Liverpool Ladies celebrated their second consecutive WSL title success, parading the trophy pre-match at Anfield on Saturday. Heather Carroll provides her player-by-player review of the season.
When fully fit, Liverpool have one of the strongest squads in the Women’s Super League – winning the league when plagued by injury this year is a testament to the squad Matt Beard has assembled in the 2 and a half years he has managed the club.
1. Libby Stout
A winter signing from German side BV Cloppenburg, Liverpool’s new no.1 Libby Stout has made an excellent start beginning to her career in England. Brave when coming off her line, confidently calling for corners and free kicks, a good shot stopper and brilliantly communicating with the defence in front of her. In 18 appearances Stout kept 9 clean sheets and only conceded from open play in 7 out of 18 games.
23. Danielle Gibbons
Liverpool are one of the few clubs in the league to boast two quality goalkeepers. Danielle Gibbons had a fine season with the development squad over the winter months before making the step up to the first-team. Out of her 5 appearances Gibbons kept 3 clean sheets, with strong, confident displays against Everton Ladies, Arsenal Ladies and doing well after coming on as a substitute away at league runners-up Chelsea Ladies.
6. Lucy Bronze
Lucy Bronze is one of five players to feature in every game for Liverpool this season, an ever-present attacking force from both centre-back and right-back with surging runs forward at any given opportunity. Bronze won PFA Player of the Year back in April before spurring the reds on in their title hunt, a key player who has also become an England regular under new boss Mark Sampson. Bronze won over 50% of a vote on twitter to be crowned @LFCladiesfans Player of the Season, read more on her season and an interview here.
12. Becky Easton
In her first season as a full-time professional footballer, Becky Easton has both led from example to the new and youth players at the club while becoming a firm fan-favourite amongst supporters due to the passion and dedication she throws into each and every performance. Featuring at both right-back and centre-back this season, no match is complete when Easton is on the field without a number of crunching, usually successful in winning the ball, sliding challenges.
5. Gemma Bonner
Liverpool Ladies’ captain and rock at the heart of defence, Gemma Bonner is well-respected by team mates, fellow professionals and supporters of women’s football. A player who leads from example and constantly offers support and encouragement to the players around her, Liverpool’s defence has improved steadily on last year with Bonner having a host of defensive partners and gelling with them with ease.
2. Nina Frausing
The sole signing during the mid-season break after completing her education in the United States, Nina Frausing has fitted perfectly into Liverpool’s squad. Can play in defence or as a defensive midfielder, though Matt Beard has so far preferred to use her alongside Gemma Bonner or in a back 3 with Bonner and Becky Easton. Frausing’s performances steadily improved as she grew used to her surrounding, capping her first league season in red with a towering defensive display against Bristol Academy on the final day.
16. Ellie Stewart
One-to-watch for the future at Liverpool, despite only featuring on a couple of occasions for the Liverpool first-team this year, Ellie Stewart is a confident, young central defender who has also featured for England at youth level and scored a fantastic header in a pre-season friendly over Aston Villa.
19. Corina Schroder
— Liverpool Ladies FC (@LFCladies_ID) June 5, 2013
One of many players who returned after winning the league last year, Liverpool’s attacking German left-back Corina Schroder has once again been ever-present at the back for the reds. A particularly impressive turn in the Merseyside derby in July seen Schroder beat off a number of blue shirts at the corner flag to send the ball goal-wards for Kate Longhurst to prod home the winning goal, Schroder was also impressive in defence that day – blocking a strike destined for the back of the net.
3. Martha Harris
Lincoln’s 2013 Player of the Season Martha Harris made a fine start to life at Liverpool with a goal on her competitive début in The FA Cup win away at Sunderland Ladies. Since however Harris’ campaign has been marred by injury and her involvement with England at the U20 World Cup in Canada also limited her appearances in a red shirt. Will no doubt be a key player over the next couple of seasons, it is easy to forget how young she actually is.
27. Megan Alexander
Another player who has impressed while playing for Liverpool’s development squad, Megan Alexander is a versatile talent who can play in defence or midfield. Made her first and only appearance for the first-team in the 2-0 FA Cup exit to Everton, where she made a number of good runs down the left wing. Spent the second half of the season on loan at WSL2 side Oxford United, gaining valuable playing time before returning to Liverpool in September.
4. Fara Williams
Liverpool’s influential midfield leader, Fara Williams had a magnificent season in 2014. Taking over set pieces from the departed Louise Fors, scoring a couple of wonderful free-kicks and a number of penalties – including a crucial equaliser at home against Birmingham City. Exceptional at grabbing the game at the scruff of the neck when needed most, Williams is a great influence on the players around her – especially during tough games. In August she became England’s most-capped player of all-time and capped her Liverpool season with 3 goals in the final 3 games – including that audacious winner from the half way line away at Birmingham.
8. Katrin Omarsdottir
A sturdy presence in the centre of the Liverpool midfield, Icelandic international Katrin Omarsdottir is one of the reds most consistent players, turning out good performances on a regular basis. Has 2 goals to her name this season, once against scoring against Bristol Academy in the away league tie and netting in the 6-0 win at home to Sunderland Ladies, and should have one more – her effort at Arsenal away certainly looked over the line but the referee waved play on.
