There was always something about Izzy Atkinson’s profile that caught the eye. When she signed her first professional contract at Celtic, she was 19, yet by then the skilful winger had been at her Irish club side Shelbourne for four years and at 16 Atkinson had already made the full Irish international team.
My childhood dream I can’t believe it..
Over the moon to have signed my first professional contract! Makes it even more special to be at this club. Absolutely buzzinggg @CelticFCWomen ☘️ https://t.co/T0aJ7GuBb7
— Izzy Atkinson (@izzyatkinson_) February 2, 2021
By the time she’d caught the eye of head coach Fran Alonso and got to Celtic Izzy had already been in a Rush and not just the seaside town in north Co Dublin she was born and raised, her career trajectory to that point mirrored the name of her home town.
It seemed she had packed a lot already into a fledgling career but this was going to be a big step up right? Part-time Irish football to a full-time club, one she and her family had supported will have had added extra pressure, it would take time to settle in a new city, she was also finishing her college course last season, adapt to the high demands, to find her feet. Possibly then a peripheral role for a season or two? Not a bit of it.
Izzy Atkinson made her mark early. Fran Alonso however was careful not to ask too much too soon. Izzy was in and out the team but you got the impression that was an arm around the shoulder from a protective coach, keen not to expose the player to too much too soon. That must have been hard when last season, in a win over Forfar Farmington, Atkinson received a pass from Anna Filbey controlled the ball on her chest and executed an incredible half volley finish to put Celtic two goals up, in a game Celtic won 8-0.
The genie was out the bottle then but still Fran Alonso played the role of the protective parent and managed Atkinson’s game time. But that was never going to last for long as Atkinson has all the tools to make a name for herself.
Early on the energy and endeavour was evident. Soon the peripheral vision, calmness in possession and a willingness to accept the ball confidently under pressure showed signs Celtic had something special. We could see the passing accuracy develop as both short passes and long came to the fore, the ability to take the ball on the half turn opened up the pitch and Atkinson would be on her toes throughout.
Then came the set piece deliveries, perhaps a light hidden under a bushel previously as Lisa Robertson and Anna Filbey claimed seniority. In the absence of both Atkinson has stepped up and it is an area vital to Fran Alonso’s gameplan to utilise the height and strength in his team from dead ball situations, indeed there are few teams who offer the level of threat from such situations as Celtic and this season Izzy Atkinson plays a vital role.
— Celtic FC Women (@CelticFCWomen) August 22, 2021
Atkinson may have felt with the signing of seven new players in the summer transfer window that a fight may be on to get in the team, instead the shirt is hers and the newbies will be the ones having to dislodge Celtic’s rising Irish star. If any fancied their chances that counter attacking run at breakneck speed, with incredible close control at pace, before the perfectly weighted delivery for Rachel Donaldson to score against FC Minsk in the Champions League qualifiers would have put every player on notice. Atkinson may have introduced herself as a player last season with that goal at Forfar but she arrived with that moment of brilliance in Trondheim.
And there have been no signs now of Fran Alonso protecting Izzy Atkinson at the weekend. In a game where new signing Charlie Wellings gained most of the plaudits, Atkinson was superb throughout against Aberdeen. Even surrounded by the new signings everyone was keen to see, Atkinson was the player who constantly caught the eye.
This weekend is the big test of course. Big players perform in big games and they don’t come much bigger than 14-in-a-row Glasgow City, but these are the games Celtic are going to have to win if title ambitions are to be realised and these are the games where Izzy Atkinson can continue to shine. The packed defence of Aberdeen will be replaced with a more open game. City will commit more players forward than the newly promoted Dons did, and as we saw against Minsk, give Atkinson the space to run into on the counter attack and Celtic have a lethal weapon in their armoury.
She was in Rush when she started her journey and she’s been in a rush ever since. There is no doubt Izzy Atkinson is moving through the gears as a Celtic player and you get the impression her race has just started.
READ THIS…“Psychologically that is something that could hurt them,” Alonso eyes Celtic win over Champions Glasgow City
— Celtic FC Women (@CelticFCWomen) September 8, 2021