Canada’s Janine Beckie has become one of the national team’s most important players as the Canadian women prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in August.
And the 26-year-old attacking midfielder believes her time at Manchester City is a big reason for her status on the national squad.
“It’s been an incredible three seasons (at Manchester City),” said Beckie to reporters Monday, before Canada’s 2-0 friendly win over England Tuesday. “I think when I look at who I was as a player when I got there versus where I am now, the change has been massive for me.”
Beckie enjoys the challenging environment of English club football
Beckie admits earning playing time for the English Women’s Super League club hasn’t been easy. But she believes the fight for top-flight match minutes has helped her recent development and improved her performances for the national side.
“It’s an environment where I’m constantly challenged,” she said. “And an environment where everyone’s seen that if I’m not at my best, I’m not on the pitch. So for me that’s been the biggest thing, is having that consistency every singe day.
“And it’s difficult to be in an environment where you are competing all time and not seeing a lot to game time and then coming to an environment where I’m expected to be at my best because that’s what the national team expects. That’s been a big challenge for me and I’ve really appreciated that challenge.”
Beckie’s improved technical ability and growing confidence
Beckie now concedes her technical ability needed improving when she arrived in England from New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC in 2018. But playing in England’s top women’s league and in the UEFA Women’s Champions League has given her game the boost she wanted.
“I think also, just being surrounded by world-class players every day and being challenged by them in training,” she said. “I think the biggest thing for me is my technical ability has been more consistent over the last, probably, two seasons.
“I’d say my first season I struggled a bit with that. But as you are engulfed in that kind of culture day in and day out it becomes second nature. So I’ve seen a big change in my game in that respect. It’s given me loads of confidence when I come into this environment.”
Canada’s new coach
Bev Priestman took over as the women’s national team coach in 2020. And Beckie has nothing but praise for her new gaffer.
“Bev’s been fantastic,” said Beckie. “She’s come in and been really, really confident leading this team. I think that’s exactly what we need.”
Priestman hasn’t asked Beckie to change her game in any major way. But she has made some formation adjustments since coming in as coach.
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“Structurally we’re playing a little different and that allows me to operate in the midfield and out wide,” said Beckie. “She’s change that a little bit and that’s obviously asked more of me from a technical perspective to help our build-up.”
And with those structural adjustments, Beckie believes Priestman is simply asking the squad, and Beckie herself, to play to their strengths – something Beckie thinks Canada hasn’t always done.
“I think she’s also honed in on just, we need to take advantage of the pace we have up top,” said Beckie. “So obviously I fall in to that category along with the likes of Jordyn (Huitema), Deanne (Rose) and Nichelle (Prince). We’ve got a lot of pace in the front line. And I think we’ve been guilty of not taking advantage of that as a much as we can.
“She’s come in and done a brilliant job. You know, we’re playing really good soccer right now.”