Matt Beard is set to leave Liverpool Ladies at the end of the 2015 season and join Boston Breakers in the NWSL.
Matt has managed Liverpool Ladies for 3 years, taking over in August 2012 to oversee the final games of the 2012 season but unable to prevent the Reds from finishing bottom of the league for the second year running.
That winter Liverpool were transformed, with almost an entire new starting 11 joining the club – goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill had joined mid-season.
England international Fara Williams arrived from Everton, along with Becky Easton, Natasha Dowie and Lucy Bronze while Gemma Bonner followed Beard from his former club Chelsea and was appointed team captain. Whitney Engen also signed up alongside fellow American Amanda Da Costa and soon-to-be regulars Corina Schroder, Nicole Rolser, Katrin Omarsdottir and Louise Fors arrived from Europe.
At the beginning of 2013, Beard targeted a top 4 finish from his new-look side allowing time for them to settle as a team yet Liverpool started the season strongly and began to sweep their opposition aside with ease – a famous 4-0 win over an unbeaten for almost 2 years Arsenal Ladies side was followed by a 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea and 4-1 wins over both Everton and Birmingham.
By the mid-season break Liverpool were top of the league on goal difference, had exited The FA Cup in the semi-finals to Arsenal but through to the semis of the Continental Cup. More players arrived during the summer transfer window – now fan-favourite Kate Longhurst, New Zealand’s Sara Gregorius, England youth internationals Ellie Stewart and Katie Zelem and on-loan keeper Rachael Laws.
A tough run of games followed the break, a league defeat to Arsenal preceded a cup exit to Lincoln on penalties however the next 2 games would define the season, beating title challengers Bristol and Chelsea 4-3 in battling performances.
In the Bristol game Liverpool raced 3-1 ahead before Bristol pulled it back to 3-3 – Gemma Bonner popping up minutes from time with a 40-yard screamer to take all 3 points. While at home against Chelsea, the opposite happened; Liverpool fell 2-0 behind in the opening 20 minutes. Goals either side of half-time from Williams and Rolser would make it 2-2 but the Reds would go behind again from an own goal. Natasha Dowie has been a key player for Beard over the years and was instrumental in Liverpool stealing the win here, scoring a header to make it 3-3 and then setting up Rolser for the winning goal.
From here on, Liverpool went undefeated to lift the league title – their first major honour – and also securing Champions League football for the first time in the club’s history.
Into 2014, Matt Beard continued to build his side – Lucy Staniforth, Libby Stout, Martha Harris and Gemma Davison arriving to strengthen the squad amid the departures of Whitney Engen and Louise Fors.
Liverpool however were hit by an injury curse, Rolser and Staniforth both ruled out for the entire season after serious knee injuries and Zelem out for 2 months with a broken collarbone. Liverpool were also missing numerous players for games throughout the first half of the campaign.
Despite this Beard’s team kept themselves at the right end of the table, putting themselves into a good position to challenge during the second half of the season – and challenge they did, an audacious Fara Williams winner away at Birmingham during the run-in and a last-gasp equaliser from Davison against her former side Arsenal placed Liverpool in 3rd spot going into the final day.
Of the 2 teams above them, Chelsea needed only a point away at a new Manchester City side that has struggled to gel in the way Liverpool had the year before. If Chelsea were unable to get a point, then Birmingham could beat Notts at home to take the title.
Somehow both Chelsea and Birmingham failed to get the results they needed, and Liverpool – who had beaten Bristol 3-0 – were crowned champions for the second year running against all odds.
Away from the two title wins, Beard has overseen changes in the youth set up at Liverpool. In 2013 the development squad was overhauled and has since gone on to win their league – along with the U17s team winning The FA Youth Cup in 2014.
This year the first team has once again struggled with injury, but still have the Continental Cup to play for with an upcoming semi-final and will be looking to go further in the Champions League which begins in 2 weeks.
The team around the team has also improved greatly, Scott Rogers, Joe Potts, Kirsty Hicks, Kat Wise et al – this without mentioning the coaches of the youth sides.
On a personal note I’d like to thank Matt for everything over the last 3 years, he’s transformed this team and club while being wholly approachable and friendly towards supporters throughout. Hiring Matt is a big statement from Boston, who will be hoping he can turn their fortunes around in the way he did for Liverpool.
It’s been an absolute pleasure following Liverpool under Matt.