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In the summer of 2019, Ebony Salmon was released by Manchester United without being able to make a single appearance for the club.
In the 18 months since the Red Devils let her go, no United player has scored more WSL goals than Salmon for Bristol City.
The forward has scored 10 times for the Robins in 28 league appearances, which is all the more impressive considering they are a struggling Bristol who have won just three games in the past season and a half. The Robins have scored 19 league goals over the past 18 months; Salmon has been responsible for 53% of them.
One of his five league goals during the 2019/20 campaign was against his former employers, Manchester United; spinning Abbie McManus away from United’s defense with her pungent burst of rhythm, before finishing through Mary Earps’ legs from a tight angle. It was classic salmon; electric speed followed by cool composure.
The goal sealed a surprise 1-0 victory over the Red Devils, one of two league victories Bristol recorded throughout the season. Salmon scored the winner both times. The Robins narrowly avoided relegation by virtue of points per game during the 2019/20 campaign. Without Salmon’s goals, they would probably be playing second division soccer right now.
The 20-year-old forward’s form has continued this season with another five league goals, plus a Continental Cup quarter-final double against Aston Villa. She has been rewarded with her first call-up from England in February in place of Nikita Parris, and the Lyon forward was unable to travel back to the UK from France due to quarantine regulations. It’s a huge vote of confidence in the young man given the small team appointed by acting boss Hege Riise, and the unselected attacking talent.
It is not just England who should have Salmon on their radar. Aston Villa’s academy product contract with the Robins expires at the end of the 2020/21 season, and should be the goal of the top WSL teams.
Salmon only turned 20 in January, but he has shown incredible maturity and stamina during his first two seasons at the WSL. Leading the line only in the top flight as a teenager is hugely impressive, but doing it for a team that is routinely on the receiving end of some put-downs takes real mental toughness.
Since joining the club, Bristol have been beaten 11-1 by Arsenal, 6-1 and 9-0 by Chelsea, 8-1 by Manchester City and 6-1 by Manchester United. This could be completely demoralizing and completely frustrating as a forward, watching from the halfway line, hardly sniffing as his team is dismantled.
However, Salmon’s confidence ahead of goal has remained through the roof. She would be an asset to either side of the WSL.
Manchester City have only one forward in the form of Ellen White, who is a completely different type of player than Salmon. The 20-year-old could offer the Citizens another dimension in attack. City have a proud history of bringing in the best and young English talent, with Lauren Hemp making the journey from Bristol to the blue half of Manchester in 2018. Since then, she has established herself as one of the most exciting players in the league. and a full-fledged England international.
Arsenal may have to enter the market for another striker in case there is any truth to the rumors linking Vivianne Miedema with a move to the European giant Lyon. His contract expires in 2022, and the Gunners could use a shot of excitement to revive them.
Rivals Chelsea already have a stacked front line, but they also have a habit of planning for the future and aiming for the best young talent on offer, most recently 21-year-old Niamh Charles and 22-year-old Jessie Fleming.
Having been prolific in front of goal on a Bristol City team that has struggled the entire time it has been there, one can only imagine the damage Salmon could do to a top WSL team.