Gemma Bonner has played for Manchester City and Liverpool in the Women’s Super League
Gemma Bonner had done everything in England – played for her hometown club, captained Liverpool to back-to-back Women’s Super League titles, won the FA Cup with Manchester City and represented her country.
So she was ready for a new challenge – and when American club Racing Louisville came calling in the summer, Bonner could not turn them down.
“It was totally unexpected. I had just signed a new contract with Manchester City and brought a new house in Leeds,” she told BBC Sport.
“It was something I was never really considering at the time. But once I had a conversation with them, I was surprised at how much it excited me. I saw it as a challenge.”
In a wide-ranging interview with BBC Sport, Bonner, 30, discusses professionalism in the United States, reigniting her international career and the challenges of long-distance travelling.
A 24-hour trip for her debut
Gemma Bonner (left, with Caroline Weir and Laura Coombs) won the FA Cup with Manchester City before joining Racing Louisville
Three days after landing in Louisville after signing for the club, centre-back Bonner was flying to Portland for her debut.
“It’s crazy. It actually took us 24 hours to get there because of the flight delays,” she said. “I’d come from English weather, which wasn’t very hot, and my first game over there was in 34-degree heat. The humidity levels were through the roof.
“It was a real change. You are travelling every week. It almost becomes a way of life and routine that you’re packing, going again and moving. It’s how you manage and prepare that.”
Extensive travel and extreme weather were immediate changes for Bonner as she adjusted to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) but she has also noticed a different atmosphere around women’s football in the US.
“It’s a very different culture but I’ve loved every minute of it so far,” she said. “I didn’t really know too much of what I was throwing myself into. It was a bit daunting. I was quite nervous.
“But I was welcomed in from the very first conversation I had. I felt a part of it. I couldn’t be more grateful to the team, the staff and the environment.”