SheKicks Magazine recently interviewed Everton Ladies manager Willie Kirk and he was refreshingly candid! Kirk left his assistant manager role at Manchester United to take the number one spot at Everton in December, just in time to beat Liverpool! Kirk is from Scotland so he sounds a bit like Big Dunc and he is quite a colorful character; he even curses! There’s tons of great quotes from the interview so we highly recommend you check it out, but here’s the top 10 points from the boss:
Kirk and assistant manager Chris Roberts have set admirably high standards:
We immediately set our standards and we call them “Champions League standards” and they’ve bought into it really quickly, it was like they wanted those demands.
Kirk is as perplexed as we are about why the Blues are not higher up the table:
[I] looked at the league table and it just didn’t equate. It was already a talented squad and you realise how much more talented they could be with development.
You can smooth the rough edges to [English defender] Gabby George and develop [midfielder] Inessa Kaagman so she goes from a squad player to a starter for the Netherlands.
...Everton being bottom [table] bizarrely made it more attractive [to take the job] because you look at the squad and go ‘No way they should be bottom of the league’.
On how he set the tone on his first day:
[O]n my first day we had a practice match and I told the players I wanted to see mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not trying to be creative, you’re not taking gambles and I think they felt a little freer to go and do things.
On how players handled losing long-time coach Andy Spence:
I think a change of voice helped. Andy was here for a number of years and I think the girls went through a three or four week period of uncertainty. You have a manager who has been there for years, he becomes a friend and then he gets sacked and I think the players started to feel guilty about it.
I think it was that process of ‘Shit, we feel guilty about this guy losing his job’ and to be fair Jen [Hirst] got them together and then we’ve come in and set our standards and it just gave them a little bit of direction and the players were excellent against Liverpool.
The times, they are a changin’ in the WSL. Back in the olden days, in 2015, Willie said that:
In my first 12 months at Bristol I never even signed a contract.
Despite the team being in second to last place, relegation is not an option:
We’ve never mentioned it [relegation] to the squad.
I told them to finish as high as possible in the 12 games we’ve got left and then you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Kirk got real about long term goals given the finances available to Everton:
The club should not be out of the top six in the foreseeable future and should be getting to cup finals. It will be very hard but we will maximise our resources to make sure we’re challenging on a weekly basis.
We’ve absolutely no right to win the league on our budget compared to the top sides.
How long his vision will take to fully play out:
I’m huge on environment and player character and I want to create that here but it takes at least 12 months to put that in place.
The 2017 Fifpro survey found that 88 percent of players in the Women’s Super League, the top tier in England, earn under £18,000 a year ($23978.52). One anonymous player was quoted as saying, “Only in the top three teams in the league [Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea] are players truly cared for.” Despite all this, Kirk seems to suggest that Everton can’t readily afford English players but can get more Dutch players in addition to the 3 they already have on the squad:
I’ve got a Dutch agent now so I have a lot of good contacts there and it’s better value for money if you’re clever. The market here is going crazy in terms of salary.
The Everton manager has increased competition between players by starting a new points system that leads to rewards like a team photo:
Whereas our players might just see it as a team photo and a bit of fun, I see it as added competitiveness in the squad because now they get pissed off if they’re not in the team photo. Without making it obvious to the players we’ve raised the intensity of the game.
I have multiple other issues in my life in terms of failed relationships because I enjoy my work too much and I’ve never found the balance but we want the players to enjoy it and we try and make it and enjoyable place to be but a challenging place to be.