Fresh off of firing Bristol City to the Championship title, we caught up with club Golden Boot winner, Shania Hayles, to find out about her journey in the game so far, the importance of family, and playing in front of big crowds.

The 22/23 season saw Bristol City win their first ever league title and, with it, promotion back to the WSL. And a big part of that success came thanks to the goals scored by Shania Hayles, who joined the club from Aston Villa back in 2022. It was a measured move from both sides, with Hayles having tasted Championship success with Villa, and she repaid the faith by becoming the club’s top scorer for the season.

hayles 8-min.jpg
hayles 18-min.jpg

With a crack at the Women’s Super League now on the cards for the 23/24 campaign, we caught up with Hayles in and around her current home city, chatting with the striker about the prospect of playing in the top flight, the women’s team featuring regularly at Ashton Gate, and the idea of being a role model to the next generation.

So, it’s been a journey. From when you started playing football to where you are now, a golden boot winning, promotion achieving professional… can you talk us through that?

Yeah, I remember when my mum first took me to a football camp when I was five years old. I didn’t know too much about the game or have any idea it could lead to somewhere like this. Women’s football as a whole didn’t have much exposure then. I just enjoyed that moment and it set the fire in me to want to go back…so I did. From there I was told about an all-girls team and from then, I never looked back really.

To be picked up and put into the professional game, how would you describe that part of the journey?

I’d say it’s not been an easy ride. I’ve had to put a lot of hard work in. Firstly, to get into an academy, that was a real achievement for me. I only joined an academy when I was 15 years old so if you think about how young kids are scouted now, some might say I got into the more serious side of the game quite late, but I adapted well. I got my first pro deal when I was 18 so I knew I was on the right path. It’s not without its ups and downs and I’m proud of making every step up I have.

hayles 19-min.jpg
hayles 5-min.jpg

When Bristol City came calling last year with all eyes on achieving promotion this year, it’s obviously something you had already achieved, so how did you feel about facing that challenge again?

It was one of the reasons I came here specifically really. I came from the WSL and could see that I could help Bristol City get back up to that division. Ultimately, the WSL is where I think I belong but the challenge was an exciting part of the opportunity. The manager’s aims for this season and beyond were what really drew me towards the club, obviously having got the job done it feels good.

How does it feel to have met the expectation, as sometimes being the favourites for promotion can actually add more pressure?

It’s not been an easy season by any means. We’ve been chased by clubs every week, so we’ve always had other teams chasing our heels. It’s been tough and we’ve lost a few games, but we’ve won a lot more. I think the promotion feels so good because we as a club may have been in a darker place having not achieved promotion previously, but to now stand strong as a unit, it can only lead to even better things in the future. The competition is all part of it and ultimately, we’ve thrived this season and it’s brought us all together.

Let’s talk about you specifically. You seem like a creative person ­­–­ how would you describe yourself?

I’d say I’m my own person. I like being creative, I love fashion. Not in a throwaway sense, but I really enjoy the visual side of it. I like to see and observe what other people are wearing but I also like to be myself and a bit different. I like patterns, colours and layering of clothes – I enjoy that side of it – putting a look together. I enjoy photography, seeing scenery as well. I like to take pictures of places I go. I’ve got a collection of tattoos as well that all mean something to me – I’d like a few more!

hayles 11-min.jpg
hayles 7-min.jpg

Have you found that these are shared interests you have with a lot of other players, or do you see yourself as quite unique in that sense?

I think there’s a few of my friends who have similar interests to me. Some play football, some don’t. I’ve got a friend back home who is a photographer, so I like to take inspiration from them too. Seeing more people, getting exposure to new things – I think that’s important to help expand your mind when it comes to style. I don’t go out of my way to be different; I think that just comes from how you explore your interests and then put that inspiration into your style.

It’s so important to be able to express yourself. Are you someone who is able to do that on the pitch as well as off it?

Yeah definitely. My playing game is obviously based around scoring goals but there’s also a bit of flare, a bit of confidence to take people on and things like that. I probably do the same when it comes to how I present myself. It’s important to have that confidence. I like how I dress, what I wear, how I put myself out there.

Different kind of footwear…how does that golden boot feel?

Yeah, golden boot feels nice! Obviously coming to Bristol and to add goals to my game and contribute to the team has felt good. The promotion is ultimately what feels best. That was the nicest thing to achieve this season but to have a golden boot to go alongside my medal feels very good.

hayles 15-min.jpg
hayles 3-min.jpg

Does a season like this reset your aspirations?

