Demi Stokes: England and Man City defender talks motherhood and Women’s Super League title hopes

Manchester City defender Demi Stokes says Sunday’s Women’s Super League clash against Chelsea is the “biggest game of the season” and will have a huge impact on the title race.

City go into the match two points behind the defending champions as they look to end their seven year run without winning the league.

“It’s massive. It’s the biggest game of the season and it’ll be a big deciding factor,” Stokes told Sky Sports News.

“I think it’s going to go down to the wire so it’s important we go full throttle and put our foot on the gas.

City haven’t won in their last 11 WSL matches against Chelsea, a run that’s lasted almost six years.

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Manchester City left it late to take three points at Brighton during their last WSL match.

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“You do get frustrated and annoyed but you have to park that,” Stokes said. “People are playing very well individually so it’s about reminding yourself about how good we are as a team and that we’re in a good place.

“Obviously, we are aware of how big the game is but we’re looking forward to it. We actually want to keep pushing on, you know, we want to push for the league.”

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Stokes had a summer to remember, not only being part of the England squad that won Euro 2022, but also becoming a mother for the first time with her partner Katie.

Harlen was born a month before last summer’s tournament, six weeks before his due date.

He was born via an emergency Caesarean and had to spend his first week in hospital, all while Stokes was preparing for the most important competition of her career.

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“In the end, it was good that he came early,” says Stokes as she recalls when she was finally able to introduce her son to the rest of the Lionesses at St George’s Park before their first game.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was tough at times. Katie would admit it was hard when I was away and she needed a little help, so it was a struggle.

“Credit to Katie, she did brilliantly because I had to say: ‘I’m going to the Euros, I’ve made the squad but that’s a short term thing and when I get home Harlan will be there.'”

Harlen has also stolen the hearts of Stokes’ City team-mates and is a welcome regular at the club’s training base.

“He comes in on days off, he often fancies breakfast so he comes in for breakfast.

“He loves the mood, it’s something different for him. The girls love having him around, he gets passed around for cuddles. It’s great, the girls love it when he comes in.”

Despite the smiles, Stokes admits being a professional athlete and having a small child crawling around does come with its challenges.

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“You’ve got to be diligent with everything. Diligent with your time, diligent with when you’re getting up, diligent for when you’re getting ready. Don’t get us wrong, we don’t sit down until eight o’clock at night but it’s worth it.

“My partner Katie is great, she’s so understanding. If there’s a game she’s like ‘no, no… I’ll get up with him’, so yeah, it all works.

“I was saying the other day we’ll have to keep the pictures because he probably won’t believe half of this. He’ll be like “Yeah, you really won the Euros?”

Stokes has only started two WSL games during a season interrupted by illness and injury but is hoping to play a huge part in the run-in.

Neither has she given up on being part of this summer’s England squad for the World Cup despite making only two appearances for her country since the Euros.

But with Rachel Daly perhaps being selected as a forward, it appears Stokes’ main competition for the left-back slot is club team-mate Alex Greenwood and Niamh Charles, who will line up for Chelsea on Sunday.

“When you win a tournament you’re motivated to go again, you’re chasing that feeling again.

“I have to be realistic and work hard. I have to control what I can control and see where that takes us.”

Stokes’ next appearance for City will be her 200th, a feat only Steph Houghton and Keira Walsh have achieved.

But personal accolades aren’t motivating the 31-year old as much as trying to win her club’s first WSL title since 2016.

“We’ve not won it for a few years so it’s definitely on our radar,” she said. “It would be incredible, it’s been such a long time. So yeah, we have seven cup finals to go”.

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