This season was rather tumultuous for Everton Ladies, with a change of managers mid-season after long time Blue Andy Spence stepped down, making way for former Manchester United assistant manager Willie Kirk to take charge. Despite a losing record, the Blues were saved by a reorganization of the WSL that kept the worst team ever in the WSL, Yeovil Town, in the league due to no relegation in 2017/2018.
After losing more talent in the squad than they brought in over the summer, the Blues played much of their preseason with only one goalie. They had no Cup success this year, and even started out their season with a loss to Durham, a team that finished fourth in the Championship (the second tier of women’s English football).
Except for one cup win against Reading and a draw against Chelsea (back when Chelsea was drawing every team they played), the Blues suffered five early losses, four of which were goalless. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the Toffees’ first loss to Yeovil Town, resulting in a manager change in December.
New manager Kirk started off on the right foot, leading the team to their first win against Liverpool in almost five years, but then lost to two of his former teams, including a 3-0 cup loss to one-year old Manchester United (who have since gained promotion to the first tier).
Despite that FA WSL Cup win against Liverpool, the Blues did not progress to the quarterfinals of the competition. After only one win between January and March, they suffered yet another 1-0 loss to Yeovil Town at the end of March.
The remaining four games saw one win but an increase in goals, mostly from Inessa Kaagman and Chaney Boye-Hlorkah.
Everton Ladies finished their season in second-to-last place, which is the same exact spot they finished in last season — but the numbers suggest that their form dipped. The Blues ended with three wins and three draws. That meant one more loss than last season.
Their total of 15 goals scored was four less than last season while also conceding eight goals more than in 2017/2018.
A recurring theme for the 2018/2019 season was conceding on set pieces — and the season ended for the Blues with a 3-1 loss to Liverpool with all three goals coming from set pieces. The Toffees also gave up a lot of goals from long range, including both winning goals against Yeovil Town.
Another unfortunate occurrence this season was an abundance of injuries. Olivia Chance missed most of the season, Captain Dan Turner was out for a spell in the beginning of the season, forward Hannah Cain missed several games mid-season, and then forward Chloe Kelly unfortunately went down with a season-ending ankle injury in February.
For the last four or five games, much of Everton’s backline was out due to injury, with academy players filling in the bench. Gabby George, Georgia Brougham, and Taylor Hinds all missed out on the tailend of the season.
Some stats according to OptaStats:
Goalie Kirstie Levell was certainly tested this season; as of March, Levell had the 3rd most saves in the WSL with 61. Out of 20 league games, the squad kept three clean sheets, with a CS% of 15%. Also as of March, Angharad James made the most interceptions (29) at the club and was ranked 8th overall in the WSL. The youngest starting XI to win a league match this season was fielded by Everton Ladies when they beat Liverpool in December (with an average age of 22 years and 82 days).
Northern Ireland midfielder Simone Magill won Everton Ladies Player of the Season for her tireless work rate and being a great ambassador for the women’s game — not to mention her overall impressive play. She scored two goals against Liverpool this season and an important goal in the 3-2 comeback win against Reading.
Netherlands midfielder, Inessa Kaagman, signed with the Blues over the summer and had quite a remarkable season, with four league goals, one cup goal, and three assists. Chaney Boye-Hlorkah began her training as a youth at Everton’s Centre for Excellence and has proven herself to be an unsung hero of the WSL, netting three league goals, and one cup goal.
This offseason will be crucial to Everton’s chances of future survival in the WSL, but Kirk’s latest comments to Everton.com do not sound too promising:
“We’ll have one of the lower budgets in the league, but we’ll aim to punch above our weight and if we can break into the top half of the table that would be fantastic.”
Despite admitting to less funding than other WSL teams, Kirk is promising changes:
“We know exactly what we need to do in terms of refreshing the group and there will be a number of changes.”
One has to wonder what kind of changes are possible under a ‘lower budget’! Stay tuned!
Be sure to tune into the World Cup this summer, where 3rd ranked England could possibly “bring it back home.” While no Blues will be on the Lionesses roster, Inessa Kaagman will be at the tournament representing Netherlands and Olivia Chance will be donning the New Zealand jersey. The two Blues square off in France on June 11th!