Angharad James says Everton Ladies are aiming to “set the standards” which will enable them to convert strong performances into victories in the forthcoming Women’s Super League campaign.
Midfielder James is poised to embark on her second season with the Club after joining from fellow WSL 1 side Yeovil Town last summer.
The Wales international was in sparkling form in the Blues Girls’ pre-season friendly with Liverpool on Sunday and twice came close to scoring with blockbuster efforts from outside the box.
She admits the parochial nature of the contest lent it more edge than a typical friendly. The match ended 0-0 but Everton made all the running after half-time, leaving James optimistic her side are heading in the right direction ahead of 2018/19.
“Every game in this pre-season is competitive,” James told evertontv. “We will keep building and hopefully we can push on and be the best we can this year.
“Overall we were disappointed with last season, so if we can set the standards now in pre-season it will be exciting.
“Last year was definitely a learning curve for us. It was the first year we were professional and we were seeing where we were at in the league.
“We competed but should have been winning a lot more games. We have reflected on that in our time off and since we started pre-season.
“And we have come back hungrier than ever to try to turn those performances into wins.”
Everton Ladies finished ninth in last term’s 10-team WSL 1, winning four and drawing two of their 18 matches.
Seven of the Blue Girls’ defeats were by a single-goal margin, however, including both against champions Chelsea. That sequence of close-run things frustrated James and her teammates - and is acting as a substantial source of motivation leading into next season.
The new-look, 11-club WSL launches in September but Everton kick off their competitive fixtures next month in the Continental Tyres Cup.
Andy Spence’s team continue their preparations on Sunday when they meet Arsenal Ladies, third in last season’s WSL 1 and 2-1 victors over the Blues Girls in April’s FA Cup semi-final, in a behind-closed-doors match.
Manager Spence takes his side to Gibraltar in early August to complete their preparations for the season in the Friendship Tournament, with Everton drawn in a group also featuring Spanish champions Atletico Madrid and La Salsa from America.
Former Bristol Academy and Notts County player James insists the Blue Girls’ remaining friendly matches will serve as valuable opportunities to increase her fitness levels – and perhaps get on the scoresheet. She clipped the outside of a post with a swerving 25-yard shot against Liverpool and swiftly followed that strike with another from similar range which dipped fractionally too late to sneak in under the bar.
Had either effort landed in the net, James would have christened the Club’s new away kit in grand style. The ladies’ derby at Marine marked the first time an Everton team played in the carbon-coloured design, with its pink-glo trim.
“It was nice that we could be the first women’s team to promote a club’s kit and we are very grateful for that,” added James, capped more than 50 times by her country.
“It was good to get a few shots off and it was just my luck that neither went in. The girls all played their part, though, and if we can take that performance into the next game and keep getting better and better each week that is the most important thing.
“It was not bad to start things off with a derby. It was not a friendly in our eyes. We wanted to have some bite about us throughout the team and we put that into our performance.
“It was the first week back and we were straight into it. We definitely improved in the second half and can continue building on that now.
“I am still not fit enough. It is early stages of pre-season and that was a stepping stone. I like to try to set my own standards and continue to improve.”