The FA Women’s Championship has finally concluded with the hoped for result - Liverpool FC Women have been crowned champions and granted promotion for the next season to the Women’s Super League. Their rightful place.
“Our season has now come to an end but what a fantastic year it has been and the girls deserve so much credit for what they have achieved,” manager Matt Beard writes in his last column for the season.
“It seems like a long time ago since our game against Bristol City when we got the job done, but it’s a fantastic achievement and the players have been absolutely spot on, the staff as well. We have all worked so hard and the togetherness of this group and just the enjoyment of it has been fantastic.
“What an achievement, because this is not an easy league to get out of and to do it the way that we did it has been the most pleasure and I’m so proud of everyone.”
Twenty games unbeaten is certainly something to be proud of, especially in a league as difficult and physical as the Championship, and Beard points that out eagerly.
“To go 20 league games unbeaten since the defeat on the opening day of the season is an amazing achievement. We had such a tough March with some big games and to come through that was so pleasing,” Beard continues.
“I knew after that we would go on and win this division, but you’ve just got to keep everyone’s feet on the ground and keep it going and stay humble, respectful and crack on.
“After our win at Bristol City we had the international break and didn’t play for three weeks, and then we put in a fantastic performance against Sheffield United when we managed to get our hands on the FA Women’s Championship trophy.
“That was probably our best performance of the season, especially at home.”
Although the season ended in a disappointing loss to Lewes away from home, it didn’t dull the shine of the season, and even the opportunities the last match afforded to some of the younger players on the squad.
“It was frustrating to lose the final game of the season to Lewes FC last Sunday but it wasn’t a game when I can say I was disappointed by it. Lewes deserved to win the game, to be honest with you,” Beard explains.
“If you look at what we put into those previous 20 league games, I felt it was just one game too many for us, and I made a few changes to give the other players who haven’t played as much a chance.
“We ended up making changes during the game because Lewes were causing us one or two problems. Their winning goal was a freak goal, let’s be perfectly honest, scored by their goalkeeper from a free-kick in her own half.
“We managed to give a few youngsters a chance. Lucy Parry got 90 minutes, Hannah Silcock started the game, Robey [Leighanne Robe] was back and Charlotte Clarke played as well.
“I have to say, it was a great atmosphere and our away support was absolutely fantastic as always.”
Now that the season is over, though, all paths now leads to the start of the Super League, and readying the squad for this new challenge. There are already rumors of players leaving, as the squad is unfortunately at the limit in terms of players - so for the club to add players, some are going to have to make way. There are also potentially contracts to settle for the players that may need extensions and want to stay, and workouts for over the summer before pre-season.
“Preparations for the Women’s Super League have already started now. We’ve got to tidy a few bits up this week and the players have been doing some testing and we have been giving them a few things to work on in the summer, before they return in July,” the manager adds.
“The recruitment is under way to add to what we have got already. We are working very hard at that and we have got numerous targets. We are looking at recruiting in four areas of the pitch and hopefully in the coming weeks and months we will be able to confirm a few new faces.
“We are really looking forward to the challenge and I am confident we can hold our own next season. There is a lot of work we need to do in the off-season to make sure we get the team prepared but we have got a really good group of players here, as well as a really good group of people.
“We will add experience, whether that’s WSL or international, to the group. We want more competition for places again as we step up to the next level. The recruitment is going to be absolutely key for us. I know the division inside out so I know what is needed.
“We’ve got enough experience in this team and enough quality to compete in the WSL, and if we get the right player, right person, we can compete in this league for sure.
“We know it’s not going to be easy, but we are really looking forward to the challenge.”
All this optimism is so refreshing after coming from the depths of where Liverpool were before this point. Things are looking up for the Reds and now it’s time to enjoy the win before getting back to work.