The Liverpool FC Women wrapped up their season, dominating the FA Women’s Championship on the way to a title in Matt Beard’s first season in charge…since the last time he was in charge of Liverpool. The Reds ran rampant after a stumble in their first game of the season, going unbeaten in their next 20 league matches. Let’s take a look back at the season and see if Matt Beard’s squad met expectations, who our favorite signings were, and who performed extremely well.
Let’s start off with a bit of a softball. Did Liverpool meet your expectations for the season?
Gabe: I wanted Liverpool to challenge and hopefully win the title and promotion, but thought it would be a scrap. After years of neglect and mismanagement, it was hard to get my hopes up, however. In the end, Matt Beard fielded a squad that ended up being extremely fun to watch while also running away with the league. They absolutely bossed it, and blew away my expectations.
JJ: My expectation was that we’d gain promotion and we did it in spades. Going unbeaten in the league for 20 matches is incredible and that just added some extra sparkle to the whole experience. I’ve been erring on the more positive side since Susan Black and Russ Fraser have come in, and seeing the work they’ve done in bringing in players and staff to really boost the club has helped a ton since languishing in the years post-WSL championship.
Steph: I’m with JJ. After we came in second last season, and seeing them put some work into the squad for the first time in forever, it made me hopeful that they could earn promotion. I hadn’t expected the victory to be quite that comprehensive, but I think that’s due to the success of the new players that were brought in to help contribute.
Matt Beard and his backroom staff brought in quite a few new players to supplement the ranks with players who have had previous WSL experience, and many of them were regular contributors. Who do you think was the best/most important signing of the season?
Gabe: So many signings ended up making a huge contribution, but I have to go with Leanne Kiernan. The Irish striker wasn’t finding the back of the net early in the season, but her work rate was unquestionable. Once she found her scoring touch, she went on one of the greatest runs of form I’ve seen, scoring pretty much at will for a three month stretch. She got moved wide to accommodate Katie Stengel after the new year, and her goal scoring tallies tailed off, but she still proved to be essential as a creator down the flank, and still popped up in dangerous areas in the box. She finished the year with 13 goals over the course of 22 games, not too shabby!
JJ: Meg Campbell and Leanne Kiernan have been the best signings - Kiernan with her finishes and Campbell with her long throws. Once Kiernan got comfortable with the squad and was playing regularly, the goals wouldn’t stop and it was a joy to see her enjoying herself. Campbell indeed brought her winning spirit to the squad and made throw ins look like feats of strength. Any time it led directly to a goal was a thrill. Watching these women contribute to the run the team went on was magic in and of itself.
Steph: I don’t know if she was the best signing, but I think that I will go with Katie Stengel, simply for what she symbolized about the club’s interest in continuing to improve the team. The fact that they used the winter transfer window to bring another strong, experienced player showed that they had looked at the current squad, found deficits, and worked to fill them. Bare minimum ask, sure, but considering the attitude that the ownership has had about their women in the past, that’s significant improvement. It makes me optimistic that maybe FSG have been shamed into caring for their women’s side. Furthermore, Stengel was obviously very influential up front from the first moment she stepped onto the pitch, scoring 8 goals and providing 5 assists since joining in January. She has played in real competitive leagues, and I think she’ll bring a lot to the team in the WSL.
There were so many players who performed extremely well throughout the course of the season. Who was your player of the season?
Gabe: It’s so hard to choose just one player because it seems like everyone really stepped up and had a great year, but I’m going to have to go with Taylor Hinds. She really showcased her talent on both ends of the pitch, thriving in the advanced areas as a wing back. She had 3 goals and 3 assists while playing the most minutes of any outfield player. Special shout out to Melissa Lawley as well, who was a creative force all season.
JJ: Taylor Hinds and Leighanne Robe were the standouts for me. Taylor thrived in that more open role as a wing back and Leighanne really benefited from a more stable defensive position. Meg Campbell also can’t be counted out as her long balls and throws were a surprising addition to the toolbox.
Steph: Taylor Hinds and Golden Glove Rachael Laws for me. The defense was extraordinary this season, and long may it continue. Good teams start at the back, and Liverpool will need stability and strength in their back line to survive the WSL. Signing Hinds to another long term contract in January was one of those seismic deals that real should have garnered more attention at the time.
Who was your unsung player of the season? Someone who may not have gotten a lot of plaudits due to their role but was vital in their contributions?
Gabe: Ceri Holland didn’t show up on the stat sheet very much, but her energy and grit in midfield made a big difference in this squad. With only two midfielders, she covered a huge amount of ground each game. She was consistently smart on the ball, and helped open up passing lanes with her movement to allow the likes of Jasmine Matthews to connect with the wide players or attacking players as they dropped deep.
JJ: She didn’t play as much this season but Ashley Hodson is always my underappreciated hero. When she comes on, she’s able to dictate a lot of the tempo in the midfield, and score when needed. She’s reliable and has been with the team for so long it’s hard to imagine it working as well without her available.
Steph: Yana Daniels is the unsung hero up front. She’s overshadowed by the likes of Kiernan, Lawley, Stengel, and Scouser Missy Bo Kearns. Her four goals and four assists this season made her a vital component to Matt Beard’s team.
Now it’s your turn! Let us know in the comments who your favorite signing of the year was, and who you thought were the top performers.