Everton Ladies Head Coach Andy Spence admits the prospect of kicking off the season against Liverpool has added extra zip to training.
The Blue Girls found out on Monday that their first game back in Women’s Super League 1 will be a Merseyside derby, a fitting way to kick off their pre-season proper this week.
The bulk of the squad have just had a short break after a month of fitness-based work but have returned to USM Finch Farm to begin preparations ahead of the new campaign starting on 24 September.
Spence saw plenty of excitement within his group and is looking forward to facing the Toffees’ closest rivals.
“We received the fixtures a little bit ahead of the official announcement and it was hard for us to keep it quiet with the players!” he told evertonfc.com. “They were obviously asking every day when the fixtures were going to be released. The girls were bouncing in training when they found out.
“If I am being honest, if the girls could hand-pick a fixture to start the season with, then they would no doubt go for Liverpool first. They are as excited for it as much as the staff.
“We have played Liverpool in the last few years in cup competition and have been competitive in those matches. We have given them a tough game each time but unfortunately results haven’t gone our way. The last time we played each other, we pushed them to extra time in the FA Cup and were just edged out.
“So starting the season, it can’t get any better and we want to start the with a win.”
After Liverpool, Everton face FA Cup finalists Birmingham City and Manchester City, then welcome Arsenal to Merseyside in a tricky opening series of games.
But Spence is up for the challenge and said any start to the season would be considered difficult in WSL 1.
“Regardless of whomever we got, it would be considered tough,” he added. “We open the season playing some of the teams who were up at the top end of the league last season and two sides who contested the FA Cup final this year.
“In that regard, it is a really good opening run of games in a sense that we will find out very quickly what the level is like.
“The good thing is that we have a set of pre-season fixtures that will help us. We play Arsenal and Chelsea in friendlies in the space of four days later this month and that is two of the top teams in the league back-to-back with a couple of days of recovery in between. We need to experience that scenario because we will face it in the season.
“We open our friendlies against Blackburn, before gradually stepping up the calibre of opposition. That will allow us to start giving players minutes on the pitch and then from there we can build that up ahead of starting the season on 24 September.”