The Liverpool FC Women have officially opened their slate of preseason friendlies, having taken on Birmingham City on Sunday. While Liverpool ultimately ended up losing the match on a 90th minute strike, Beard felt there were plenty of lessons learned on the day. Getting undone by a long ball was less than ideal, but the only real negative was the non-contact injury to Academy starlet Zara Shaw.
I was really pleased with the fitness levels. And I thought the young academy girls that stepped up gave a good account of themselves for us today. Today was really about – we’ve got a lot of new faces – trying to build relationships, build pictures. We wanted to try to balance the team over the 90 minutes as best we can. I felt playing out we looked good, we could have maybe penetrated them a little bit quicker, but obviously we need to do a bit more work in the final third because I felt we have got into good positions and we have either not crossed it or not got in the box.
But, look, we are three weeks into pre-season so I think there’ll be some good learnings, especially for the new players. As I say, the most important thing is that we got the minutes in the tank now. We’ve got another week training now before we go to France. I guess the only disappointment was Zara [Shaw]’s injury; we’ve got a scan tomorrow so hopefully we can find out the extent of that, but it’s always a worry when someone goes down when there’s no-one near them. So, that would be the downside.
Obviously we’re disappointed to concede the goal in the way that we did with a straight ball, because I felt we defended really well for the most part. But, as I say, there’s loads of learnings we can take from that. Birmingham have got their season starting next week, I think this was their fifth [warm-up] game and I think you could see it was a little bit leggy at the back end [of the match]. But I think there’s lots of learnings we can take from today and lots of positives as well.
With it being the first preseason match, and a couple of players on break after the World Cup, Beard had to balance a larger-than-usual squad to deal with the fitness levels. On the whole, he felt the team looked to be well-conditioned and everyone worked well together.
As I said, we tried to balance the two teams out as best we can. We had five academy players play today and we had [two more] on the bench as well, so it speaks volumes for the academy and the work that is being done there. We have still got players to come back – we have got Teagan [Micah] to join the group, we have got Fuka [Nagano] to join the group at the back end of this week. So, overall, we are pleased with where we are fitness level-wise but we know we have got work to do obviously with understanding and building relationships. That’s going to take a little bit of time and that’s what pre-season is for.
In particular, Beard was happy to give some opportunities for senior team minutes to Academy players. He spoke about the difference in the experience for the U21 players, and what the process was like.
Definitely, it’s maybe the speed of play and the decision-making. From that side, it will have been great learning for them and they’ll be able to take that back down to the academy group as well when they get back with them. They have come in this week, trained with us twice and I think they have given a good account of themselves today.