Natasha Harding's move to United States 'like being in men's game'

Natasha Harding
Natasha Harding (centre) has spent three seasons with Bristol Academy

Bristol Academy striker Natasha Harding says playing in the United States will give her a taste of what it is like to be a professional in the men's game.

The 25-year-old Wales international has signed for Washington Spirit in the National Women's Soccer League.

She will link up with her new club in January on an initial season-long deal.

"It's the closest thing I'll get to being a male, professional footballer and experiencing what they experience," she told BBC Radio Bristol.

The NWSL is the top-level professional women's league in the States, and 15 members of Washington's 2014 squad have international honours.

"Some of my team-mates are in the America squad and have won Olympic gold medals and World Cups," continued Harding.

"The culture out there is all about wanting to improve and that's the biggest thing for me."

From WSL to USA
Natasha Harding - Wales forward left Bristol Academy last month to join Washington Spirit on initial one-year deal
Jess Fishlock - Wales midfielder left Bristol Academy in 2012 for Melbourne Victory before joining Seattle Reign
Kim Little - Scotland midfielder left Arsenal in 2013 to join Seattle Reign
Lianne Sanderson - England striker left Chelsea in 2010 and had spells with Philadelphia Independence, D.C. United Women, Boston Breakers before returning to Arsenal
Jodie Taylor - England forward left Birmingham in 2013 for Sydney FC before signing for Washington Spirit
Kelly Smith - England forward, capped 115 times by her country, left Arsenal Ladies in 1997 and went on to play for five different teams in the US

Harding, who has 38 international caps, left hometown club Cardiff to join Women's Super League side Bristol in 2012.

She played 42 league games for the Vixens, and was part of their FA Women's Cup final squad in 2013.

Harding featured in the club's Champions League campaign this season, in which they beat Barcelona in the last 16.

However, her move to America means she will miss their quarter-final tie against Frankfurt in March.

"I tried to come back on loan," revealed Harding. "But I'm not a Bristol Academy player now and my coach in Washington wanted me for the start of March when our roster starts.

"Unfortunately I will miss that game but what an incredible high to leave on.

"They [Bristol] knew it was always a dream of mine. It was very difficult to leave and it was only a chance like this that would have made me leave."

Natasha Harding
Natasha Harding's last game for Bristol came in their Champions League win over Barcelona

Founded in 2012, Washington are managed by former Chelsea coach Mark Parsons and he took them to the play-off semi-finals of the NWSL this year.

"They're going to develop me as a player and I'll be getting to play against the best players in the world," added Harding.

"It will be completely different to what I'm used to over here but it's part of the experience and part of the reason I wanted to go is the professional lifestyle. I'm excited to start a new adventure."

Top Stories