Mackenzie Arnold in sad announcement as Matildas hero goes public with 'difficult decision'

Arnold has left West Ham after four years in England.

Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold is without a club on the eve of the Olympics after announcing she has parted ways with English football team West Ham United. Arnold has been one of the Irons' most pivotal players since her arrival in 2020, captaining the side last season.

Her decision to leave was made all the more difficult by the fact she is also leaving behind partner Kirsty Smith, who has also played with West Ham since 2021. The announcement comes days after Arnold was curiously left off West Ham's announcement for their upcoming Australian tour, sparking rumours she was on the way out. And the 30-year-old confirmed she had parted ways with the London-based club in a lengthy statement on Instagram.

Mackenzie Arnold and partner Kirsty Smith.
Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold has left West Ham United and won't be teammates with partner Kirsty Smith any more. Image: Getty/Instagram

“This has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make and I wanted to have the opportunity to say goodbye properly, whilst also looking back on the incredible time I have had in the famous Claret and Blue,” Arnold wrote. “It’s been nearly four years to the day since I arrived at Chadwell Heath and it didn’t take me long to realise how special this club was and how at home I felt in east London.

“My time here has helped to shape me as a player but also, more importantly, as a person and I have a lot to thank West Ham for that. I want you to know how difficult a decision it has been for me to leave a place that means so much to me. I am a proud Aussie, but there is no question that, in east London, I have found a place where I will always call home.

“I have been lucky enough to play football in many different countries, but I am so grateful to have had this chapter at a club that means so much to me. West Ham will always hold a special place in my heart, forever Claret & Blue.”

A host of Arnold's Matildas teammates commented on the post, many shocked by the decision. Matildas captain and Chelsea star Sam Kerr wrote: "Wait wtf... What happened to London girlz 4eva?” She then added another comment saying: "Love you, you gotta do what you gotta do darlinggg."

Arnold's decision to leave West Ham would have been made all the more difficult by the fact her partner is remaining at West Ham for the 2024/25 season. Just last week Smith signed a new deal with the Irons and while many people commented on West Ham's announcement, 'Let's hope Macca will too', Arnold will not be her partner's teammate moving forward.

Mackenzie Arnold and Kirsty Smith.
Mackenzie Arnold and Kirsty Smith won't be teammates at West Ham any more. Image: Getty

After Arnold announced she was leaving the club, Smith took to Instagram to write: "What am I going to do without you. Proud of you and can't wait to watch you shine." Arnold met Smith when the Scottish defender signed with West Ham in 2021 and the pair confirmed their relationship on Instagram in March 2023 with a carousel of sweet photos together. It is not known where Arnold will move to next, although there has been reported interest from English giant Manchester United.

DAGENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 03: Mackenzie Arnold of West Ham United looks on during the Barclays Women´s Super League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at Chigwell Construction Stadium on March 03, 2024 in Dagenham, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
Mackenzie Arnold was one of West Ham's most pivotal players last season.

Ahead of the Paris Olympics, Arnold revealed that she was so furious she was left out of Tony Gustavsson's Tokyo Olympics squad that she "could have killed him". But three years Arnold has established herself as the Australian No.1 and says she has the Matildas coach to thank.

"When a new head coach comes in, all you want to do is impress them and try and make that impact on them and get yourself into the starting XI," Arnold told fans this week at a Sydney Vivid lounge chat with Gustavsson.

"The last Olympics, when I was left out of the squad, was probably the lowest point in my career. And at the time I could have killed him, honestly. I had been in the team for however long and I felt like I was coming into my own and the last game leading up to the selection I completely blew it, and I knew that.

"I played terrible and I had just come back from an MCL (medial collateral ligament injury) on my knee. I wasn't ready. But I was just like, 'No, this is my time, I'm going to do it'. I just didn't understand, I didn't have the maturity as a player to really understand what I needed to do mentally and physically to put myself in the best position."

Looking back, Arnold accepts the decision not only proved the best for the team, but helped her become who she is today. "Ultimately, it was what had to happen," she said, recalling the dark days of sitting in the stands forlornly as a reserve in Japan.

"And I do believe that I needed to go through that period of how hurt I was, and the disappointment, to then come out the other side and start my journey again to where I am now. Credit to Tony, not just because he's sitting here, but he gave me the chance to start again.

"All through that period and the whole Olympics when we were in Tokyo, I don't think I properly spoke two words to (him), but he understood the hurt and the disappointment that I was going through and he gave me my space. When we came back after that, we started a new cycle. Tony gave me the chance to start again. And after being up at him and starting to play the way I did and sort of falling in love with football again, I was able to start again and ultimately get to this point."

with AAP