SUNDAY 19 AUGUST. It all starts again. That familiar feeling of waking up on the first morning of a highly anticipated football season however this time almost everything has changed.
Liverpool F.C. versus Manchester United.
New season. New manager. New players. New opposition.
While there’s been a lot of noise about the new United side, Liverpool by comparison have flown almost under the radar. Despite 11 first team players departing for pastures new, the Reds have recruited 12 new stars and promoted from within for both playing and coaching staff.
This article will bring you the latest on our new recruits including interviews with Reds boss Neil Redfearn and defender Niamh Fahey, round up what has been an excellent pre-season and make sure you know everything there is to know heading into Liverpool’s 2018/19 season.
This feels fresh, this feels new, this is Liverpool.
To say Liverpool have recruited well this summer would be an understatement, each player brought in brings something of value to the squad as a whole and are all highly regarded by both supporters and staff of their former clubs .
Leighanne Robe* was first through the door as Liverpool’s rebuild began. The ex-Millwall captain arriving with a reputation as one of the second tiers most consistent defenders and has settled well on Merseyside.
A tough-tackling, no-nonsense defender who supporters will quickly grow to love for her personality on and off the pitch, Leighanne has been playing and excelling at left-wing-back during pre-season.
Next to arrive was Bristol City duo Jasmine Matthews and Yana Daniels, the former another defender with an excellent reputation – this time in the top tier – and the latter a Belgium winger who overcame a career threatening injury just 18 months ago.
Jasmine has been a constant throughout the Reds pre-season playing on the left on a three-player defence, proving hard to beat and with an eye for a sublime inch-perfect pass over the top.
So far Yana has mainly featured from the bench, proving a bright spark when introduced and chasing every ball – in the game against Durham pressing the defence to give up the ball which allowed Liverpool to go on and score.
Then Liverpool announced seven signings in a week with Anke Preuss, Leandra Little, Rhiannon ‘Razza’ Roberts, Christie Murray, Niamh Fahey, Sophie Bradley-Auckland and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk all joining the Reds revolution.
Anke will be the Reds new number one, an athletic goalkeeper with 18 months experience in the WSL at Sunderland and with two Champions League medals under her belt.
At the tail end of the transfer window Anke was joined by fellow ‘keeper Fran Kitching and both have the ability to play out from the back, with Fran’s distribution applauded while on loan at Watford last season.
Leandra was named club captain and will play an important role for the club both on and off the pitch – see interview later on in this preview with Neil on the importance of Leandra to the squad.
Like Leandra, Razza also joins Neil after winning the WSL2 title last season with the Reds boss at Doncaster Belles. The Welsh international a terrific character with bags of energy and introduced herself to supporters with a ferocious strike crashing back off the crossbar in the pre-season game against Everton.
The final player to follow Neil directly from the Belles is team captain Sophie. A vastly experienced player who leads from example at the back and is a superb role model to the younger players coming through at the club.
Christie moves to Liverpool indirectly from Doncaster, having left the South Yorkshire side before Christmas and after netting eight goals in 10 appearances. In between leaving Doncaster and signing for the Reds, Christie spent time back in Scotland at Glasgow City and is a mainstay in the Scotland national team – recently named in the squad for September’s World Cup qualifiers against Switzerland and Albania.
Liverpool supporter Niamh returns to England following a year in the French league with Bordeaux and has been playing as the central defender in a back three – read more on Niamh later in this piece as LFC Women Blog spoke to the Ireland international along with The Anfield Wrap.
Swapping blue for red and bolstering the Reds attacking options up front is Courtney. Everton’s top scorer last season and Doncaster’s before that, Courtney fired in her first Liverpool goal in a pre-season win at Sheffield and her will-to-win attitude and determination is frighteningly impressive.
Last to the party was former Birmingham and Reading striker Kirsty Linnett**, adding further competition up front after impressing during a trial period at the club. A player that the Reds have been interested in for a long time and as the final piece in the jigsaw, a player that completes this new look squad.
*Click each players name to read more on our new signings
** Coming Saturday pm
The twelve new signings have integrated brilliantly with those already at the club; Satty Murray entering into her fourth season with the Reds as a firm fan-favourite and throughout pre-season deployed in a more attacking role at right-wing-back.
Satty said of Liverpool’s pre-season training camp in the Netherlands: “I’ve been here for a while and this is probably one of the best training camps I’ve been a part of in the last four years so there’s really good times ahead for sure.”
Laura Coombs also returns for her third full season at Liverpool, taking on more of a free role in the midfield during the build up to the new campaign and scoring twice. It would probably be fair to say all the players that have remained with the Reds from last season are popular with supporters but Laura again is someone held in high regard by both this blog and the fans in the stands.
