Cracks have turned into craters as 10 players have departed Liverpool Ladies this summer, leaving new manager Neil Redfearn with a major rebuild both on and off the pitch.
While your eyes have been glued to the television as the World Cup takes centre stage and your Twitter news feed littered with musings about the ongoings in Russia, a mass exodus has taken place within the Liverpool Ladies side that has raised serious concerns over the future of the team.
The summer tournament has acted as a defensive block as attention has been diverted elsewhere, but the torrid state of affairs can no longer be glossed over as it seemingly extends beyond results on the field, and into the culture of the club.
The departures of senior professionals, including Siobhan Chamberlain, Sophie Ingle, Alex Greenwood and skipper Gemma Bonner have highlighted a disjointed and blurred vision of success, which was seemingly fostered under recently departed manager Scott Rogers.
The team were expected to pose a challenge to the two dominant forces in the Women’s Super League 1, in Chelsea and Manchester City, but their season quickly petered out and ended with just four points from their last five games – meaning they had to settle for sixth place, 16 points adrift of the champions.
Since being a part of Liverpool’s 2013 and 2014 title-winning sides as assistant manager, Rogers has overseen a steady decline at the club which has been coupled with the loss of a handful of influential players over the years.
Such deterioration across performances and personnel had raised questions over Liverpool’s desire to compete amidst the rapid development of the women’s game. Despite Liverpool making changes at the top with the addition of former Leeds and Rotherham manager, the damage had already been done by Rogers if the parting words of our most experienced players are anything to go by.
The versatile Ingle spent three years with Liverpool and upon her exit to join Chelsea, she said: “As soon as I got the call from Chelsea it was massive for me. I need to push on with my career and I’ve come to a club that is the number one in England, winning plenty of trophies, and I hope to do that here.”
Liverpool Ladies’ skipper, Bonner after calling time on her six-year career at the club to join City said on Twitter: “I am excited & ready for the opportunity which I feel will challenge & push me everyday to be the best I can be.”
Finally, England international goalkeeper Chamberlain, offered the clearest indication of a thirst for success being unquenched at the club, as she wrote: “With next season being my 20th year in senior women’s football, it’s important to be in an environment that challenges me every day and one where I can enjoy playing football.
“I also want to know that I am part of a project that is doing the most it can to develop women’s football.”
Different players, same message.
Where to Next?
With doubts lingering over the ambition and future strategy of the club, Redfearn has one almighty task on his hands to rebuild a team which has seemingly been stripped to the bare bones.
The perception of a failure to strive, or have the ability, to compete with the leading forces in the game requires rapid movement from Redfearn if he is to make Liverpool an attractive proposition for their transfer targets this summer.
However, he is coming off the back of an exciting project within the women’s game having steered Doncaster Rover Belles to the WSL2 title, and with the Yorkshire side unable to be promoted due to financial requirements, there is potential for the club to cherry pick the cream of the crop at the 52 years old’s former side.
With the current batch forwards struggling to fire last season, Redfearn could turn to the Belles’ star striker Jessica Sigsworth, who scored an impressive 18 goals in 21 games, an addition which could be boosted by midfielder Emily Simpkins who notched two goals of her own playing a key role in turning defence into attack.
However, with just two defenders remaining in the senior squad upon Redfearn’s appointment, the likes of Leandra Little, Rhiannon Roberts and Sophie Bradley-Auckland will no doubt also come under consideration from the WSL2 outfit.
Ultimately, with 10 senior spots to fill the club are destined for a busy summer as they look to pick up the pieces and transition into a new era of success, but it will take time to restructure the foundations of the side and mould together a team which is capable of soaring to the top of the table.
The only thing that is for sure is that Redfearn at the very least must rid Rogers’ final legacy from the club and strive for every player, coach and member of the team to be on the same page amidst the major upheaval.