InterviewMatt Beard: It was an easy decision to extend my stay here
Liverpool FC Women manager Matt Beard has revealed the ease with which he made the decision to extend his stay with the Reds.
Beard rejoined LFC Women in 2021 and has overseen two successful campaigns since returning to Merseyside six years on from his initial spell, when he led the team to back-to-back Barclays Women's Super League titles in 2013 and 2014.
In 2021-22, the Reds earned promotion from the FA Women's Championship as title-winners, before securing a mid-table finish upon their return to the top flight last season.
Beard has now committed his future to the club once more by penning a new contract, believing that there is still plenty for him to accomplish following the recent move to the AXA Melwood Training Centre.
See our in-depth interview with Beard, completed shortly after he signed his new deal, below.
Matt, congratulations on the new deal. How pleased are you to commit your future to the club?
Yeah, delighted. Obviously everyone knows what the club means to me, so it was an easy decision really for me to extend my stay here. I think we're [at the] early stages of a big project and you've really got the future to look forward to.
How would you assess the two years since you returned to the club? There have been some highs along with some challenges...
It's interesting. I think if I look at football now, I think managers and coaches need time. Amber [Whiteley] said to me when we were in France [during pre-season] that this is probably a Matt Beard team now. But the main goal was to get up from the Championship and back into the WSL and we did that at the first attempt of me coming back. I felt last year it was a challenge, especially with the injuries that we had, and I think we can be proud, especially in the second half of the season with how strongly we finished. From that side we're really pleased with where we are, we're still only at the start of the journey and we know there's plenty of work to do. We are ambitious and we want to challenge.
You said there about now being a Matt Beard team. What are the hallmarks of that? What was it you wanted to instil in the side when you first arrived?
I think we've got the players to play numerous ways. If I look at this pre-season, there's been some great moments with the ball. But we've also got a good group of people that will work hard for each other. I have a couple of non-negotiables, which is the work-rate and I just want players to be themselves more importantly. It's great to see how we've developed the team. I'm excited for the future of the team because I think we've got a good group here, a good young group as well that can grow.
There's a togetherness and team spirit here both on and off the pitch. How proud are you about the atmosphere that's been created?
In team sports it's so important. We say that when we're working, we're working and when we're not we can have fun. I try to treat every player the same and give them the opportunity to be themselves as well. I think that's vitally important because if they're happy in what you're doing then they're going to produce on the pitch. We know they're good players and yes, we have some tough conversations with players; players come, players go. But for the most part we try to treat them as our own and we just want them to be happy and enjoy themselves and I think that's half the battle in life. But at the same time, as I said, when we're working, we are working. We have standards, we have expectations and it's a bit of credit to the players they get that right day in, day out.
How much progress do you feel you've made in the last two years as a team?
I think Melwood is a massive step in the right direction for us. It's game-changing, to be honest. For us to have the facility we have now, it really means that we can deliver and do what we want to do for the players. If I just look at the progress, I think it takes time. I said when we came back into the Super League if you look at the teams challenging to win things, it took two [or] three seasons. What we want to do is build a team that can grow. We've got a world-class facility to enable us to do that and not only to prepare the players, but from a nutrition point of view, a rehab point of view, even recovering, we've got everything that we need to be successful. We're really looking forward to the future. We're looking forward to the future here and really growing as a team and challenging.
And the AXA Melwood Training Centre is such an attraction for both current and prospective players...
For sure. I mean, it's unbelievable. When I got told I couldn't believe it because I knew part of the conversation when I came back was finding a home for the women's team and to be told that it was Melwood, it was spine-tingling really, just because I know the history and the connection to Liverpool FC, and for it to be our home, it was fantastic news. You could just see by the players' faces, day in, day out, they're so excited to be here.
It must be a great thing for you to sit in the manager's office here - Jürgen Klopp's old office - and just think about how far you've come…
Yeah, definitely. But it also reminds you of what's expected of you as well. I think as much as it's a fantastic facility, there's been a lot of history that's been created here on the men's side, a lot of trophies that have been won. I know it's going to take us a little bit of time, but it's something that we want to emulate.
You've had plenty of success here, so I'm sure bringing more of that is going to be your ultimate goal...
Of course. I think that's our long-term goal, it's to be challenging to win the Super League, to be challenging on all fronts and for Champions League qualification. We are working towards that; we are putting plans in place for that as a team and as a football club. As I said before, things take a little bit of time, but we're really pleased with the progress that we've made in a short space of time.
Lastly, the new WSL season is almost upon us now. Do you feel ready? The team seems in great shape...
Yeah, we're really pleased. We've had a challenging pre-season, we've really tested ourselves against some of the [top] teams in Europe, so it's given us a really good learning curve. If I look at last pre-season, we won a lot of games and then we had a real tough start. Whereas this pre-season, it's been good games where we've learnt from, which helps us fine-tune one or two things. We're looking forward to the season. We want to improve on last year - we'd like to try to break into that top five if we can - and we do want to compete in all the competitions. It'd be great if we could bring some silverware next year.