West Ham United Women winger Izzy Atkinson was thrilled to make her competitive debut in Claret & Blue against Manchester United on Sunday.
The Republic of Ireland international replaced former Shelbourne teammate Jess Ziu in the 59th minute at Chigwell Construction Stadium – her first Women’s Super League (WSL) appearance since she joined the Hammers this summer from Celtic.
After her introduction, Atkinson almost halved the deficit when she saw her effort blocked from inside the penalty area. But Manchester United would leave with all three points after second-half strikes from Hannah Blundell and Lucia Garcia condemned the Hammers to a first defeat of the season.
Despite the result, the 21-year-old was delighted to get a first appearance under new boss Paul Konchesky.
“It’s my dream come true,” said Atkinson. “To play in the best league in the world, to make my debut.
“Obviously, last week I was sick, so it was good to come on and get my debut. To see my best friend come over and clap me off, she comes off as I go on. I am very proud.
“It would be nice to score my debut or to get an assist. I’m gutted but that's football.”
Over 2,000 fans were packed into the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Sunday afternoon, as Atkinson got her first taste of English football, after starring in Scotland last season.
The Hammers No11, who is a regular feature in the Republic of Ireland side after winning her first cap in a 3-1 victory over Portugal in January 2018, was impressed by the support of the “loud” Claret & Blue Army.
“I'm sure all the guys will agree that it keeps us going and keeps us driving,” she added. “We wouldn't be here without them.”
A feature in Celtic’s UEFA Women’s Champions League matches last year, Atkinson will hope to add to her bright cameo on debut when West Ham face Champions League regulars Chelsea on Wednesday evening at Kingsmeadow.
Both Emma Hayes and Konchesky will be looking to record a second win of the league season. And Atkinson is confident the Hammers can topple the defending champions on their own patch.
“If we keep that aggression keep that hard work, anything's possible,” she said, before reflecting on her own battling style of play. “It's in the DNA, the Irish DNA, just to work hard and put your heart on the line - and that's just what I'm always going to do.”
West Ham United Women manager Paul Konchesky was pleased with Atkinson’s contributions from the bench.
“Izzy deserved her chance today," he said. “She’s shown how lively she can be in training since she joined us, and I was really pleased to be able to put her out there.
“It’s nice to give these young players some opportunities, and it shows as a club what we’re trying to do here.”