LFC WomenPress conference: Matt Beard on Man Utd test, Flaherty retirement and Stengel class

Published 13th January 2023
By Steve Hunter

Liverpool FC Women manager Matt Beard previewed Sunday's trip to Manchester United in a pre-match press conference.

The Reds are set for their first outing of 2023 in the Barclays Women's Super League, with the game at Leigh Sports Village kicking off at 2.05pm GMT.

On Friday morning, Beard was quizzed on several topics by the media ahead of the clash with United – read a summary below...

On whether he tried to convince Gilly Flaherty to stay at the club after her retirement announcement…

No. When she rung me to tell me that her dad had passed away, it was probably one of the toughest phone calls I have ever had. I went straight to her house after I found out the news. Their relationship, especially with the football, they were so close. It was a sudden passing as well. Look, at the end of the day we have to respect how she feels, what she wants and we need to respect Gilly and her family. From a football perspective, it’s a blow because she was finding her feet here, she was great in the dressing room – but this is bigger than football.

On the big legacy Flaherty leaves for what she has done in the women’s game…

100 per cent. In years to come, I think everyone will appreciate what she’s done for the game, what she has won in the game. If you read her statement yesterday, she didn’t want to carry on in football without her dad by her side. We respect that. But she is going to leave an unbelievable legacy for herself and she is one of the pioneers of women’s football. She is one of the players that has helped create opportunities that these young girls have now.

On how well Gemma Bonner has settled in following her return to the club…

She has settled in really well. It’s great to work with her again. She has come back a more rounded player now after her spells at Manchester City and in America with Racing Louisville, and her experience is going to be invaluable for us in this second half of the season, especially with Gilly’s news that she was retiring. Gemma has fit back in perfectly, she’s a great role model, a great leader, and she’s going to have a big impact for us on and off the pitch going forward.

On the arrival of Sofie Lundgaard and whether she will be available to play against Man United…

She can make her debut. We are really excited with Sofie. She is only young but she has played a lot of football for someone so young. She has got domestic experience, Champions League experience. The one thing we haven’t had here at the club for a while is a holding midfield player. That is one of the reasons I went to a 3-4-3 system last season. Jas [Jasmine Matthews] has stepped in this season but she can do that. Sofie is athletic, good on the ball, good football brain but like anything she is young, so it’s going to take a bit of time for her to adjust. She has come in, though, and done really well in training, so we’ve been really pleased.

On whether we are likely to see any more new faces during the remainder of the transfer window…

We are hoping we can bring a couple more in. We want to use this window to obviously strengthen the team and address the areas that maybe we couldn’t address in the summer window. We are working hard to sort that.

On team news ahead of United…

Everyone is fit and available, apart from the ones who have been out long-term.

On striker Leanne Kiernan's timeframe for return…

We are anticipating February-March time for Leanne to be back playing. She was at St George’s Park last week, so she has started running. Her and the medical team have worked incredibly hard. It was a bad injury that she had, so we will take it week by week. But we are anticipating a February-March return for Leanne.

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On the extended break since Christmas…

We are fine. We knew it was coming and we probably had a bit more of an extended break than everyone else because of the way the Continental Cup fixtures panned out for us. I think it was needed, especially for the players that played in the Euros, and I think if you look at these next four weeks it’s a crazy schedule. We’ve got a big squad here and we are going to have to utilise that squad in these next few weeks.

On whether the win over West Ham United in their last WSL outing was their most complete performance of the season…

Definitely. I think the clean sheet was important and from start to finish we did really well. We have been pleased with how we have adjusted to life back in the WSL. This is a tough league and it has taken us a little bit of time to adjust.

I have said this before but with my hand on my heart, I would say there has been only two fixtures we didn’t deserve anything from the game. When you lose Leanne and Shanice [van de Sanden] for most of the first part of the season, it does have an impact on the top end of the pitch.

Week by week, we have got better and we have more belief in ourselves, and even in the draws we had against Brighton and Reading we showed a lot of character in those fixtures. It has taken us a little while to have that belief but we’ve got to draw on that last four to six weeks and then utilise that in these coming fixtures.

On the rivalry that exists between Liverpool and Man United…

It’s just another game. We are playing Manchester United, we’ve got tough fixtures post that as well. We just want to concentrate on ourselves and we are not concentrating on a rivalry or anything like that. It’s us concentrating on Liverpool and doing the most we can to get a result.

On the lively atmosphere expected at Leigh Sports Village…

It’s just another game. We can use our Anfield experience from earlier on in the season to draw upon when we played Everton. Anywhere we go now, we are getting thousands at the games – whether that’s at home or away – and it’s just becoming the norm now.

On what his team must do well in order to get a good result…

The first thing is we need to believe in ourselves and believe we can get a result. We sat down with the players and looked at the statistical data against the top teams and we are not a million miles away. We have performed well in the majority of the games that we have played this season. It’s going to be a tough game, we know that, but we’ve got some very talented players in our squad and we need to make sure we concentrate on ourselves and play the game we know that we can play.

On the influence and importance of striker Katie Stengel in his team…

She has been fantastic since she walked through the door here. I worked with her in Boston and when you see her in training and you see her finishing, it’s not just tap-ins, it’s all types of different goals. She is so unpredictable, she can run in behind, she can hold the ball up, she has fantastic feet and for defenders she is a nightmare. She is a great person. Her personality translates onto the pitch as well and I’ve been really pleased with her.

Published 13th January 2023