WOMEN'S TEAM

Sue Smith: City The Perfect Test For New-Look Everton

Ahead of Everton's WSL curtain-raiser against Manchester City at Goodison Park, we caught up with former England international and current Sky Sports football pundit Sue Smith at USM Finch Farm.

Smith, a lifelong Evertonian, sat down to discuss the Blues' busy summer of transfers, the ongoing progression of the women's game and why she believes Willie Kirk's side have the perfect opening match for 2021/22.

The Toffees take on the Citizens at Goodison Park this Saturday (1.30pm) - and Season Ticket, Official and Lounge Members can get complimentary tickets with our Season Starter exclusive offer!

To celebrate the dawn of the most eagerly-anticipated campaign in the history of the women's top flight, Everton and its Matchday Presenting Partner, Megafon, are delighted to give Season Ticket, Official and Lounge Members the chance to secure tickets for free.

>>> CLICK HERE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS GREAT OFFER NOW

Sue, it's great to see you at USM Finch Farm. It must be nice to come here as an Evertonian as part of your role with Sky now?

Absolutely. I've been here to interview Willie Kirk and Izzy Christiansen. Obviously, with Sky getting the broadcast deal for the WSL is just fantastic. It's nice to catch up and here how excited about people here are about the season starting and their preparations to compete.Β 

It's an exciting time for Everton Women - and we've been busy in the transfer market this summer with nine new signings so far, including the likes of Toni Duggan and Hanna Bennison. What have you made of the business?

Everton have made some brilliant signings. Izzy made a great point, saying they've added experience, international experience and they've added winners. I think that makes a big difference. If you want to go from fifth - where they finished last season - to breaking into that top three, I think that's what you need.

You need those players who know how to do it - but also believe they can do it. That's been so important for the club. Obviously, to see Toni Duggan, who is actually one of my mates, back in the Blue shirt is really pleasing. Hopefully we can see her linking up with Izzy plenty this season - I've already seen a couple of clips on social media where they have been in pre-season.

Toni has so much experience, going abroad, playing Champions League football and now coming back here. I think Izzy is going to be huge player yet again, as she was last season. She's another winner, someone who is desperate to win trophies for the Blues. I'm really looking forward to the season. I think the business that Willie has done is excellent.

You mentioned the importance of Toni Duggan. How important will she be off the pitch as well as on it?

I think she will be hugely important. Of course, she adds quality on the pitch - we know that. She'll add assists, she'll add goals. She's a perfectionist. As well as that, it's everything she brings off the pitch and I think if you're a young player and you're coming into Everton, seeing Toni Duggan with everything she's achieved domestically and internationally, then you want to learn from her.

I think that's great to have those sort of players. Everton have got a nice blend of those experienced players and also younger players coming through.

It feels like a huge period in the recent history of women's football as a whole, not just for Everton. As a former player and now a pundit, it must be great to be part of that and watch it unfold?Β 

It's just great. It's something that when I was playing, I would have loved to have happened. We all love watching football. There's nothing better than turning on Sky on a Sunday to watch Super Sunday - and to now think we can put it on to see a Women's game, it's just brilliant.

I think for all the young girls that are sat at home thinking, 'I could do that one day'... Now they can see their role models on a regular basis. It's so important for the game because it moves it forward. Hopefully Everton can do the business, not to be biased at all!

The women's game has come a long way in a short space of time. We're sat here in USM Finch Farm, where Willie Kirk's squad has access to the same facilities as the men's team. How important is that?Β 

Very much so and you want to see that. You want to see that it's progressing all the time, whether that's training facilities or something as seemingly small as travelling to a game. You can see the women's game is constantly evolving at the moment.

The players are getting better as a result - Β and the standard keeps improving. I think now is the right time for it to go on to Sky and to national TV because the quality of the product is there. That is important because hopefully now when people watch a game, they will come back and watch again and again. We hope now that we'll get more fans into the stadiums. I think that's the next step. Playing the first game at Goodison Park against Manchester City... to get a really big crowd there would be fantastic.

I'd say to every Evertonian - even if you've only ever watched the men's team in the past - come down and watch a game, I'm sure you'll enjoy it and keep coming back. I'd say that to any football fan. Try it out and see if you like it.

Looking ahead to the first match - there's no better place to play than Goodison and no better test than the reigning champions?

The players will be massively excited. You know Manchester City are going to be there or thereabouts [at the top of the table] at the end of the season - they will be up there along with Chelsea and Arsenal. I think straight away, playing Manchester City, you know where you're at.

You find out the levels of your play. Of course, it's going to be a difficult test. You look at City's players, a lot of them were in the Olympics, most of them are internationals but I'm sure the Everton girls will just be looking forward to it.

They'll be relishing that opportunity. To play at Goodison Park with the fans in as well... Wow. What more could you want as a player? Walking out at Goodison, playing a top side like Manchester City... I'm sure they can't wait. It'll be one of those they'll all have been counting down to throughout pre-season.Β 

And finally, the Club has made another investment into the facilities at Walton Hall Park, the regular home of Everton Women. Have you been down there to see it for yourself yet?Β 

Not yet but I really hope to get down there soon to have a look around. Speaking to people that have been, I've only heard great things. That's another example of taking steps forward. Hopefully I get the invite soon to go and have a little look for myself!