In his final column as manager of Liverpool Ladies, Matt Beard reflects on the Continental Cup semi-final exit and looks forward to an emotional finale against Brescia in the Women's Champions League on Wednesday night.
While it was extremely disappointing for everybody to lose to Notts County in the semi-final of the Continental Tyres Cup on Sunday night, I prefer to look at the positives. The injury situation is what it is, and undoubtedly we have suffered from it, but the majority of the team that was on the pitch against Notts County came through our youth system. That is a massive positive because when I came to this club three-and-a-half years ago we didn’t have that to utilise. Yes, we are frustrated with the influential players who are missing, but seven out of the nine were all impact injuries so there is nothing we can do about that.
I think the young players have proved they can compete at this level and do well. Ideally when you give young players opportunities you want to play them in games where there is not that much pressure and just bring them off the bench. Young Shannon Beckwith made her debut in Brescia last week and with our captain Gemma Bonner ruled out with ligament damage, she started against Notts County. In the first half, in possession she was very good, but out of possession she had some problems against the movement of Ellen White and Rachel Williams. During half-time we sat her down and showed her the movement and what she needed to do better, and she was fantastic in the second half. That just shows you that these young players are willing to learn and they listen to your advice.
On Wednesday we take on Brescia in the deciding leg of the Women’s Champions League last 32 at the Select Security Stadium, once again in front of the live LFCTV cameras. Hopefully I will get three or four bodies back into the squad, which would be a massive boost for us. In this competition last year we went out to Linkopings with a 2-1 lead and we felt we could win, and within 25 minutes we had lost the game. I didn’t want to repeat that same mistake this time and go out to Italy and go all-out attack. They had a lot of possession in the game but did they really hurt us? I don’t think they did and we had good chances to score goals.
They scored with a strike from distance which unfortunately our goalkeeper Danielle Gibbons should have held onto, and their player should have been closed down before she got her effort off at goal. We are confident we can win on Wednesday. Our pitch is a lot bigger than theirs is and we play on astroturf, which they are not used to, so hopefully that can be an advantage for us. We know we need to win by two clear goals and we need to make sure we apply ourselves in the manner and take some risks because we have to do that if we want to progress.
This game against Brescia will be my final game as Liverpool Ladies manager and it will be a really emotional night for me. It has been an absolute privilege to be manager at this special club and I will never forget the good times we have had. When I told the players I was leaving Liverpool Ladies that was a really tough moment for me. Our fans have been absolutely fantastic and they know it’s been tough for us with the injuries that we have had. They have always supported both myself and the team through thick and thin and I just want to let them know just how much it is appreciated.
I’m not happy with the form we are in but I am realistic to also know that missing players in the calibre of Becky Easton, Fara Williams, Corina Schroder, Kate Longhurst, Asisat Oshoala, our goalkeeper Libby Stout and now Gemma [Bonner] is always going to make life tough for any team. Don’t forget from our title-winning teams we lost Lucy Bronze, Amanda Da Costa, Gemma Davison, who won the title with Chelsea this year, and Nicole Rolser, who went to Bayern Munich. We have gone down the route of developing young players this season but you need some senior players on the pitch to help them, and because of the injury situation we just haven’t had that.
It’s not been the ending I would have liked but winning successive Super League titles is something I will never forget and I take away some unbelievable memories. The year 2015 hasn’t been our year because of the injury front but I just want to help this team extend their season now and qualify for the next stage of the Women’s Champions League.
Thanks for your support, YNWA.
Kick-off at the Select Security Stadium on Wednesday night is at 6.30pm BST, so why not come along and support the Ladies. Tickets are just £5 for adults and £2.50 for children (U16) and concessions.