Janine Beckie has a biblical verse tattooed on the inside of her left wrist. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,” declares Isaiah 40:31. “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
The Manchester City and Canada forward is a committed Christian whose faith has helped shape a career which has carried her from a childhood in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, to Texas, New Jersey and, most recently, north-west England.
“It’s a really, really important part of my life,” says the 27-year-old, who helped Canada secure Olympic gold in Japan this summer. “I was raised as a Christian and it’s about how I operate, how I treat other people and even how I feel about myself. It’s something incredibly important to me and influences everything I do, how I react to things. I’m learning from it, all the time.”
Beckie’s faith helped her cope with the disappointment of exclusion from Canada’s 2015 World Cup squad before she established herself in a side that beat Sweden on penalties in August to secure much-cherished gold.
That victory represented a considerable triumph for Bev Priestman, Canada’s English manager. “Bev had that belief we could go and win a gold medal,” says Beckie. “She understands our group and what we’re capable of. I think Bev’s biggest strength is her ability to use the full squad and she did that really well. She gives us so much belief.
“Tactically, she’s got a great football brain and knows what brings the best out in us. We already had a really strong defensive foundation but Bev’s really pushed us forward on the attacking side while still keeping us tidy at the back.”
As a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Beckie played for the country of her birth until Under-20 level. Although she grew up 20 minutes south of downtown Denver, in the shadow of the Rockies, her parents and three older brothers were born in Canada and retain family ties with their former home on the Saskatchewan prairie.
“I’ve got a special way of feeling both American and Canadian,” says Beckie, who excelled at not merely football but athletics and basketball in Highlands Ranch. “I was born in Colorado but I definitely feel more Canadian. Growing up, I had a lot of Canadian principles and ethics instilled in me. My roots are Canadian.”
Not that an element of American social conditioning has hurt her. “America’s such a cut-throat culture,” she explains. “It’s all about winning, which has its benefits for sure, but Canadians are looser; they want to grow up with a solid, balanced, foundation. Sport’s important but it’s not everything.
“So maybe I bring a difference to my teams because I grew up in that kind of cut-throat, win or die, culture which has really shaped me as an athlete. It’s given me my competitiveness.”
If America can be a sharp-elbowed place, Beckie believes England, and, specifically, Manchester, to be somewhat less diplomatic. “I’ve found British people are a bit more straightforward, more direct,” she says. “I’ve needed a bit thicker skin living over here.
“There’s lots of lovely things about British people but I found the transition to Manchester difficult. It took me a long time to get acclimatised to this culture – and the weather! – but I really love living here now. What’s really great is that you can drive 15 or 20 minutes outside the city centre and you’re in beautiful, amazing, countryside.
“I also enjoy being engulfed in Manchester’s football atmosphere; people are so passionate about the game in this city.”
Intense passions breed often high expectations. City finished second in the WSL last season, two points behind Chelsea, but their haul of seven points from six games this term has dismayed fans before Sunday’s home game against the champions.
If a raft of serious injuries to key players including Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Ellie Roebuck has hardly helped Gareth Taylor’s cause, the presence of 12 senior professionals at the Olympics wrecked the manager’s pre-season.
Beckie, who studied journalism at university in Texas while playing for Houston Dash, is not surprised that, despite last Sunday’s convincing 4-1 win at Leicester, Taylor remains “under the gun”. Yet, without forfeiting her hallmark honesty and openness, she points reporters to the wider context.
“Gareth, like all managers, needs results so he’s under the gun a little bit right now but, as players, we all feel he’s a great guy and a great manager,” she says. “I don’t think he’s lost anyone – we’re all behind him.
“I don’t like excuses and we can’t use the injuries as one; we’ve got more than enough good players to win games but Gareth was put in a difficult position because we literally didn’t have a pre-season. I think anyone in that situation is going to be a little behind.”
It seems Taylor could do worse than reflect on the message contained in Isaiah 40:31. “The wins will come, no doubt about that,” says Beckie. “We’ve done a really good job of sticking together and there’s still a lot of games to go.
“Things can change really quickly. If this happens to us this early in the season, it can easily happen to another team later on. If we get a few consecutive wins things will look really different.”
Get to know the players in England’s top-flight better with our WSL player in focus series. Read all our interviews here.