Rachel Brown-Finnis is pleased to see Everton Ladies boast two talented young goalkeepers after watching Lizzie Durack and Kirstie Levell in training.
The former Toffees custodian, now a pundit for BBC and BT Sport, dropped by USM Finch Farm recently to visit her former manager Andy Spence and find out more about the plans the Ladies have in place after receiving a WSL 1 licence for next season.
Brown-Finnis, who retired from football back in 2014, also took in a training session at the Toffees’ complex, paying particular attention to current keepers Durack and Levell, having worked with both during her time with the Club.
Durack has been between the sticks in the league so far this season, with Levell preferred in cup competition, but Brown-Finnis has seen enough to suggest the race for the number-one jersey is close.
“To have two top young goalkeepers bodes so well for the future,” she told evertonfc.com. “I’m biased but, for me, a team is only as good as its goalkeeper in many respects. It’s your last line of defence and first point of attack, and if you don’t have either of those two things right then you are always going to have a weakness.
“Lizzie has always been a top, top quality goalkeeper and to see her four years on after her time in America, it’s clear to see that she has learned and developed the physical side to her game. She has excellent communication skills alongside her technical ability.
“In Kirstie you have a very young goalkeeper but when I saw her in training it’s clear she has come on so much in the three years since I was with her. Despite her age, she does now have a lot of experience. She played when Everton were in WSL 2, and was the starting keeper in the Spring Series success.
“So Everton are really strong in that department. Lizzie has got the jersey at the moment but Kirstie is pushing her all the way. It’s good for both those players to have that competition for their place and there is not a lot between them. We have seen Kirstie prove herself when she has been given the chance in the Continental Cup for example, helping the team reach the quarter-finals.
“For me, Lizzie just still has the edge but Kirstie is giving her good competition. But the fact both can now train together at Finch Farm with a dedicated goalkeeping coach means they will come on leaps and bounds.”
At just 23 and 21 respectively, Durack and Levell are very much learning on the job. But the former has an England cap to her name after featuring in a 2014 Cyprus Cup win over Finland, while the latter helped the Blue Girls lift the 2017 Spring Series after conceding just seven goals in nine games.
Brown-Finnis knows all about being a young goalkeeper playing first team football – she made her Liverpool debut aged just 15 back in 1995 against Arsenal at Anfield and went on to play in the 1996 FA Cup final at the same age.
And she has backed both Durack and Levell to keep improving at the world-class facilities at USM Finch Farm, especially after watching a training session.
“I’ve been where they are now and it is a case of learning on the job,” she added. “But that’s what you have to do as a goalkeeper. You can’t recreate every scenario you will face on the pitch in training. There are endless scenarios you will face as a goalkeeper because there are so many factors involved in your decision-making.
“But in training, you don’t just work on the technical aspects of goalkeeping – so much about that position is decision-making. So its good to see the two girls joining in with the wider outfielder sessions, working on things like team shape and game plans, because there will be much more decisions to be made in different scenarios within those sessions.
“That process includes how you deal with your back four, how you work with the attackers and so on, and being able to repeat those scenarios more and more will only help the two keepers we have.
“What I learned in a 20-year playing career, these girls are learning in three or four years of training. That’s fantastic for both Kirstie and Lizzie. Having a chance to train like that at such a young age will make such a massive difference to them.”