13. Amanda Da Costa
An unsung hero at Liverpool and the heartbeat of the reds midfield, vice-captain Amanda Da Costa’s performances in a red shirt can go unnoticed. However, the American puts 100% effort in every time she steps out onto the pitch. Her passing range is rivalled only by Williams within the Liverpool team and at times it seems as though Da Costa is telepathically communicating with her team mates as she picks out their runs with ease. Scored twice this season, once against Doncaster Belles in the Continental Cup and one away at Birmingham City in the league.
Unfortunately, it has been announced that Amanda will return to her homeland and join Washington Spirit next season.
30. Hannah Dale
Hannah Dale is another who made her first appearance for Liverpool this season, after coming through the age groups at the club the midfielder came on as a substitute in the opening league game at home to Manchester City. Was given the opportunity to start when Katrin Omarsdottir was struck with the reds injury curse, an opportunity that Dale grabbed with both hands in the 1-1 home draw against Birmingham City – running at the City players and drawing a number of fouls before winning the penalty that Fara Williams scored to give Liverpool a share of the points.
20. Katie Zelem
Supporters had to wait for Katie Zelem’s first-team competitive début after the England youth international suffered a broken collarbone while away with her country on the eve of the season. Once back Zelem has stood out, no doubt benefiting from the quality around her; scored a brace in the Continental Cup at Durham WFC and scored a vital winning goal in a hard-fought 1-0 win over Notts County – volleying Gemma Davison’s cross over the line with her first touch after coming on as a second-half substitute.
10. Gemma Davison
Joining from Arsenal Ladies in the winter transfer window, Gemma Davison settled quickly on Merseyside impressing Liverpool supporters with dazzling runs and her skill and technique when on the ball. Racked up the most assists, providing the assist for 5 goals – a quarter of the reds goals in 14 league games. Davison also scored probably the most important goal of the season with her late equaliser over former club Arsenal, the goal keeping Liverpool in the hunt for the title on the final day.
11. Nicole Rolser
Last season Nicole Rolser terrorised defences up and down the country with a string of impressive displays in a red shirt and was due to once again be a key player in 2014, sickeningly for player and club Rolser suffered an ACL injury during pre-season – ruling her out for the majority of the upcoming campaign. Making her return in the 3-3 draw at Arsenal and despite not being fully match-fit, Rolser showed Liverpool what they had been missing this season – scoring the second goal and continually getting behind the gunners back 4.
37. Lucy Staniforth
One of Liverpool’s most hotly anticipated new signings Lucy Staniforth cruelly suffered an ACL injury for the second consecutive year before the season had begun, denying her the opportunity to play in any of the reds competitive fixtures this year. Fully fit now and raring to go, Staniforth will be a fantastic addition to the Liverpool side in 2015.
32. Claudia Walker
Another talented young player Liverpool boast amongst their ranks, Claudia Walker has made 6 first-team appearances this season. Unlucky not to have a goal to her name, seeing a brilliant late effort in the derby punched off the line and a strike at Manchester City bocked. Captained England U19s during their first game in the UEFA Championships this summer, also scoring the teams only goal as they exited the competition at the group stage.
36. Ashley Hodson
Ashley Hodson has been in and around the first-team from the opening competitive game, having the ball in the back of the net on her début but the goal was ruled out for offside. Perhaps seeing more game time this season than expected due to the injury crisis, Hodson has not put a foot wrong – a notably good performance when coming off the bench during the tough 0-0 draw away to Chelsea Ladies at the beginning of the campaign. Has returned to playing for the development squad as their season has started back up again, scoring 2 hat-tricks in as many games against Notts County and Doncaster Belles.
7. Kate Longhurst
Liverpool’s no.7 Kate Longhurst enjoyed a brilliant start to 2014, involved in the build-up to both goals in The FA Cup win at Sunderland and then scoring against Manchester City – unfairly seeing that effort ruled out for handball. Following this Longhurst picked up a knee injury, returning in the second half of the season and continuing to work hard playing just behind striker Natasha Dowie. Netted an important winner against Everton Ladies in July’s league tie and also scored in the September derby.
9. Natasha Dowie
For the second year running Natasha Dowie is Liverpool Ladies leading goal scorer, despite losing two of the key players around her in Louise Fors and Nicole Rolser and is one of only two players to play in every game both this season and last. A constant danger to opposition defences who never know if Dowie will run at them or hold the ball up for an oncoming team mate. Scored a hat-trick against Sunderland Ladies in the Continental Cup and was an integral part to Liverpool’s final day win over Bristol Academy – opening the scoring with a well-taken strike and winning the penalty for the final goal.
Liverpool have once again enjoyed a fantastic season. With Lucy Staniforth and Nicole Rolser returning from injury and new signings surely due to arrive over the winter, next year the reds will be gunning for their third consecutive league title – it would be great to start seeing more Liverpool supporters at the games.
For all news over the winter break, follow @LFCladiesfans on Twitter!