LFC WomenMatt Beard column: Selection headaches and a new signing
In his first column of 2022, Liverpool FC Women manager Matt Beard looks ahead to Sunday's trip to Blackburn Rovers Ladies and welcomes a new signing.
First of all, I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas with your family and friends and kept safe. All my best wishes for the new year.
We can’t wait to get going again as we face Blackburn Rovers away in our opening game of 2022 on Sunday. Everyone is refreshed and ready to go again now. We’ve had a nice break and we are looking forward to continuing the good form that we are in.
We have already played Blackburn twice this season, including the Continental League Cup tie. Both were tough games. Blackburn are well organised and they are very dangerous on the counter-attack. They have got players who can hurt you like Saffron Jordan and Annabel Blanchard, so they’ve got a few players that can cause problems. It’s a tough start for us in the new year.
The positive news for us is our top scorer Leanne Kiernan is back after injury, so she will be available. It’s a big boost for us and apart from Rianna Dean, we’ve got a fully-fit squad to choose from, which is what we want.
We’ve also started the new year with a new face and I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Katie Stengel to the club.
Katie is different to the front players we’ve got at the club and brings a wealth of experience, having played at Bayern Munich and some of the top clubs in America.
She’s an athletic forward who’s good in tight spaces. We only worked together briefly at Boston Breakers but she’s a good finisher and it’s important we have options in those positions where we’ve had some injuries and keep up competition for places. She’s an intelligent football player who will be a real help to the team in the second half of the season.
I’ve always said when I came back to this club from day one that our ambition is to get out of this division and get back to the Women’s Super League. All I’ve said to the players since day one is, ‘Let’s get to Christmas and make sure we are in and around the top three.’ We’ve done that: we are top of the league and we’ve also qualified for the quarter-finals of the Continental League Cup.
It’s really important now that we focus on the job in hand and take it game by game. We can’t worry about anyone else because we are the ones in front and it’s in our hands. We are now a point clear at the top of the FA Women’s Championship, with a game against Charlton Athletic at home in hand. I’ve been in that position before at this club, so I know exactly what we need to do and how we need to do it. It’s about keeping the players focused.
If we can keep everyone fit and keep our strength in depth, that will give us competition for places, and it will give me selection headaches – which are a great thing to have.
It also keeps the players on their toes because they know if they don’t perform, whether that be in training or a game, they potentially could lose their places because everyone has played a part in the last three months.
We know how big a part our fans can play for us. They always do and we want to keep rewarding them.
When we played Burnley recently in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup, it was like a home game. So I know our fans will be out in their numbers again at Blackburn. They have been with us since day one and they could have quite easily turned on us considering the start that we had.
It was a bit of an inconsistent start, which was to be expected because of the way pre-season went, but once we built those relationships and started to play like I know we can, we started to flourish and the fans have played a big part in that.
They stood by us in the early stages and we know we’ve not achieved anything yet. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground and now it’s about taking each game as it comes.
Thanks so much for your support as always.