The two ‘senior’ stars are joined by a host of young talent; Niamh Charles limited to a handful of appearances last season due to injury, an exciting talent raring to go again and currently away with England U20s at the World Cup; Rinsola Babajide also away with England after making a strong start to the Reds pre-season preparations; Amy Rodgers a classy young midfielder whose performances on the pitch when called up to the first team belie her age; Missy Bo Kearns, former captain of the club’s U16s, another prospect to watch out for and a popular figure amongst the squad; and Paige Cole, the Development star comfortable playing at full-back or on the wing and looking perfectly suited to the Reds new formation.
Liverpool have a talented team at Development Squad level (with players like winger Cassia Pike making her first team debut last season) and this blog will bring you the latest from their campaign as well.
Ashley Hodson will miss the majority of the upcoming season due to a knee injury and I know all supporters wish Ashley a healthy recovery and cannot wait to see her back on the pitch.
Ellie Fletcher will spend the 2018/19 season on loan at Sheffield United.
Neil Redfearn’s new look Liverpool F.C. Women’s side brought their pre-season preparations to a close in eye-catching fashion with big wins recorded over both Leicester City and Durham.
Liverpool put away seven goals (conceding none) over the course of the two games – with six different goal scorers from across the park – and in each game displayed different qualities about their team spirit while showcasing their will to win.
For the mid-week trip to Leicester the Reds controlled the tempo of the game, passed the ball well, exploited the space out wide and eased to a comfortable four-nil victory.
A few days later Liverpool travelled up the M6 to Penrith to take on a notoriously tough-to-break-down Durham side and, at first, this tie seemed to be headed the way of the dismal 0-0 draw the Reds played out in last year’s Conti Cup.
That was until a little bit of magic from Christie unlocked the Wildcats defence, the Scot exchanging passes with Satty out wide to skip past several blue shirts and Durham – unable to stop her – forced to bring her down in the box.
Christie stepped up to convert from the penalty spot and then teed up the next two goals in the three-nil win. First providing the corner that allowed Jess to nod the ball past the ‘keeper and later playing a pass for Laura to bury it in the bottom corner.
Laura scoring her second goal inside a week after also netting in the win over City, the other goal scorers in the midlands being Jasmine, Razza and Leandra.
Overall the Reds record in pre-season, particularly considering the player turnover, reads impressively.
It began with a behind-closed-doors friendly away at Sunday’s opponents Manchester United, culminating in a 0-0 draw after 60 minutes. The game called off after a serious-looking injury to former Reds stopper Siobhan Chamberlain – United confirming days later via Twitter that the injury was not as bad as first thought.
The following weekend Liverpool played Everton at Marine in another scoreless tie, this game seeing the introduction of the since-preferred 3-5-2 formation and with Satty and Leighanne impressing on either wing.
Before the Reds headed across to Germany and the Netherlands on a pre-season tour and training camp they defeated Blackburn Rovers 3-1 to pick up their first win – Kirsty scoring while on trial and another trialist and Courtney also on the scoresheet.
Over in Germany, Liverpool were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Essen (Razza the Reds goal scorer) and then played out a 1-1 draw with Champions League side Bayern Munich. Kirsty once again finding the back of the net and familiar face and two-time title winner on Merseyside Nicole Rolser featuring for the Germans.
Key FA Women’s Super League games
Liverpool F.C. Women begin their FA Women’s Super League campaign looking to improve on last year’s 6th place [out of ten teams] finish on Sunday 9th September away at Arsenal.
Aways game at the Gunners are usually an exciting spectacle with goals scored from both sides – in recent years the two sides have played out two enthralling 3-3 draws while the Reds brilliantly beat Arsenal 3-1 a couple of seasons ago at Borehamwood.
One of the best away grounds in the league, you can count on a good atmosphere and an entertaining match – while Arsenal boast England vice-captain Jordan Nobbs and Dutch international Vivianne Miedema amongst their ranks.
At the end of October, start of November the Reds then face the two sides many expect to battle it out for the league title. Travelling to Kingsmeadow to face current holders Chelsea on Sunday 28 October before welcoming Man City at home on Sunday 4 November.
Last season the Reds proved they could go toe-to-toe with the teams at the top, defeating City 1-0 and, only for a Eni Aluko super-sub cameo, nearly beating the already-crowned Champions on the final day of the campaign.
Other key games to look out for include Liverpool’s first ever games against Brighton (away on Sunday 23rd September) and West Ham (away on Sunday 21 October) in the FAWSL.
West Ham in particular one to look forward to. The Irons managed by Liverpool’s two-time title winning Matt Beard and the gaffer joined by the brilliant Kate Longhurst as well as a host of talent from across the WSL.
