WSL 2018-19 season preview: Liverpool

Will the Reds ever recapture their former success?

WSL 2018-19 season preview: Liverpool
Credit: Joerdeli Photography | Daniela Porcelli

From back-to-back titles, things have only gone downhill for Liverpool and now, without a manager, things look their bleakest.

Redfearn’s new squad

Unable to keep the discontent under wraps, this summer saw a mass exodus, the majority of Liverpool’s starting XI moving to neighbouring Manchester United, more than happy to take a step down to the Championship. Only Kate Longhurst (to West Ham), Sophie Ingle (back to Chelsea), Ali Johnson (to Bristol City) and Gemma Bonner and Caroline Weir (both to Manchester City) left for other WSL sides. Though not all experienced and established players, there’s no question losing 12 players in one go will hurt any team.

Things did however seem to be on the up for the Reds with departing Doncaster Belles manager Neil Redfearn brought in and things looking rosy once more. Needing to build his own squad, the former Leeds man fell back on the players from his former team, Leandra Little, Rhiannon Roberts and Sophie Bradley-Auckland brought in with Bristol City pair Jasmine Matthews and Yana Daniëls joining early. Plucking one of the stand-outs from the second tier, Leighanne Robe made the move north of the M25 as Anke Preuß took the number one for departing ‘keeper Siobhan Chamberlain and Fran Kitching came in as back-up. Niamh Fahey returned to England after a spell with FCG-Bordeaux as Christie Murray moved south of the border once more after a brief stint with Glasgow City. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk made the cross-town switch from Everton before Kirsty Linnett signed after an impressive trial.

Fast exit

A pre-season camp that saw Liverpool pitted against Frauen-Bundesliga opposition drew mixed results though it seemed as if all was well in the Red camp. A league cup loss to Manchester United kicked off Liverpool’s competitive games before a humbling 5-0 loss away to Arsenal. One league match into the season with plenty left and an improving squad, Redfearn left fans and commentators baffled when he announced his resignation earlier this week, no reasons given.

By all accounts, the manager was looking ahead to his first season managing in the WSL, his mood positive, his exit a surprise to many. With higher-ups who seem to have been digging their heels in in recent years, it’s no great stretch to suggest that things behind the scenes were what lead to Redfearn’s early exit, but the suggestions only raise further questions about the sustainability of the team.

As well as a new team, the 53-year-old brought in a new back of house team and it’s those who’ll be taking over, with goalkeeping coach Chris Kirkland put in place as manager for Liverpool’s next ties. Consistently impressive with the development sides, Vicky Jepson was promoted to Redfearn’s backroom and will be assisting Kirkland though she remains the most logical replacement.

Just one game into the season, there are managers floating around who would take the job but they would be walking into a team hand-picked by someone else, the players clearly having an affinity for their former manager. However, if all is no well behind the scenes, there are few managers who would happily put themselves in that situation. The question marks around Liverpool continue to swirl around.