Vicky Jepson has no doubt Liverpool FC Women will respond positively to relegation, with the manager stating: "The fightback starts now."

Jepson and her team were left deflated by the FA decision to curtail the 2019-20 Women’s Super League season, with the Reds consequently dropping down to the Championship. 

However, news since that the likes of Rinsola Babajide, Niamh Fahey and Rhiannon Roberts have committed their futures to the club has provided a boost to morale.

And, while speaking on the LFC Women’s Show, Jepson spoke of her confidence that Liverpool can bounce straight back to the top flight by enjoying a successful season next time around...

Vicky, now you’ve had time to reflect on the news of relegation, how are you and the squad feeling?

It was tough to take and a tough pill to swallow and it’s still raw for some players. But having said that, it was something that we can’t control whether we agree or disagree with the decision. Obviously, we are never going to agree with a decision like that which went against us the way that it did, but we have to look forward and we have already started looking forward. We had a meeting with the girls about what our pre-season is looking like so we are already steaming ahead and channelling all of our energy into that.

So is the message from you that LFC Women will respond to this setback postively?

Absolutely - and the fightback starts now. We are disappointed and we’ve got our fire fuelled by decisions we couldn’t control and we are absolutely focused and ready. We will have some new signings coming into the squad, with players committing to the club as well despite us dropping down a league. So, we are ready and we are ready to fight. We know when we are coming back in for pre-season, the girls know what pre-season looks like and I actually cannot wait to get on the grass with the girls.

Let’s talk about those players who have committed themselves to the club, firstly Rinsola Babajide. She can be an electrifying player, so it’s great news for you and the club…

It is big news. We have been on a journey with Rinsola. At the beginning of the season she wasn’t getting as many minutes but she had to work hard, really hard, off the pitch as well as on it to cement her position in the squad, and she did that. We saw her consistently performing for us, putting her pace into practice in games by making important runs beyond for her to chase the balls. You only have to look at our goal against Arsenal with Furney’s [Rachel Furness] ball in behind their defence and Rins runs through to score.

I can imagine, will expect and will demand that Rins gets us many goals in the Championship because she’s very clinical and she’s one of the quickest players in the women’s game in the UK. She has got huge potential and is still only young so for me personally I’m really looking forward to working with Rins for these next couple of years and I know our fans will be delighted to see her put pen to paper as well as her teammates. She’s an incredible kid and I enjoy the challenge of working with her.

There was another important new deal for vice-captain Niamh Fahey, who is also a massive fan favourite…

Niamh is incredible. We were on the call with the girls eight hours after I told them our bad news and it was a heartbreaking day, but the one thing Niamh said which will always sit with me is when I said, ‘Girls, how are you all feeling?’ Niamh said: ‘Look, I’m not going anywhere, this is my club and I’m staying. Yes, I’m heartbroken but this is my club and I’m staying.’

I think that’s testament to her, to her being a loyal person and how much she wears that badge with honour. She really does and she said that in her interview. She’s great and she has got a real good balance as well. She can be a clown and have a laugh with the girls and raise the banter to keep team morale up but when it comes down to business she is cut-throat and she demands from them. It can’t always be demanded just from staff, it has got to be from within as well to have our competitive culture going forward, so it’s incredible and I’m delighted that she is sticking with us.

And Rhiannon Roberts has also committed her future to the Reds. The supporters sing a song about her running through a brick wall for the team cause...

She did actually say to me she can’t wait to put her first big tackle in when we start up in the Championship! That’s Razza through and through and our fans sing a song about her running through a brick wall and they are right - she would run through a brick wall for her teammates, for the badge, the staff and her teammates. She is a loyal and determined individual. She is so determined and she has got this really good attribute that we will need now, to show our fight when we step down into that league and look to get ourselves back to where we need to be.

Inevitably, there have been some player departures too...

Absolutely. We announced our released players earlier because I had the conversations early with the girls. It’s not nice for any manager to release players but when contracts run out we have a decision on whether we renew them or we don’t, and unfortunately we didn’t renew with a few of the players. I wish them all the best of luck and ultimately I’m extremely grateful for the time they spent with us at the club and I hope they do well next season, wherever they go. But, you only have to look at the other clubs at this time of the year, whether it’s the men’s or the women’s game, players will be leaving clubs and that’s part of the game. It’s a new step for them and it’s a new step for us with our new players we will be bringing in.

We know that the Championship will be tough and Liverpool will likely be seen as a big scalp, but there is a real fighting spirit in your squad and you are all desperate to get back into the WSL as soon as possible...

There’s no question that we are not lowering our standards in any way, shape or form because we are going down to a league below. We know the league is completely different from the top of it to the bottom in terms of what clubs offer. We’ve got some teams in the league that are semi-pro, some are full-time, but we are not changing our standards. We are going to be a WSL team in the Championship and we are going to come out all guns blazing and make sure that our standards do not drop. I will hold the standards high and the players need to hold their standards too. They will be accountable for every time we walk out on that pitch to make sure we are competing because there’s no question what our agenda is for next season and that’s to get back into the WSL. But it’s not going to be easy because there are some great teams in that league and great players as well and good coaches, so we are going to be ready for the challenge but ultimately our aim is to bounce straight back up.

Finally, just tell us a bit more about how much you’re looking forward to getting back out on that training pitch...

I’ve really missed it and I can’t wait! The girls have had kickabouts in their garden and stuff but there’s nothing like getting into a competitive session with possession practices [and] small-sided games. I really do miss being with the girls on the grass, pushing them and them pushing each other. We will be back in soon so I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running with a fresh start with that squad.


Rinsola Babajide signs new contract with Liverpool FC Women