The final game of Liverpool’s season is a tasty looking tie against Everton at home and the derby will hopefully cap a successful year for the Reds.
In conversation: Niamh Fahey
On Thursday morning ahead of training, myself and Neil Atkinson from The Anfield Wrap met with Liverpool’s new number five Niamh Fahey.
After completing an interview with Granada Reports, Niamh was in good spirits ahead of her competitive LFC debut on Sunday.
Niamh joins the Reds having played her career “predominantly in the U.K. with Arsenal and Chelsea and then spent a year in France with Bordeaux” and says of her time in the French league – “I really enjoyed it but missed the English league and the chance to come to Liverpool arose.”
The lifelong Liverpool supporter said: “It’s a dream to play for your club, for the team you grew up supporting and when the chance came I just grabbed it with both hands.
“From a very young age [I] grew up in a house of six boys and one sister and it was a predominantly Liverpool household – me being the youngest that got fed down to me. I grew up supporting them, following all the games, following Fowler and the likes of McManaman and carried on with it. I’m happy enough with where it has led now.”
Niamh is one of 12 new signings at the club this summer but says that this has helped the players to settle in.
“There’s a lot of new faces but it’s actually quite easy because there’s so many new faces! Usually you come into a new club, and into an established set up, and you kind of feel a bit out of place or it’s harder to fit in. Considering the fact there’s so many of us it’s been quite easy, every one has gelled well and it’s a nice group. It’s been a bit of an easy transition.”
Playing as the central defender in a back three that has Jaz Matthews to her left and Sophie Bradley-Auckland to the right, Niamh is confident of the Reds strength in depth and prospects heading into the new campaign.
“I have two very vocal people either side of me and we’ve had a lot of transition in pre-season with different faces. We’ve got a lot of big characters there and a lot of experience so that helps. As well the gaffer has been rotating people in and out so everyone knows different positions and it’s not just a case of playing in one certain position – the experience of being able to mix in and around several different positions will help us a lot this season.
“We will be well tested throughout the season, things have gone well so far in pre-season – we’ve kept a lot of clean sheets, it’s been a good start so we’re just looking to keep that momentum going.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s curtain raiser Niamh says: “You couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off the season – a Cup game against Manchester United – being a new team and everything with the old, historic rivalry that sits there. It’s a great one for us and everyone is absolutely buzzing and looking forward to it.
“For us as well Neil has come in and he’s said that [team culture] is going to be a massive thing – culture, getting our identity and having good values and sticking by them and building something. It’s not just a one year thing, it’s a project and you can feel that here. The standards are being laid down by him and it’s up to us to follow them and try and meet them.”
“It’s exciting times, it’s a blank canvas – we’ve started again but it’s a good place to be.”
Also speaking to LFC Women Blog and The Anfield Wrap on Thursday morning was recently appointed manager Neil Redfearn who gave a fascinating insight into his recruiting methods, healthy competition for places amongst the squad and praised the club’s youth set up. Neil on…
The club’s summer recruitment…
“Six weeks ago we only had four or five senior players so it’s been a big recruitment drive but I think we’ve recruited really well. We’ve recruited some really experienced players at all levels and we’ve got these exciting young players still at the club.
Having these experienced players is a great backdrop for these young kids to bring them into the first team and make them part of the squad. It’s exciting times, it’s a blank canvas – we’ve started again but it’s a good place to be.”
“When we’re recruiting – and it’s always how I’ve recruited to be fair – is first of all I’ve looked at the people, I’ve not just looked at the players.
We know what the players are capable of because we see them week in, week out even at other clubs but I think it’s important that we recruited good people. People that want to get on and get better, that enthusiasm and that drive drives the club on and I think that’s what we’ve got.
Then you’ve got to try and bring them together as a group, as a team and I think that the pre-season done that. It’s stood us in good stead – we had a great trip out to Germany, had a couple of tough games – and it gives the girls confidence, it gives them that bit of belief.”
Bringing several Doncaster players with him to Liverpool…
“I think the important thing with that was these girls know me, they know my methods and they know what to expect.
I’ve brought three leaders in my opinion – Rhiannon Roberts, Sophie Bradley and Leandra Little – they were integral in that Doncaster side and in the end we finished ten points clear in WSL2. Belles at that point were far too good for that level, these girls have proven that they’re good enough to play higher up. It makes it easier for the rest of the girls I think if they’ve got my background and my knowledge.
Leandra obviously has got one foot in both camps, she’s on this side with us [as club captain and Player Liaison Officer] and also in the dressing room which was important because it gives the girls a little bit of an insight so I think we’ve recruited really well.”
“We’ve got two or three different plans. The three at the back suits what we’ve got, we’ve got good balance – we’ve got left footers, right footers, we’ve got height and strength and pace and power at the back.
