After a couple of rocky seasons, former back-to-back WSL champions Liverpool look to be back on firmer footing and coach Vicky Jepson is ready for the task ahead.
Despite their links with the men’s team, the squad still has a modest budget causing the team to look to younger players who still need time to grow and develop in the Super League.
“We’ve got a talented squad but we’ve got a very young squad, one of the youngest in WSL. With that we’ve got to make sure we’ve got that game craft, Rachel Furness was fantastic for Spurs [on Sunday] but she’s got so many years of experience of playing in the WSL; we’ve got Amy Rodgers and Jade Bailey – two youngsters who are doing very well but still have a lot to learn. And that’s key that we’re patient with our younger players because when they flourish, we’re going to have a fantastic team going forwards,” Jepson said,
“We have to make sure we’re the type of club that has to invest in our youth players because we can’t go off and buy the best players in the world but we will do is make sure we get it right with what we’ve got every week.”
Having been with the club for ten years, primarily working with younger players and the development team, the young squad is in safe hands with Jepson but she concedes, if there was the money for more players with more experience in the league, she wouldn’t be in a rush to turn them down.
“If I could go out and recruit bigger, better players I think any manager would but I have a loyalty to making sure our door is open to our youth set-up, Niamh Charles is a prime example, last week she was probably the best player on the pitch against Reading. She’s come through our centre of excellence since the age of 14, signed from a lad’s grassroots team, and it’s been a pleasure to be with her on that journey so I feel a loyalty but no one is going to turn down an outstanding player to bring into their club.”
With two losses in two WSL matches so far this season, Liverpool haven’t started the campaign off on the best terms but have shown growth on the pitch if not on the scoresheet. The main focus for preseason, strengthening a perilously thin squad.
“I think the main thing is we had to add depth of quality to our squad which was the first point of call so we recruited Becky Jane who’s been fantastic to tighten up our back four, then Jade Bailey to add strength in that midfield then obviously Mel Lawley in the front three.”
The manager more than aware of the mountain ahead, she said, “I know I’ve got the toughest task and I’ll probably be grey by the end of this season but I’m not going to give up, we’ve got to make sure our club is better now going forward than when we once were.”
With Liverpool having received sizable backlash at the start of last season with manager Neil Redfearn leaving not long after taking charge following a mass exodus at the end of the previous season, things did start changing for the better behind the scenes as Jepson explained.
“I think for us as a club, as a reputation because this time last year we got a lot of negativity with the manager leaving etcetera etcetera, losing a lot of players in the previous season. So we needed to put our club in a better place publicly and with the support of Peter Moore [the CEO] actually taking us in house, it was the right thing for us to start moving together with the club as two teams but one club and that was what we needed to be.”
With a trip to the USA under their belts this summer – on a joint tour with the men’s team – the team had their own bonding sessions on the other side of the pond to help bring them together ahead of the new season.
“Obviously off the pitch the girls bond more if you’re flying on a jet out to the States and the interactions we had at different events with the men’s first team and the training was really good so there was so much from it that we needed to do as a club but we’ve still got a long way to go to put ourselves to compete with the top of the league.”
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