It’s going to be a hard season next season; we have all the big teams to compete against but that’s what we’ll be doing, competing. We’re not just happy to be there. We don’t want to come back down. I think if we get a good pre-season under our belts then it’ll be an exciting season and I’m confident we’ll do well. Being in the WSL is a dream in itself, so realising that and playing that would be great. I want to achieve on the international stage too. Winning titles, Champions Leagues – that’s all part of the dream.

How will you savour the season you’ve just had? Are you someone to sit back and take stock?

I’m quite a laid-back person. I’m not a party animal. I think it’s important to celebrate, and we did that after the promotion as a group. For me, having a few weeks off to rest up, enjoy the downtime and then get back into it, fresh, that’s most important. I want to prepare for next season already and I think by having some time to enjoy now, I’ll be doing just that.

What are Bristol City like as a club? How do you find the city? You’ve gone from playing in front of maybe 500 people at the start of the season to 10,000 at the end of it – some wild ride, that…

The city is amazing. It’s an artistic and creative city. The graffiti here is not like anything else. It’s inspiring to drive around the city and see so much painting, so many murals. I really like that. The club is in a great place. It’s been a big year. To be able to win the league title at Ashton Gate, those fans really helped us get that over the line. Having so many fans there, it meant a lot. With this promotion we’re now going to be playing all our home games at Ashton Gate, hopefully we can get numbers like we did for that game, going forward now we’re in the WSL.

hayles 17-min.jpg
hayles 13-min.jpg

Playing in front of crowds like that, it puts you nicely in the spotlight. How do you like the sound of being an idol or role model to many?

Yeah, it feels special to see so many people, boys and girls at our games. Fans stick around after games and we can chat to them. I think that really makes what we do rewarding in a different way. The closeness with the fans is unique. Obviously only a small selection can go and make it professionally so you feel grateful to be on the pitch, but equally as grateful for the support. I hope we can show people, kids who were like me, that this is possible.

Who were your role models growing up? What personalities did you take inspiration from?

Growing up, I liked Rachel Yankey. We play similar positions on the pitch. She also looked similar to me. It showed a younger me that there’s others like you who can do this. She gave me hope. She played for England and Arsenal and hit all the heights. She was big for me in the beginning. Then you see people now who are having an impact on all parts of the game, people like Marcus Rashford…I’m a United fan…so I have a lot of time for him. It’s things like his celebration which I think cut through and while small in gesture have a big impact.

Mentioning Rashford, obviously the work he has done on and off the pitch to perfect his game is one thing, but what he has done for people in the community is life changing. Does having an impact that way appeal to you too?

This season I’ve been totally focused on achieving our goal on the pitch. I think it’s so important to inspire the next generation and also help out people who are less fortunate. We are lucky to be in the jobs we are and I’ll never take that for granted. So, anything I can do to help others, I’ll do in a heartbeat. We do things currently like a lot of player appearances which is nice. You can see that having an impact. I only want to do more of that kind of thing.

hayles 10-min.jpg
hayles 12-min.jpg

Family, having close relationships with people, it’s so important. Who is important in your life that you turn to when you need support?

Anyone that knows me, knows that my mum is my world. It’s been hard to move away and live away from her this season, but she’s been down a lot to watch my games. She’s always looking to support me, whether that's a phone call or prepping meals, she does so much for me. A lot of what I want to achieve is based around wanting to make her proud. The promotion was nice in that way – she was there to see it. My family have done so much for me, driven me all over the place so that I can do this and get to this level. I owe them a lot.

From your experience, is there anything you would change about the game?

Obviously, growing the game and getting more fans in to watch games is one thing. We saw a few weeks ago, Arsenal selling out The Emirates. As a player, all I want to do is play in front of big crowds. It’s pretty to the point, but being paid a little more. Ultimately, while the game isn’t as big as the men’s side, we still do the same thing. We deserve reward for the hard work that goes in. I think we also shouldn’t feel embarrassed to say that we’d like more money. It’s not a greed thing. We have lives to lead as professional athletes, this is our career and we also need to have a bit more security for the future. We need the fact that one day we may want to go and have a family to be brought into consideration. Ultimately, we want more exposure, more games on the TV etc. When people watch our games, I think we’re constantly surprising people with how entertaining it is.

Next year then. What would success look like for you?

Goals firstly. They help me when it comes to confidence. Bristol City brought me in to score goals and I did that so to do that as we step up is what I’m aiming towards. We have such a good team chemistry so, again, to have that next year would be great for us. None of us want to go back down, so for all of us it’s about staking a claim in that league and showing everyone why we deserve to be there.

hayles 2-min.jpg
hayles 16-min.jpg

Shania Hayles wears the adidas Predator Accuracy .1 low, which you can pick up at