Off-season changes & pre-season highs – How Liverpool FC Women are plotting promotion in 2020/21

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Liverpool kick off their Women’s Championship season on September 6, aiming to return to the top flight at the first time of asking in 2020/21.

Vicky Jepson’s side found themselves in the sole relegation spot in the Women’s Super League in 2019/20 at a time when the season came to a standstill due to the coronavirus.

And after picking up just six points from 14 games, their fate was sealed as the Football Association board voted to determine the table based on points per game following the campaign’s failure to restart.

It means the Reds were relegated for the first time in their history and will now compete in the FA Women’s Championship in 2020/21, with an immediate return top of the agenda.

But what can we expect from Liverpool FC Women in the Championship, and what changes have occurred in the off-season?

 

Last season

Liverpool Women's Manager Vicky Jepson with her players shows her dejection after the final whistle during the FA Women's Super League match at Anfield, Liverpool. ( Nick Potts/PA Wire/PA Images)

Manager: Vicky Jepson
Captain: Sophie Bradley-Auckland
Top goalscorer: Rachel Furness (4)
W-D-L: 1-3-10
Position: 12th (Relegated to Championship)

* All statistics league only.


As aforementioned, the Reds had languished at the bottom of the WSL for the majority of last season as they struggled to see their performances rewarded on the scoreboard.

By the eight-game mark, Liverpool had scored just once, that being from the penalty spot, and their first in open play arrived in the ninth game of the campaign in a draw with West Ham.

Young stars in Niamh Charles and Rinsola Babajide were the standouts for Jepson’s side, with the latter netting eight across all competitions.

Winter window signing also Rachel Furness made a notable impression as she finished as the club’s leading scorer in the league with four in just three appearances.

A historic WSL outing at Anfield may have ended in a cruel defeat at the hands of Everton, but a 23,500-strong crowd was one which showed the possibilities for women’s football on Merseyside.

Ultimately, the opportunity to claw their way out of the relegation spot was taken out of their hands as, despite Liverpool’s desire to restart the competition, those in power made the final decision to decide the season on a points-per-game basis.

 

Departures

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA - Monday, July 22, 2019: Liverpool's Courtney Sweetman-Kirk during a friendly match between Liverpool FC Women and Metropolitan Conference All Stars at Jordan Field at the Harvard Stadium on day seven of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Jemma Purfield (Left-back) – Bristol City
  • Niamh Charles (Winger) – Chelsea
  • Fran Kitching (Goalkeeper) – Sheffield United
  • Christie Murray (Midfielder) – Birmingham
  • Anke Preuss (Goalkeeper) – Vittsjo GIK
  • Courtney Sweetman-Kirk (Striker) – TBC

In the aftermath of Liverpool’s relegation a host of players bid farewell, seeking a new opportunity in the top flight or abroad.

Disappointingly, that included lifelong Reds fan Niamh Charles. The 21-year-old academy graduate left for WSL champions Chelsea as she sought “a new challenge.”

The departure of Christie Murray is also one which comes as a blow to Jepson’s midfield ranks, with the 30-year-old boasting over nine years’ experience in addition to being a Scotland international.

Both senior goalkeeping options in Fran Kitching and Anke Preuss headed for pastures new after just two seasons, as did experienced striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.

It ensured there were positions to fill over the summer in order to plan an assault on the Championship.

 

Arrivals

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA - Monday, July 22, 2019: Liverpool's manager Vicky Jepson before a friendly match between Liverpool FC Women and Metropolitan Conference All Stars at Jordan Field at the Harvard Stadium on day seven of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Amalie Thestrup (Striker)
  • Taylor Hinds (Full-back)
  • Rachael Laws (Goalkeeper)
  • Meikayla Moore (Centre-back)

The Reds have looked to address three key areas over the summer, with experienced goalkeeper Rachael Laws the first to be added to fold – rejoining the club seven years on from her loan spell during the title-winning season in 2013.

The 29-year-old is expected to take the No. 1 spot with 22-year-old Rylee Foster, who joined earlier in the year, providing further depth in the position.

Taylor Hinds was the next to arrive, with the versatile defender making the short journey from Everton to Liverpool – she had previously spent eight years with Arsenal.

And crucially, Denmark international Amalie Thestrup has been injected into the forward line to bolster the attack, making the move from Roma and with the knowhow to win, having collected two league titles with former club Brondby.

 

Pre-season results

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA - Monday, July 22, 2019: Liverpool's Rinsola Babajide celebrates scoring the third goal during a friendly match between Liverpool FC Women and Metropolitan Conference All Stars at Jordan Field at the Harvard Stadium on day seven of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Won 1-0 vs. Brighton
  • Won 4-1 vs. Blackburn
  • Won 3-1 vs. Reading
  • Won 4-1 vs. Coventry United
  • Drew 0-0 vs. Man United

After the season was brought to a premature end in February, Liverpool would fail to play a game for over six months.

It ensured an all-encompassing pre-season schedule was of utmost importance, with five friendlies organised ahead of the all-important season.

Three were against WSL opposition with the remaining two from the Championship, and the Reds were given an important boost of confidence.

They won their first four outings, notching a 1-0 victory over Brighton (WSL) before following it up with 4-1 and 3-1 wins over Blackburn (Championship) and Reading (WSL) respectively.

A dominant 4-1 victory over the Championship’s Coventry United followed before the final summer outing against newly promoted Man United, which Jepson’s side drew 0-0.

 

The key quotes

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA - Monday, July 22, 2019: Liverpool's Niamh Fahey during the pre-match warm-up before a friendly match between Liverpool FC Women and Metropolitan Conference All Stars at Jordan Field at the Harvard Stadium on day seven of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After being named the club’s new captain for the 2020/21 season, centre-back Niamh Fahey said:

“It’s been a really enjoyable pre-season and we’re working really hard to get back up to the Women’s Super League, where we feel we belong.

“We’re under no illusions that we need to be at the top of our game in every game. We have to be up for the fight but also show our qualities.”

Meanwhile, Jepson was eager to stress that the voice of Liverpool FC Women will be the most important this season, one in which her side will prioritise “attacking football,” in a column for the Liverpool Echo:

“This season, we’re going to ignore every external bit of noise.

“Any criticism, we are not interested in hearing. The only people we care about are the ones wearing this badge, representing LFCW. That is all that matters.

“My task now is to win games and play attractive football. That will attract more fans and that is a fact.

“We’re hoping to play at Anfield again this season and hopefully we can get more than 23,000 fans in there.”

 

The next chapter

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA - Monday, July 22, 2019: Liverpool's manager Vicky Jepson speaks to her players at half-time during a friendly match between Liverpool FC Women and Metropolitan Conference All Stars at Jordan Field at the Harvard Stadium on day seven of the club's pre-season tour of America. Liverpool won 6-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s new campaign and their bid to return to the top flight will start against Durham, with Jepson’s side playing host at Prenton Park on Sunday, September 6 at 2pm (BST).

Tranmere’s ground drew criticism last season after being unable to handle a deluge of rain, but they have since relaid the pitch and added new drainage system ahead of the new season.

The first road trip of the campaign will follow on Sunday, September 13 against London Bees, also at 2pm.

The remainder of Liverpool’s fixture list is expected in due course.

There are 11 teams in the division, and the side who occupy the top spot come the end of their campaign will be promoted to the WSL, while the last-placed team will be relegated to the National League.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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