DEFENDER Jennifer Beattie chose to swap a life in the south of France for dreary Manchester last Christmas, but insists it is the best decision she has ever made.
While England has endured unseasonal downpours this month, those in Montpellier have been topping up their sun tans.
Beattie could have joined them on the beach – it was just a stone’s throw from where she used to live while playing and coaching across the English channel.
But at the turn of the year she decided the Women’s Super League was where she belonged.
Beattie won a clean sweep of domestic honours at former club Arsenal and is determined to try and help her new club Manchester City enjoy similar domination.
“I had a brilliant time in France,” said the 24-year-old.
“I enjoyed learning a different language and I had the opportunity to do some coaching over there. Montpellier was a stunning place to live and work. I was next to the beach and that’s something I’ve never experienced before, so being over there was great for many different reasons.
“But in terms of where it’s best for me to play football, then it’s definitely in England with Manchester City.
“Everything at this club has exceeded my expectations: the staff, the quality of the players and the facilities are second to none. It’s been amazing to be here, so far.”
Popularity of the game has soared on these shores in recent months and we will soon get to see how well-received women’s football is elsewhere when Chelsea and Liverpool begin their respective Champions League campaigns.
And though Beattie admits the French league is a currently a little disjointed, things are certainly moving in the right direction.
“The coach wanted it to be equal with the men at Montpellier,” she added. “He wanted us to be full-time professionals and so he gave us plenty of support.
“But the league is still up and coming, so it’s a real mixed bag. You have got the top four or five teams, then semi-pro sides and then some amateur teams.
“But you have Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain, who have done great things in Europe, so that is a great draw for the league.
“You would go to Lyon and play in front of 20,000, then a week later play an amateur team in front of a couple of hundred people. But it is moving in the right direction.”
It was perhaps always inevitable that Beattie would earn her living playing professional sport.
Dad John, pictured, is a former Scotland and British & Irish Lions rugby player, while older brother Johnnie plays club rugby in the French top-flight and has won 38 international caps. But the Manchester City star says football, not rugby, will always be her first love.
“Rugby was never available for girls to play when I was growing up,” said Beattie.
“But coming from a sporting background I was always encouraged to participate, so I played tennis, hockey, did some athletics, but I really had my heart set on playing football.
“My family have always been very supportive and allowed me to follow my dream.”