When Liverpool returned to the Women’s Super League last summer, it marked the return of one of England’s most successful clubs to the top flight. During the halcyon days of the early 2010s, the Merseyside club were consistently competing for the title. In Matt Beard’s first spell, Liverpool even have the coveted honour of being one of only a couple of sides to successfully go back-to-back in terms of winning league Championships.
During this first period in the top flight, the Reds have seen the likes of Sophie Ingle, Lucy Bronze, Shanice van de Sanden, Fara Williams and Caroline Weir to name but a few don the famous Liverbird crest.
Liverpool FC Women are a huge institution and it is right to see them back in the top flight and being supported properly by the club. Matt Beard’s return to the club heralded a deserved promotion from the Women’s Championship. However, the task of staying up in the WSL was a daunting one. Teams traditionally do struggle in their first year up, due to the disparity in budget and experience.
Liverpool has passed this test with flying colours, however. From their opening day scalp of English Champions Chelsea at Prenton Park to the more recent bloody nose they gave Manchester City, Beard’s team has been synonymous with being difficult to play against and tough to beat.
There is a likeable quality about how hard the team works. The sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. Every single player runs their heart out, and battles, blocks and scraps for every ball. They have not given away easy chances in most matches and have seldom suffered the ignominy of absolutely collapsing in matches. Most importantly, they have shown a real ability to take chances when they come, and not squandered opportunities to claim important points.
A lot of this mirrors the ethos of Matt Beard. He demands hard work because he puts in the hard graft himself off the pitch. It is that reason why he is so respected and adored by the club and the fans. Beard is nothing if not pragmatic and some of his selections have reflected this. He shows respect to some of the top sides through this, but it also doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe that Liverpool can get positive results. This faith has been repaid by the early impressive results, particularly against teams in the European race.
This is not to say they don’t have real quality too. The return of Shanice van de Sanden has added a real sprinkle of star quality to the squad. A multi-Champions League-winning winger, with electric pace and a winning mentality. It 100% galvanised the team to acquire a player of this stature. It’s a testament to van de Sanden’s own love for the club that she chose to return too, having already spent time on Merseyside in their glory years.
One of the most impressive elements of the Liverpool season has been the performances of Missy Bo-Kearns. The all-action central midfielder is getting better every single season and her leadership has started to really shine through this year. She has a fantastic passing range, reads the game very well and increasingly is becoming a big part of the team from an attacking perspective. Having already featured for England at youth levels to great success, there is no doubt she will soon be joining the coveted ranks of the Lionesses.
Liverpool’s season has generally been very solid, which has to be considered a real success in their first year back. Whilst a number of sides are still looking nervously over the shoulder, the Reds can enjoy the luxury of mid-table and even still have an outside chance of overtaking their cross-city rivals Everton. Even if not, a 7th-place finish would represent an excellent building block for the future.
The next step for Liverpool is to try and ensure that they once again are competing in the top half of the WSL on a consistent basis. The hierarchy in the league has changed once again and now a lot of teams are investing heavily. Liverpool needs to continue doing this to ensure they can continue to grow. In addition, there is absolutely no reason why they cannot really challenge in the Continental Cup and Women’s FA Cup. In the latter, they were perhaps unlucky to draw Chelsea - the eventual winners - so early in the competition, and also had to visit the imposing fortress of Kingsmeadow. That said, the Continental Cup performance was a little disappointing this year.
Despite this, it has been a very good first year back in the Women’s Super League. It’s also been marked by real progress off the pitch too for the football club. Key decisions are being made for player welfare and ensuring that they have access to the quality of facilities that they deserve. The team have experienced the famous Anfield atmosphere; albeit in a disappointing derby result; and the football club has also impressively led the way in their support of the fantastic Her Game Too initiative.
Women’s football is on the rise in England ever since the bumper WSL TV deal and England’s Euro 2022 triumph and this is evident in Merseyside. Liverpool is a proud city, Liverpool FC Women are a proud club and this season of transition as they adjust to life at the top level again has certainly not seen anyone let their team down. They can play their final fixtures without pressure and look forward to another exciting year in the Women’s Super League, where they belong, once again.