Post by Everton News. on Nov 28, 2019 18:28:57 GMT
KIRK ON A YEAR OF PROGRESS FOR EVERTON WOMEN
This weekend marks a year since I joined Everton with my assistant Chris Roberts. We are encouraged with the progress the team has made in that time, going from the bottom of WSL the day we took over, to currently occupying fourth spot in the table after winning three league games in a row.
But we know there is a lot more to come from our squad and our development will be put to the test on Sunday when we host league leaders Chelsea at Southport FC (12.30pm).
PROGRESS ON AND OFF THE PITCH
When I became Everton manager last November, our immediate priority was to preserve the Club’s WSL status. Every other target was irrelevant, all our energy and planning had to be invested in keeping Everton in this division.
I very quickly appreciated, though, that we could create an environment at the Club which would enable us to make meaningful progress in a relatively short period.
We have a first-rate training ground, access to high-quality grass pitches, an excellent gym facility and recovery pool.
Additionally, we have steadily implemented a series of small changes which add up to producing an elite environment.
That’s included when and how the players eat, the way their kit is looked after and a refurbishment to their dressing room area.
It’s helped changed the mindset of the squad and contributed to the progress we have made in the past 12 months.
FIGHT FOR PLACES
We now have a 20-strong squad. Fourteen of those were here last season and they will tell you they feel they’ve joined a new club.
Not all of those 20 players are happy, though. Naturally those not playing games are frustrated. They have enormous demands placed on them during the week but have to watch on a Sunday.
It is only right, then, to recognise the invaluable contributions of those missing out on selection at the moment.
They could easily be downcast on the training field but have all maintained their standards. As a result our sessions are as intense and competitive as any I’ve known, which in turn drives collective improvement.
Those players know, too, that places in the team can be won and lost on the training field as much as during matches.
That daily requirement to deliver your best comes with being a professional sportsperson.
My hardest week as manager here was leading up to this month’s Merseyside derby because I knew those I left out the team would be shattered at missing the biggest game in this club’s recent history.
We hope those days, those football occasions, become a more regular feature in our calendar and every player in our squad has the ability to be involved in them.
The way we won that match at Liverpool – showing resilience and an over-my-dead-body attitude to get over the line despite a below-par performance – did an awful lot for our belief as a group.
It fed into us delivering our most complete display of my 12 months at Everton when we beat Tottenham at Southport last week.
EARNING OUR SPURS
The 3-1 win over Spurs was full of positives. We scored some excellent team goals, especially our third from Lucy Graham, and looked in control.
The goal we conceded at 1-0 up was frustrating and the way we lost it could have caused a negative emotional response. But we dealt with it really well and got straight back on top.
That equaliser may have affected us last year. But it is a completely different group this year in terms of character and mentality and you saw that in the way we bounced back. It didn’t knock us out of our stride at all and that is a big compliment to the players.
MORE TO COME
We are still playing at only 70 per cent of our potential, though, and that is exciting.
There is so much room for growth with these players. We’ll need to be better still to claim a positive result against Chelsea but that is another challenge for us to embrace.
We recognise the scale of our challenge against one of Europe’s best teams who are unbeaten in WSL but our intention is to make sure Chelsea go home knowing they have been in a genuinely competitive match.
Our mindset going into this type of fixture last season would have been to scrap and battle and hope that might be enough to earn a point towards our survival.
It is a measure of our progress in the intervening period that we are thinking about potentially writing our own headlines and looking at a league table which has us positioned four points behind Chelsea at the top.
We believe we can go toe-to-toe with any opponent on our day. What sets apart the top teams – Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal – is their ability to perform at a high level across an entire season.
It would be unrealistic to think we can achieve such consistency so early in our development but it has to be our long-term objective.
Post by Everton News. on Jan 10, 2020 14:42:04 GMT
In Willie Kirk's latest column for evertonfc.com, the boss discusses his excitement about the forthcoming women's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on 9 February, previews Saturday's clash against Manchester City and details the qualities new signings Izzy Christiansen and Sandy MacIver will offer...
I’m thrilled we’ve announced our derby match against Liverpool will be held at Goodison Park.
It’s going to be fantastic, building on the game at Anfield in November. Everybody enjoyed that experience – playing in front of 23,500 people doesn’t happen every week.
It was a different type of atmosphere and pressure, and winning 1-0 obviously helped us to enjoy it. We want to improve the performance and appeal to as many Toffees as possible.
We need Evertonians to back us in numbers. The Everton fans who supported us at Anfield were a real driving force and we can amplify that at our home ground.
Having a vocal following of Blues will only add to the positive experience the players will have at Goodison and hopefully spur us on to another derby success.
RARING TO GO
It was very frustrating that our game at West Ham United was called off last weekend, so we’re all raring to go and looking forward to Saturday’s game at Manchester City.
The match can’t come soon enough. I think we are in a good place. It’s on BT Sport and it’s a Saturday evening kick-off, which is something a little bit different.
We know we’re capable of matching teams like City on any given day.
