Matt Beard on WSL opener, Chelsea, team news and new season aims

Press conferenceMatt Beard on WSL opener, Chelsea, team news and new season aims

Published 16th September 2022
By Steve Hunter

Liverpool FC Women manager Matt Beard previewed his side's Barclays Women's Super League opener against Chelsea Women in a pre-match press conference on Friday.

The Reds welcome Emma Hayes' reigning champions to Prenton Park on Sunday to begin their 2022-23 campaign following last week's postponement. Tickets for the 5pm BST kick-off are available here.

Beard sat down with the media to discuss a range of topics ahead of the fixture, including the game itself, Liverpool's latest team news, a return to the WSL and much more.

Read on for a summary...

Matt, it's good to get the season under way this weekend - it was obviously fully understandable, but after the Euros success it must've been slightly frustrating to have last week's game postponed?

It was frustrating but look, we obviously understand why the game was called off. It's been a long time; our last competitive game was May 2. The success of the Euros was fantastic and everyone, from what I can see, and from some of the press conferences over the course of yesterday and today, everyone is talking about record numbers for the season, so we are looking forward to getting started now.

And hopefully a record Women's crowd for you at Prenton Park? It might beat the record you managed to pull in at the end of last season – that would be fantastic, wouldn't it?

It would be a great start for us. We had a good attendance in the game we had open there against Blackburn. I think the numbers are 3,000-plus [tickets sold] at the moment so that's great to hear and hopefully there will be more on the day.

How well-equipped are you to compete in this league after an absence of two seasons? The quality has certainly improved in the WSL...

It has and it's a real tough start for us against the champions. But we feel we are equipped. We've got a good squad; we've got a good balance of youth and experience. I feel the players we have added have strengthened the XI and competition for places and that was something that was really important to do, especially with the recruitment. We did that last year, we recruited in mind last year with potentially getting promoted, so we've gone on a similar sort of process.

We feel we can compete in the division. We've had a challenging pre-season. We played Manchester City, West Ham, Aston Villa, Manchester United, so we've given ourselves a good test against different types of teams on different journeys in the WSL. Throughout that pre-season we gave a good account of ourselves. I understand pre-season is pre-season and when you are playing for points it's completely different, but we have given ourselves plenty of learnings in them games and we can take confidence from our performances in them as well.

What's a realistic aim and target for you this season?

The aim first and foremost is to stay in the division [and] to be as competitive as we can. We have been out of this division for two years and the Super League has moved on in that two-year period, so we need to be realistic. But we do feel we can compete at this level and we are looking forward to seeing how far we can go.

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Welcoming the champions to Prenton Park is quite a way to start...

Yeah, look, you've got to play them at some time. Listen, they are a fantastic team. They have won the league three years on the spin, so that tells you all you need to know. As I said just before, we have had a good pre-season and we have challenged ourselves against a team like Manchester United that's trying to break into that top three and Champions League spots. We played against Manchester City, so we've given ourselves a good learning curve going into this game.

We know it's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, especially with the players they've brought in over summer. But we will be setting up to try to get something out of the game, as we always do. I'm confident we can give a good account of ourselves and let's see what it brings.

  • LFC Women v Chelsea: Get your tickets here

It's a special day for the Liverpool fans to see the team back in the WSL. Do you have a message for those supporters?

Just really what they gave us last year. The support we got was fantastic and I think if you saw the bond by the end of the year and the way the players, especially after the Bristol City game, [the way they] celebrated promotion and then we had a fantastic day playing against Sheffield United, the fans have been absolutely brilliant. We know they can help us and get us through tough moments in games. We're looking to continue that bond and hopefully the numbers continue to grow.

How are you looking squad-wise for the opening game? Is anyone a doubt?

No, I think everyone's available. Razza [Rhiannon Roberts] had a bit of tightness in her hip post-international camp, but she is back in training today. I should have a full squad to choose from. The only one that is not available is Charlotte Wardlaw, obviously with the loan [from Chelsea].

Do you think you can try to carry momentum into the WSL as a newly promoted team?

I think so. We have worked incredibly hard in pre-season, I guess, dealing with different moments. Last year we went on that run of 20 games unbeaten and we kept going. We know that potentially that won't happen this year, it would be great if it did! We have done a lot of work in the classroom on the psychological side of things about resetting, so if we do get a negative result, we've got the next game where we can potentially get points from.

We've done a lot of work in the off-season. We've worked on our defensive strategies, more so than what I would have done last year, but we had a lot of the ball in the games, so really it was just fine-tuning that and just adapting for the opposition we may be playing against. We might not have as much of the ball this year as what we did [last year], so we've got to find different ways of winning football matches.

We've concentrated on that over pre-season and we've been really pleased with the work we've done and the way pre-season has gone and the results. But playing for points is completely different to, obviously, working and learning, so we are looking forward to the challenge and we do feel we are equipped for the season. But there are going to be ups, there are going to be downs, just because of, I guess, the way the Super League has grown since we've not been in it.

Is it possibly a good time to play Chelsea, you could catch them cold?

Yeah, potentially. I think you've just got to look at their recruitment. That has been really driven to the Champions League success, especially after getting knocked out of the group stages last season, so I think it is good if you are going to play them early, but you never know. They had a lot of players away at the Euros, so from that perspective it might be a good time to play them, especially the players coming from overseas. It is a tough league to come into and to perform week in, week out, because I think if you look, no disrespect to the French league and maybe some of the other leagues, you don't get the challenges that you get in the Super League.

That will be a big challenge for some of their players that have come in, but we are looking forward to the test. We want to be playing against the best players, I want to be coaching against the best coaches, so it's going to be a great test for us. We are going to go into the game with the mindset of wanting to win the game, but we understand we are playing one of the best teams, not only in Europe, but in the world in club football.

How has the continuity of the squad helped you in getting up to speed? You have made some additions, but not a lot...

It has helped a lot because you have only got a few players that need to get up to speed with your patterns of play, your expectations, and we had a long pre-season. We planned for the international window before the season started, so we had eight weeks with the group of players to work them. It was only Emma [Koivisto] and Furney [Rachel Furness] that missed the first two weeks due to the Euros. So we've had most of the squad in right the way throughout. It has helped because I can concentrate on things maybe we didn't really need to concentrate on last year and we could work with individuals to get them up to speed with where we are.

It's going to be a similar pattern to last year to a certain extent. If you look back to last season it took us to the end of September to really get going once we found our feet. It has helped and I think we are equipped for this division. We've got the blend between youth and experience and players that know the division. If you look at our recruitment the players we have brought in all know the league as well.

  • Get your tickets to see LFC Women against Chelsea here, while tickets for the Merseyside derby at Anfield on September 25 start at just £1 for kids here.
Published 16th September 2022