or do I stay’ since that I’ve reflected on. Next time the decision hopefully is better.”
Next on the agenda for City, beaten 1-0 at home by Brighton last weekend, is a landmark clash with Manchester United – the club Ardwick-born Keating was with from the age of six to 11 before moving on to City.
It will be the first WSL Manchester derby to be played at Old Trafford, and she said: “When you’re from Manchester and you know the history behind it, when you’re home-grown – it’s that little bit (more) special. I can’t wait and just hope we deliver on the day.”
It has been quite a journey from her United days as a child to facing them on Sunday for Keating, who added: “I don’t think when I was a kid I ever expected to get as far as I did, but I think I had the right people around me and the right coaches and friends.
“I’m here where I am now and I’m so grateful to be in the position I am and I think the only way is up now.”
At a time when diversity in the women’s game continues to be a considerable talking point, England’s October camp saw Keating express her happiness to have the opportunity to inspire people and be a role model.
And she said ahead of Sunday’s match: “It’s always an honour, and always at the back of your mind, that you’re inspiring anyone.
“I feel like the position where we (her and her City team-mates) are, we can inspire so many kids, and coming from an ethnic minority background – it just gives them the extra push to believe they can do it too.”
City announced on Saturday that Keating had signed a three-year contract extension, committing her to the club until 2027.