Kirk and Hemp call time on their stay at the club...

THERE was a major shock last week at Bristol City Women when it was announced that head coach Willie Kirk had decided to leave the club.

Not only that, but England under-19 forward Lauren Hemp has also departed and joined Super League One runners-up Manchester City.

Hemp was named England Young Player of the Year in September 2017 and PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year in April.

This double blow has come as a complete surprise to the club, with a statement saying: “Bristol City can confirm that Willie Kirk will leave the club with immediate effect.”

Kirk, who has been in charge of the Vixens since April 2015, said: “This has been a very difficult decision to make, but I feel after three years at the club, it is time to seek a new challenge. I have loved working with all the staff and players throughout my time here and trying to play a brand of football that was worthy of the fantastic support that we always received.”

Kirk oversaw an eighth-place finish in the WSL One last season, which consisted of five wins from 18 league matches.

On joining Manchester City Hemp said: “I’m very excited to be here, it’s a massive opportunity for me and I just can’t wait to get started.

“It’s always been Man City I’ve wanted to go to and to have this opportunity is a dream come true and to have it so early, I just can’t wait.

“The facilities are amazing, the atmosphere seems so nice, and the environment and all the people and players… they’re all my role models and for them to now be my teammates I just can’t wait.”

“Watching the likes of Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck getting first team minutes helped me make that decision to come here.

“On training with the current Manchester City squad [I’m looking forward to working with] the moreexperienced players, like Steph [Houghton], Nikita Parris, because they’re the ones from a young age I’ve looked up to, want to be like, and now to actually be on the pitch with them each week will be an honour for me.”

On her goals, Hemp said: “Short-term, I want to get game time and long-term, on the international stage, I hope to break into the under-20s and then hopefully the seniors as well and to keep enjoying my football, keep playing and wanting to improve.

“I’m very fortunate that Man City have recognised this and have picked me to hopefully move the club forward and help them improve as much as possible.”

Kirk’s departure follows the news that Yeovil Town boss Jamie Sherwood was also standing down. These could prove to be difficult positions to fill as neither club has a bottomless pit of money to attract the best.

Sherwood, head of football at Cardiff and Vale College took charge in 2014 and led the club to promotion to the top flight with the 2016 WSL Two title.

Sherwood said at the time: “Every decision that I’ve ever made has always been for the stability, growth and development of the club and this decision can be treated no differently.

“It is important that the club has an idea of my future plans as this can now create the timing for a new appointment that can still assess the current playing group as well as the support which is around them.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.