Usually a couple of days before the game I post a match preview on this blog, for this game however you can find my match preview on This Is Anfield and a shorter version on Empire Of The Kop!
Instead of the usual match preview on here then, I am going to post a transcript of this afternoons press conference from Melwood with Matt Beard, Amanda Da Costa and Whitney Engen.
Q: Matt, you only need a point to win the Women’s Super League title but knowing your philosophy you’ll be bound to win this game – won’t you?
Matt Beard: Yeah of course, I think it would be a dangerous game plan if we go out and set up not to get the 3 points. There is a lot at stake on the day and we’ll be prepared and going for the win.
Q: People have to remember that you inherited a team that was bottom of the league, now you’re on the verge of the title. What do you put this incredible transformation down to?
MB: The players more than anything else. We give the players a structure and as a group, with me and the staff, there’s a lot of communication with us and the players. The players deserve the credit because they are the ones that cross that white line and produce some of the performances they have produced this year and it’s been a pleasure to watch.
Q: Amanda, how important going into this game is it to know that you have already qualified for the Champions League next season?
Amanda Da Costa: Right now our focus is solely on the game and winning the league, Champions League is an extra bonus but we’re hoping we’ll be able to celebrate it all at the end of the season. One thing at a time and right now Sunday is our goal.
Q: Whitney, the team spirit has been spoken about many a time this season. How big a factor is that in your success so far?
Whitney Engen: I think it’s a really important factor especially in women’s football. We came in early this year and spent a lot of time together as a team, we’ve really developed a strong bond. It’s easy for teams to say ‘we fight for each other’ and ‘we believe in each other’, this is actually a team that I have been on that that actually rings true and we do fight for each other. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to experience that.
Q: Matt, I know you’re good friends with the Bristol manager Mark Sampson, have you exchanged any banter with him ahead of this one?
MB: We had a conversation yesterday, but no we’ve got to focus on Sunday. I’m sure we’ll have one or two words after the game. It’s going to be an exciting game for both of us and without the pressure now with both having qualified for the Champions League, we can just concentrate on winning the game.
Q: Matt, how important is the title for the club, as the club is now one entity, how important is it for Liverpool to win this title?
MB: Our targets at the start of the year were to finish in the top half of the table and build for the second year. So for us to be where we are is a good achievement because obviously we’re in this business to win trophies and to win football matches so I think it’s important for me, the staff, the players and especially the club as well.
Q: How integral has that investment at the start of the season been for the success this season?
MB: It’s been fantastic, the resources of coming here [Melwood] at times and the manager’s allowed me to come and watch the first team train so that’s helped my development. We’ve got great facilities at the Academy and we’ve got the resources from people behind the scenes which goes unnoticed a little bit, but it’s fantastic it is a one club mentality. It’s not them and us, everyone works together.
Q: Amanda, did you follow last weeks Doncaster-Bristol game?
ADC: Yeah, I think we all were keeping an eye on it and again we know regardless we have one more game left in this season, it wouldn’t be a complete season without this game coming up. Football’s a funny game with strange things at times and we’re fortunate to still be in this position and ready to get a win on Sunday.
Q: Matt, obviously you’ve got some key players involved in a World Cup qualifier for England tonight including leading scorer Natasha Dowie and inspirational captain Gemma Bonner. For you is that a case of fingers crossed they will come back fine for Sunday?
MB: Yeah a little bit! We’ve had 8 away over the last week and this week, the preparation has been a little disjointed. Hopefully everyone gets through their games tonight and we’ll regroup on Saturday morning to focus and prepare for the game on Sunday.
Q: Whitney, you obviously earlier on in the season before you began the campaign had the opportunity to go with the squad to Melwood, to meet Brendan Rodgers, Steven Gerrard and train with the first team. How much of a big experience was that for you all?
WE: I actually didn’t get to partake in that, I was away on international duty with the national team but in speaking with the girls it was a phenomenal opportunity. Especially being welcomed into this club and it really gave us the confidence that Liverpool was behind the women’s team and that we are one club. From speaking with the girls it was a phenomenal experience and definitely one that I am sorry to have missed out on.
Q: Coming over to Liverpool from America at the start of the season, along with Amanda, how incredible a season has it been for you – has it in many ways exceeded your expectations?
WE: I would say that I expected it to be a great season, a great team especially with what was being put together behind the scenes at Liverpool. So I wouldn’t say that it has exceeded my expectations but I would say that my expectations have been met, I knew that this would be a team that was going to be able to compete for a title and that’s something that I wanted to be part of and I have had a phenomenal time in my experience here.
Q: Matt, when you consider Arsenal have dominated for a long time, how much credit do you feel yourselves and Bristol deserve for setting up what is perhaps the most exciting finish to a Women’s Super League season?
MB: It’s been an interesting season, there’s been a lot of changes. Arsenal lost their manager, we’ve invested heavily and Bristol year in and year out seem to progress as a football club on and off the pitch. I’m not surprised Bristol are where they are, they’ve got a fantastic goal scorer in Sanchon so if you look at our goal scoring record this year and the amount of players that have scored goals, I think that’s been an important factor for both teams that we’ve got players that can score goals.
Q: There is one player, Amanda, that can score goals – Natasha Dowie, 19 goals in 20 appearances. That’s pretty phenomenal?
ADC: Yeah she’s done amazing things for this team and credit to her she just keeps getting better and better every game. Part of that has to do with the team as a whole getting used to each other, when we came in no one knew each other. We were all different, at least Whitney and I especially because we’re not from England but we’ve done a great job gelling together and it definitely shows every single game. [Natasha] is getting better, we all are getting better and she’s done big things for us this year.
Q: The first team are playing this Sunday at 4pm, for those Liverpool fans not travelling to Sunderland if they were to come down and support what would that mean to you all?
ADC: It would mean the world to us, we’ve worked incredibly hard this season and we have amazing fans that come and support us every single game. Halton is a pretty big stadium, it doesn’t feel that big when we’re out there and we have that support so we’re looking to bring The Kop to Halton. Hopefully everyone can come out and support us it would be amazing and a good end to the season.