In his latest column, Liverpool Ladies manager Scott Rogers explains why he has high hopes for the season ahead and speaks about his search for a new striker.
I would like to start by offering congratulations from everybody associated with Liverpool Ladies to Caroline Weir, who was named Scotland Women’s Player of the Year for 2016. It’s fantastic for Caz, she played very well last year and we always knew we were signing a quality player with great potential. It’s now about making sure we keep developing that potential because she is still a young player who is getting better and better. From our point of view, it’s nice that she has been recognised for the hard work she put in during 2016 and the work we have done with her. For Caz to be recognised is great news for the club.
It’s been a busy time off the pitch recently as we have managed to extend the services of Martha Harris, Satara Murray and Danielle Gibbons. It’s good that we can tie them down to new deals. Martha didn’t play much last year because of injuries but she has come back for pre-season training and I have to say she has been fantastic. She looks really sharp and back to her best, so it’s about keeping her going in the right direction as Martha is such an important player for us.
Gibbo is an excellent goalkeeper in her own right and she plays a big part in making sure Siobhan Chamberlain is pushed hard for our No.1 spot. We are delighted that Satara put pen to paper on a new deal because we have let her go back to the USA for six months so she can finish off her degree. We will get Satara back in June so that will be like making a new signing. We are very happy securing these three players for our future because they are young players with a bright future ahead of them, and they want to develop their careers here with us.
I was absolutely delighted to secure the signature of Casey Stoney, who will bring a lot to this team, on and off the pitch. She is a leader and alongside our captain Gemma Bonner we have a strong base at the back. I felt last year we needed that little bit more experience because we have a young squad and I brought the average age down. We needed someone with Casey’s know-how and her experience to get us through the tougher games. From what I have seen so far, she is going to be a great signing for us.
From what I’ve seen from her intensity in training she is a fantastic professional. She is vocal, she passes on her experience to the younger players and that is exactly what we need. This signing also gives us more options. Sophie Ingle can also play as a part of a back three as well as in central midfield. Sophie is a technically very good player who reads the game really well and breaks up the play. We also have other options in midfield. Kate Longhurst did very well for us last season and Katie Zelem is getting better and better. Caz [Weir] can play in midfield as well, so we have got some good competition for places.
I would also like to offer congratulations to our U16s team, who secured the league title after beating Manchester United. Andy Newland, Charlotte Healy and Phil Backhouse deserve a lot of credit for the hard work they have done with the U16s. They haven’t dropped a point all season, which is a fantastic achievement. The development team are in a similar run of form and performing extremely well in their league. The young players coming through are fantastic and with the Spring Series season, this gives us the opportunity to take a look at them. They are at the stage when they need to be challenged and tested and this could be the perfect time for us to do that. We can then see if some of them are ready to step up to the first-team squad.
Our preparations are going well as we prepare for the start of the new FA Women’s Spring Series, which gives us nine games between May and June before the start of the FA Women’s Super League. Our first game is away at Yeovil Town Ladies on Sunday April 23. These nine games will also give me the opportunity to look at different formations. How many managers get this free opportunity to use their youth players to see what level they are at without feeling the pressure of being in a bad situation if you were to lose the game?
This format is non-competitive, so it’s almost perfect for development purposes. From our point of view, we have one of the smallest squads in this Spring Series. This is for two reasons: I obviously want to look at our young players, while we also have international players who want to go and play at the Euros. I need to find the balance of making sure the senior players get enough minutes and also have a look at the kids.
We have got two transfer windows available to help us build a squad that is capable of challenging at the top end of the table. We showed last year that we weren’t a million miles away from challenging at the top with the performances of some of our young players. I remain very confident that this squad will continue to grow and grow. We are building a squad that, although it might not have hit the ground running straight away, over a period of time adding little pieces to the jigsaw we believe will compete at the top level. It’s no secret that I’m after a striker, a traditional No.9. I’ve got to make sure I get the right one and we will get the right one. More players become available in June, so there is no panic or pressure on us to go and spend a fortune on a striker and get it wrong.
I firmly believe that managing and coaching is about developing a group of players and it’s not just about going out buying X, Y and Z. You see it all the time in football that some clubs will spend fortunes and it doesn’t always guarantee you success. That is not our way of doing it and we want to develop these players. We are going in the right direction and that is important for us as a football club.
Thanks as always for your continued support,