I know from my time at Doncaster we used to keep a lot of clean sheets at Belles and it was what everything was built on, we used to make it difficult for people. Then we’ve people that can score goals.
It’s a simple, basic principle but it’s something that we’ve brought to Liverpool and I think the girls have took to it.”
Competition for places…
“You learn from your experiences through your career, from my time at Oldham Athletic when Joe Royale was manager I think we had six strikers for two spots and he used to bring them off the bench and rotate them round.
It was the ones that were doing well that were getting in and it led to that competition – I look at us now and we’ve got four for two spots if you put Yana Daniels in there as well. I think that’s quite healthy and the girls that are in there have took it in good part, they know there’s a bit of competition, they know there’s an onus on them to score goals and that’s what you want from it.
If it breeds that then we’ve got a plan b from the bench and I think it’s important that you turn round and look at your people on your bench and think ‘yeah we can change this, we can go after teams.’”
Youth players at the club…
“You’ve got a great area to build from,you’ve got a strong youth base. We’ve got a great development group, we’ve got a good RTC programme, we always bring young kids through. We’re not going to get everybody through – that’s football.
You look at what we’ve got in and around the squad at the moment, people like Niamh Charles, I know Rinsola Babajide was brought from Watford but she’s only young, Ellie Fletcher, Amy Rodgers, Missy Bo Kearns.
[Bo’s] had a fantastic pre-season with us, in fact with her it’s stopping her play for all age groups, we’ve got to tell her now ‘you’re with the first team, you’re not with the devs anymore’. She wants to train and play with everybody – but it’s not a bad trait, she’s enthusiastic and she wants to play.
These young players excite me because I know we’ve got the right people in place, in regard to the experience, for them to go and play in the first team. They’ve already had a bit of a feel for it in pre-season and they’ll only benefit from it.”
To hear the full conversation head across the The Anfield Wrap. (A link will be posted here once the show is up)
The backroom staff
As mentioned previously Leandra will play a dual role in the Reds upcoming season, completing her playing duties alongside her role as club captain and player liaison.
From last season’s staff Team Analyst Jordan Whelan and Strength and Conditioning coach Alan Jordan remain – with Neil keen to highlight their importance to the set up in the latest edition of LFC’s monthly magazine on sale now.
Introducing the new members of staff to LFC Women Blog and The Anfield Wrap, Neil praises the appointment of Chris Kirkland saying that Chris “has come in as goalkeeper coach, he’s a vastly experienced football person. He knows the club and he’s played for the first team so there’s a clear link with everything there.”
Someone who needs no introduction to followers of LFC Women Blog is new first team coach Vicky Jepson, promoted from her role as Development Squad manager. Neil told us: “I’ve done my research and my background and everyone I spoke to about Vicky gave me glowing reports. She’s an outstanding young coach and now we’re putting her in a place where she can really affect things.”
Former Sheffield F.C. manager Zoe Johnston has also been given a role in Neil’s backroom staff as Technical Director of the club’s RTC and the gaffer once more was quick to point out the experience Zoe brings to the set up: “Zoe’s got great experience at WSL level, managed Sheffield and knows the difference between getting young players and getting them into the first team.”
Hina Chauhan is the final new face amongst the Reds staff and will be the club’s physiotherapist.
On Sunday some of you will head to Prenton Park and will see a starting line up that contains players you’ve maybe not seen play before, of the 11 that started our last game of last season only three remain.
When I think back to the first game I watched the Red women play back in 2013, I’d never seen them kick a ball either. However that team and this club have changed my life in so many ways – give this side a chance to change yours.
The squad that Neil and his staff have assembled is one that will fight for the badge, will play for the shirt and will leave everything on the field.
Get behind them on Sunday, sing and shout for them. Support them, we’re all Reds.
“Don’t you know, it’s going to be alright…”
- Sunday’s game will be played at Tranmere Rovers ground Prenton Park, where Liverpool faced both Everton and Chelsea at the tail end of last season. A further announcement is expected in due course regarding where the team will play for the rest of the campaign and information regarding season tickets can be expected shortly after
- The Continental Cup clash against United will be also shown live on BT Sport, with the Reds trip to Brighton in September also penned in for television coverage
- The other teams aside from United in Liverpool Conti Cup group are: Everton, Reading and Durham. The top two sides will progress to the next round
- Liverpool will enter The FA Women’s Cup alongside the other WSL clubs in the fifth round in February
- Once again this season I will be contributing to The Anfield Wrap talking all things Liverpool F.C. Women so make sure to head across and give them a follow – @TheAnfieldWrap
- LFC Women Blog is available to follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, if you have any questions please contact me on any of those platforms or via the contact section at the top of this page
Images via Liverpool F.C. and Lee Prewett