Ever since he took over as manager of the Everton Women’s team nearly two years ago, Willie Kirk has been preparing his charges for this very moment. The team’s goals for the 2019-20 season were to finish in the top half of the Women’s Super League top and to get to Wembley for a Cup final. While the COVID pandemic delayed the campaign, Everton did live up to the promise they had made with a 6th place finish and now a date with Manchester City in the FA Cup Final, on Sunday.
“We are breeding a group of winners and Sunday can be a launchpad for success in the next five years.
“We spoke about the objectives for the season at the start of 2019/20 and they were to finish in the top half of the league and get to Wembley. We were adamant we would get there and remained focused and determined all season. We managed the top-half finish… this is the last step of that journey.
“I sowed that seed and the players nurtured it and let it grow. The players felt when this competition was resurrected it was written in the stars [they would reach the final].
“We did fantastically well against Chelsea and the belief grew and grew. The challenge for me is to make sure we are not happy just being at Wembley because we have reached our objectives.
“We want to go one better. There is no point going to Wembley unless you’re going to win.”
The Everton Women are off to a flying start in the 2020-21 WSL season too, sitting in second place and unbeaten after five games. The Blues had a busy couple of transfer windows, adding ten players since January.
Kirk was relieved to get all his players back from the recent international break in good health, and talked about how players like England international Izzy Christiansen was critical to the work ethic he was trying to impart.
“Izzy is absolutely essential to what we are trying to grow at the Club. We are trying to grow a group of winners and be successful. Izzy has been there and done it. Her experience every day is huge, never mind for a one-off occasion like this.
“Some of the new signings have come from European leagues where they’ve won titles. But Izzy is really important in developing that [winning] mindset. She is just as excited as the players who haven’t won the tournament and is desperate to play a major part in this club being successful again.
“We have to play at our absolute best levels to get success on Sunday. There is pressure on us because we spoke about getting to Wembley… now we have cranked that up and said, ‘Let’s win it’.
“The week has been a bit different but two days preparation on the training pitch will be enough. You can do too much and it can be hyped up too much.”
City are the defending champions of the FA Cup, and Kirk is under no illusions about how difficult a game this will be.
“We are determined to get back to the days of Everton winning silverware and this is huge for us. It would be even bigger managing to topple one of the teams who are serial trophy winners. But winning it, regardless of who it is against, would be massive for this club.
“The focus is on the players, making sure they are prepared and in a good head space and have the platform to perform on Sunday.
“When I came to the Club it was about recruiting well, getting short-to-medium-term results, then ramping up recruitment and developing the players we wanted here on long-term basis.
“To get us to the stage where we felt we could compete for trophies. That process is nowhere near finished but competing for a cup is a nice juncture in that journey.
“We are grateful to have the chance to finish this competition and, hopefully, win it.”
Here’s wishing the Everton Women the very best of luck and hope for success on Sunday!