We’re fifth in the league and we feel we’re there on merit. We want people to start talking about a top five, rather than a top three or a top four.
Sooner or later, though, we need to start taking points off others in that bracket.
At the moment, all of our points have come against teams below us, so we think it’s overdue that we start taking points from other members of the top five.
On Saturday, we’ve got to recognise City’s areas of strength - where they try to create things from. We’ve put a plan in place to try to prevent them doing the things they want to do.
We also have players that are really positive and direct, and we want to get them into areas of the pitch where they can hurt Man City.
I believe we’ve got players who, in one v one situations, can cause them real problems.
We’ve brought in a proven high-quality player during the transfer window, with Izzy Christiansen joining us from Lyon.
Izzy has got great pedigree and has won more than 30 England caps - she is a big name and has won a lot of medals.
She has done a lot of things that some of our young players are trying to achieve and aspire to. Hopefully she will be an inspiration.
Izzy can play in multiple roles in midfield and up top. She brings more competition for places, very good habits and a professional mindset. I’m confident she will prove a real asset for Everton.
SANDY’S HUGE POTENTIAL
We’ve brought in a young goalkeeper, too, with 21-year-old Sandy MacIver joining us having spent three seasons with Clemson Tigers in the USA.
We worked really hard to bring Sandy here. She is here for at least 18 months, hopefully a lot longer.
A number of clubs would have wanted to sign Sandy. She is a top up-and-coming goalkeeper who, in my mind, will be England’s No.1 in the future.
The fact we can attract players like that is a sign of where we are and the direction we’re heading.
The first half of the campaign was very encouraging. We did a lot of work in that period regarding our principles and the way we want to play.
Now, we want to see the players be adaptable on the pitch. We want to see the players be flexible in their approach to matches – adjusting depending on what the game requires at certain moments -– but remaining within our principles.
We said at the start of the season we want to finish top half, so we’ve not just got performances to focus on, we have points and results to think about. We want to see the job through.
The FA Cup starts in a few weeks, too, and we’ve got a home draw against a Championship team in London Bees.
They will give us a tough game, but if we want to have a run in the cup and be classed as a top team, we have to win games like that. A run in the FA Cup is something we’re very much targeting.
Post by Everton News. on Jan 17, 2020 12:08:09 GMT
In his latest column, Willie Kirk explains why Sunday's clash with Reading is crucial for his team, details how the intense battle for a starting spot in his squad is key to the Blues' progress and reveals his confidence 2020 can be a successful year for Everton.
Sunday’s game against Reading has significance for a number of reasons. A win would guarantee us progression in the league table.
It would also go some way to righting the wrongs from when we played Reading back in October.
We lost 3-2 and the players were very really frustrated we conceded from three set-pieces.
That’s something we want to put right. We beat Reading the last time we played them at Southport back in April and we want to replicate that performance and climb the table.
We go into the game on the back of last weekend’s defeat against Manchester City. They are a very good team, of course, but we didn’t help ourselves by making individual errors, which cost us goals.
There are some scenarios during matches we need to be better in – learning not to give away cheap free-kicks, for example, or not making first or second contact from set-pieces. We need to improve our game-management.
Also, it’s important we continue to work together as a collective. I feel that parts of the City performance turned into a lot of individuals on the pitch in an Everton jersey, rather than a real team performance.
And the players must believe in themselves.
There’s a lot of top, top talent in his squad and they need to start realising how good they are.
FIERCE COMPETITION DRIVING STANDARDS
An important factor in our progress this season is the increased competitiveness for positions in the starting XI.
Last season there wasn’t a huge amount of competition, whereas this year hardly anyone’s place is safe.
Of course, we have got some very consistent performers – Gabby George, Lucy Graham and Dan Turner – who have played every WSL game.
But even those three know, if they drop their standards, then their placeS will be under threat.
At City last Saturday, we had three players who weren’t even in the squad because of injury – Izzy Christiansen, Chloe Kelly and Esme Morgan.
Looking at the gametime Chloe and Esme have had and Izzy’s stature as a player, you’d think those three would be there or thereabouts in the starting XI – so that’s even more competition.
If we want to be a big club, we need competition and the players have embraced that.
What I’ve said to the individuals who haven’t been starting is, I don’t want them waiting for someone to lose their place, I want players to win their place in the team.
WHY 2020 CAN BE SPECIAL
The standard of the squad we’ve got is something to be excited about. We’ve had a good first half of the season and we’ve strengthened in the January transfer window.
The FA Cup starts next week when we host London Bees at Southport FC and we’re hungry to embark on a strong run in that competition.
We’ve got the huge match against Liverpool at Goodison coming up on 9 February, too. Hopefully we can get a big crowd of Evertonians supporting us at that game. That will only drive the players on as we aim to complete a derby double, having won at Anfield in November.
We are realistically pushing for a top-five position in the WSL and we want to see how far this squad can develop going into the summer, and then build even further going into next season.
We’ve got a lot to look forward to in 2020 and I’m confident it can be a successful year for our Club.