LFC WomenMatt Beard: A tough start but we can compete in the WSL
Ahead of the 2022-23 Barclays Women's Super League opener away at Reading on Sunday, Liverpool FC Women manager Matt Beard discusses his hopes for the new campaign in his Liverpoolfc.com column.
Firstly, I hope you have all had a great summer, and it was absolutely brilliant to see our game go from strength to strength with England’s success in the Euros.
I have to say, I have been pleased with how our pre-season preparations have gone and we are ready to go again.
We’ve had a good pre-season in the sense that we’ve played numerous Super League teams in friendlies, which has given us a very good idea of where we are at. Pre-season is about laying the foundations for the season ahead.
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All of our new signings have settled in well, we are pleased with how the pre-season has gone. We know this is a tough league but we are looking forward to the challenge ahead and the preparation has gone as well as we could have hoped.
I’m pleased with the business we have done and the squad we have, and with getting the new contracts sorted as well. I am still looking for one more player so hopefully we can get that over the line.
We have been pleased with who we have brought in. We had a good and experienced squad anyway, but what we have added is players who know the WSL.
We know Shanice van de Sanden very well from her time with us before, Gilly Flaherty obviously played for Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham, Emma Koivisto with Brighton, so the players we have recruited give us experience, which is vitally important.
They know this league, they know what’s expected and it’s also improved the depth of our squad.
We’ve got a tough start in our first six games and it’s going to take a little bit of time, but we are confident we can compete in this league and we’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves and believe in ourselves. I think that’s probably been the biggest learning curve over pre-season.
Apart from the friendly with Aston Villa we started most of the other games quite slowly, so we need to make sure that doesn’t happen at Reading on Sunday, but overall we are pleased with where we are.
I have certainly got good competition for places in the team, which is so important. We’ve got some good players in those front positions with Mel Lawley, Shanice, Leanne Kiernan, Yana Daniels, Katie Stengel, so I’ve got a bit of a nice selection headache there.
We’ve got different types of players, which is good and important so we can change and adapt if we need to, but we’ve got great competition right throughout the team. It’s a good headache for me to have.
There are no easy games in the WSL. I’ve said this time and time again, you’ve only got to look at Leicester City’s transition into the league, maybe even Manchester United in their first season to a certain extent.
It’s a tough league and it’s got a lot stronger in the years that Liverpool have been out of it.
But we’ve played different types of teams from the WSL in pre-season who are all at different stages of their journey, so we’ve given ourselves a really good indication as to where we are.
We want to consolidate in this division so the first thing is to get enough points and stay in the league. We want to be competitive and then we go from there.
It’s not going to happen overnight and we’ve got to be realistic and understand that it is a big jump. We have been out of the WSL for two seasons - I do feel we are equipped for this division, but it’s about consolidating in this league and keeping moving forward.
We start the 2022-23 season on Sunday with a trip to Reading at the Madejski Stadium and this will be their second season playing at their first-team stadium.
It’s a tough test. Kelly Chambers’ teams are always well organised and are dangerous from set-plays.
They went through a little bit of a transition squad-wise last season and they have added some good players in the off-season who know this division.
It will be a tough game for us but we will be prepared and will be doing as much as we can to start this season on a positive note. It’s going to be an interesting test for us.
We will come up against a familiar face in Natasha Dowie, who was a brilliant player for us and her goals made a big contribution when we won back-to-back WSL titles.
Tats is a great professional and it will be great to see her again, but she is a Reading player now and we’ve got to do as much as we can to deny her goalscoring opportunities because she is such a good finisher, we know that first-hand. Maybe we can have a good catch-up after the game.
As we go into the new WSL season the women’s game is on an all-time high after the wonderful success of England during the Euros.
The tournament was fantastic, especially when you got to the knockout stages, and you couldn’t really tell who was going to win the games as they were so competitive.
Seeing stadiums sold out, not just the England games, was for me the biggest thing to take away. All the games were sold out and it was great to see.
It was a fantastic tournament and there’s a lot of people who fell in love with the women’s game. A lot of people I know were talking about the honesty of the game, so hopefully we’ve gained some new fans from it.
We will be coming up against some of the world’s best players this season so it’s going to be great for young girls to come and see these players in action.
Thanks so much, as always, for your support.
Matt Beard was speaking to Liverpoolfc.com’s Steve Hunter