With Liverpool FC Women centre-back Gilly Flaherty receiving criticism amid a dismal run of form, manager Matt Beard has launched a public defence.
Flaherty was one of six new signings at Liverpool following their promotion back to the Women’s Super League in the summer, arriving with a big reputation.
But with the Reds struggling for consistency so far this campaign, with just one win and one draw from their opening seven league games, the 31-year-old is among those to attract the fiercest critics.
Liverpool earned their first league draw on Sunday, as they fought back from 3-1 down to hold Brighton at 3-3, with Flaherty the only one of three centre-backs to not be substituted.
A host of supporters took to Twitter to voice their frustration after the game, and one caught the eye of Beard in particular.
With a now-deleted tweet blaming Flaherty and centre-back partner Niamh Fahey for Liverpool’s poor form, user @chaoticfootie prompted a response from the manager himself.
“I’d like to invite you in to meet myself and the players at the training ground. I’ll follow you and you can DM me to arrange,” Beard wrote.
An indirect reply came arguing that if Flaherty could “prove [them] wrong,” the user would “take Matt’s offer and shake her hand personally.”
Beard then explained: “I’m giving the opportunity to come in and see how hard we all work, you can meet the players and you will have an opportunity to voice your opinion rather than type them.”
It is a staunch defence from the Liverpool manager, who is clearly convinced of Flaherty’s ability, and shows the disconnect between fans on social media and reality.
Furthermore, it highlights the harm it can cause to players who may read these messages – with Flaherty having recently deleted her Twitter account after speaking out against criticism last month.
“Joining a new team is hard in the first place,” she wrote following a 1-0 loss to Tottenham.
“But to not be approved of by the fans and to just get slaughtered on social media after most games by your own fans is [heartbreaking].
“I’ve never cared about opposition fans doing it, but when it’s your own fans it hits on another level.”
On Sunday, Flaherty became the all-time record appearance-maker in the Women’s Super League, having played 176 times in the English top flight.