'I've never been part of a team as together as this'

Interview'I've never been part of a team as together as this'

Published 27th January 2022
By Steve Hunter

Jasmine Matthews has been one of Liverpool FC Women's most consistent performers so far this season.

In her second spell with the club, the No.6 has settled seamlessly back into the team and been a rock in the defence.

Since manager Matt Beard switched his formation to three at the back, Matthews has operated as a left-sided centre-half and has started many attacks with her stylish play and outstanding passing range.

After previously working with her at Bristol City, Beard didn’t hesitate when the opportunity arose to bring Matthews back to Liverpool last summer.

“Jas is a fantastic player,” Beard says, now seven months after the transfer. “She has been unbelievable for us and is having a great season.”

The main aim for the Reds this season is promotion back to the Women’s Super League.

With just one promotion spot available, they remain in a great position, with a seven-point lead at the top of the FA Women’s Championship.

Matthews insists a major part of their success so far is due to the atmosphere around the club, with everyone pulling in the same direction.

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“I think we have started the season really well and it has just carried on,” Matthews tells Liverpoolfc.com. “Coming back after Christmas, we have really kicked on. We haven’t just scored goals, we haven’t conceded many either, which is obviously a bonus.

“I don’t think I’ve actually been part of a squad like this one when we talk about belief and togetherness. I know I said that when I was at Bristol City but being back at Liverpool now, this has just gone one step ahead of that.

“Matt has really brought everyone together and it’s just so enjoyable. We all come into training with a smile on our faces and I can’t wait to see all the girls and just get on the pitch with them. So it’s really enjoyable and that’s what you want. It’s a big part of our lives.”

On the difference Beard has made since returning to LFC Women, she continued: “He’s great. When Matt came to Bristol City it was a hard time to be there but as soon as he came in he completely changed the love of the game again.

“When he called us to come back to Liverpool it was just a great feeling. He’s not only just a great manager but he’s a really nice person as well. He really looks out for you on and off the pitch, and if you ever have any problems his door is always open.

“I think he just gets the best out of every single one of us. Even the players who are not starting games, he’s still driving everybody to make sure that when you do come on off the bench you are ready, prepared and you are still happy, even if you are not playing regularly.

“I think that’s a massive part of what we are about.”

The switch to three at the back has certainly paid dividends for the team, with Matthews feeling it laid the foundations for the Reds’ excellent form in 2021-22.

“It definitely suits this team and me, and it’s worked really well,” she says. “When Matt first signed me he wanted me to play holding midfield for him at first this season, but we then switched to three at the back and it worked well.

“We are all comfortable on the ball and we can start to build the play from the back, which is always nice because we feel like we are not just defenders stopping the opposition and we all actually contribute to some of the goals.

“Playing left-sided centre-back suits my game and I’m really enjoying it.”

An unsung hero of the team this season, perhaps, has been goalkeeper Rachael Laws.

An experienced and commanding presence at the back, Laws has great communication with her defenders and has produced important saves at crucial times.

“Lawsy is incredible!” says Matthews. “I personally think she is so underrated.

“She just goes about her business so quietly and she has made some key saves for us this season that maybe on another day we could have been 1-0 down before we went in front and went on to win the game.

“She’s not just a great goalkeeper but on and off the pitch she is a great person.

“Her communication is just second to none and she is just constantly talking and screaming at us. And she’s not afraid to kick us up the backside when we need it! That is always good.”

Matthews herself didn’t start playing football until the age of 12 back in her native Cornwall, and it wasn’t necessarily her dream to be a professional footballer one day.

“It wasn’t really an ambition, to be honest, but my family just kept saying to me you could be a footballer if you just kept it going,” she reveals.

“I just really looked at it as something I enjoyed because I loved it. I loved training, I loved gameday. Then having a career in the game, it just sort of happened for me really.”

These days, Matthews also has particular love for the club’s loyal supporters, who have played a major role in helping the team so far this campaign.

“They have honestly been our 12th woman and they are absolutely brilliant,” she says. “It’s funny really but sometimes when I’m at home I can’t help it and I start singing the songs they have for the players!

“They are great and they have been amazing and everyone appreciates them.

“I know it really gives us a boost when we hear them singing throughout the whole game. It doesn’t matter how we are playing, they are still chanting our names and really rooting for us, which gives us a massive boost.

“We would love to get promotion this season, which is our main aim, and give something back to them.”

Despite a solid lead at the top of the league standings, nobody at LFC Women is taking anything for granted and Matthews underscored the importance of remaining focused and working hard every day to achieve their ultimate goal.

She says “It’s everyone’s ambition at the club from the background staff to us players – we all want promotion. I think that’s where Liverpool FC Women need to be and they should be.

“Hopefully we can do it because it’s certainly going the right way at the moment, and it would be amazing because I really think we can kick on and prove what Liverpool is about.

“It’s been really tough the last few years at the club and we want to get back in the WSL as quickly as possible and prove what we are all about.

“We are exactly where we want to be. Matt said we needed to be in around the top three at Christmas – which we managed to do. As long as we keep picking up points here and there, I think we’ll be fine. But we will stay focused, keep our feet on the ground and go about our business really quietly, like I think we have been.”

Matthews is currently sidelined with a hamstring problem but work has already started with the medical staff so she can return as quickly as possible.

“I’m gutted actually because I’ve felt great all season and been in really good shape, working hard,” she finishes. “It’s just one of those things – two little tears in my hamstring – so the medical staff are saying I will be out for six weeks.

“I’m already counting down the days and I’m one week down and I’m ticking a lot of boxes already, so hopefully I’ll be back at the beginning of March.

“I think it’s just three league games I will miss so it’s one down and two to go and then I’ll be back and I can’t wait!”

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Published 27th January 2022