New Everton Ladies manager Willie Kirk brings a “clear idea of how he can take us forward” just like he did at Bristol City, says Angharad James.
The Wales midfielder spent time working under the former Manchester United assistant boss back in 2015-16 while a Vixen and so knows all about the qualities the Scot brings to the Blue Girls.
Under Kirk’s guidance, Hibernian lifted the Scottish Cup in 2010 and the League Cup in 2011, while in 2013 he led them to a second-place finish in the Women’s Premier League, earning the Scottish Women’s Football Manager of the Year award.
Moving on to Bristol, he inherited a team that just failed to beat the drop to WSL 2 but returned them to the top flight at the first time of asking, establishing City in the division with two eighth-place finishes.
“Straight away you could see he had a clear philosophy and knew exactly how he wanted us to play,” recalls James. “He has done the same since coming to Everton. He has principles that he likes to follow and he has brought those here.
“He changed us as a group and made us a lot more together. There is time for a laugh and a joke but at the right moment. When we are out on the training pitch it is serious, and you work hard. Both Willie and his assistant, Chris Roberts, both want as much training contact time with you as possible. He has already started doing the same here and I’m sure that will improve us.
“Willie is an established manager in this league. He did well up in Scotland, winning trophies at Hibs, and then at Bristol. He improved us and made us competitive. We were competing with the big clubs in the league which was unheard of at the time.
“He is a manager everyone respects. You want to work hard for him and that’s exactly what the girls at Bristol did. From what I have seen already, it’s the case at Everton, too.
“At the moment, we are not where we want to be. But we are improving, and the girls are working tirelessly every day to make sure we get better and better.
“Willie is an experienced and knowledgeable manager and straightaway he’s brought a clear identity of how he wants us to play.”
Kirk kicked off his tenure with a pulsating 2-1 win over Liverpool last Sunday, a victory that lifted the Toffees off the foot of the WSL table.
Up next for Everton is the visit of both James and Kirk’s former club, Bristol, and a chance to add more points to the board, with kick-off at 2pm.
James has revealed the role goalkeeping coach Jen Herst has played in making sure the new manager could hit the ground running, insisting it was her hard work as interim head coach that helped keep the Toffees on track.
“Jen has been great for us,” she added. “The girls massively appreciated the job she did. We understand that for her it wasn’t easy, stepping up from goalkeeping coach to interim head coach. But she did it to the best of her ability and was really respectful and professional in how she wanted things to run.
“She changed the group in a short space of time. Under her, we improved considerably and played some really good football. We have become a lot closer as a team and that is credit to Jen for what she has been able to do in a short space of time.
“All the girls can’t thank her enough for all of her efforts over the last few weeks.”