My Everton #77: 'We Defied All Odds As Underdogs' - Rachel Brown-Finnis

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I remember when I first came to Everton.

I had just finished a football scholarship in America, unsure about the next step in my career and then a door in Merseyside opened for me.

I had been to Liverpool before but this time it felt different.

At that time the women’s game still operated on an unpaid basis for a lot of clubs, but we didn’t let that affect us at Everton.

Balancing my studies to become a teacher with my footballing career was challenging, but it made me want to pursue my dream even more.

Mo Marley was our manager, an icon of the women’s game. She is an advocate for change from the days I worked with her as a player, even to the present day where she continues to help the next generation of talent with her role in England’s youth setup.

She was the glue that brought a talented group of footballers together who achieved more than we could have ever dreamt of.

The FA Cup final win over Arsenal, lifting the League Cup, playing in the Champions League. It all wouldn’t be possible without the incredible group of players we had.

Rachel Brown-Finnis
We knew we were underdogs. However, what allowed us to defy the odds was an excellent work ethic and ethos we were able to instil in the group.

Fara Williams, Jody Hanley, Natasha Dowie, Rachel Unitt, the list is endless.

I’ve got to include Lindsay Johnson in there, too (otherwise she’ll kill me!).

We had such a brilliant team who achieved so much over the 11 years I was there.

We knew we were underdogs. However, what allowed us to defy the odds was an excellent work ethic and ethos we were able to instil in the group.

While we were technically not professional players and we weren’t paid for playing, we conducted ourselves very much as we were because we all wanted to drive women’s football towards the fully professional outfit we see today.

Every time we were at Finch Farm, on TV conducting interviews, attending fan events, we knew that we weren’t just representing the Club, but the future of what women’s football should be.

As a kid, I couldn’t have dreamt of the possibilities girls are given today.

Playing in tournaments, joining local teams, playing football in school. That wasn’t possible when I was growing up. But I’m glad it is now.

The Lionesses have played a significant role in that process.

The 31 July 2022 is a day cemented in the history of our sport when England inspired a nation.

The legislation they announced alongside the government on international women’s day shows the selfless nature they have as a group.

It wasn't about their individual success; it was the legacy that they could make on this sport and on young people's lives. Because ultimately, it's young people's lives that they wanted to change.

Domestically, you can see the impact that has had as well.

I was at Anfield earlier this year for the Merseyside derby and it was incredible.

I was actually sat in the Kop, not by choice! But because the away end was sold out!

Seeing a stand full of Evertonians cheering on our girls was fantastic and it shows how far the game has come since I hung my boots up.

The match itself was unreal.

To beat Liverpool so emphatically on their own turf was incredible and to share that experience with my kids was really special.

However, the reverse fixture at Goodison Park has the potential to be even better.

While I love my punditry work, I’m grateful to be spending this one as a fan.

There won’t be many opportunities left to play at Goodison so for one of those final games be a Merseyside derby will be truly special.

To play under the lights at Goodison adds to the spectacle as well.

From my time as a player, playing at night has a different feel to it. Waiting all day for that first whistle just builds the excitement and I’m sure the squad will feel the same come Friday night.

This group have showed countless times this season that they have the mental strength to deal with intense games such as this and I can’t wait to see how they perform when the time comes.

The Women’s Super League is one of the best – if not the best – league in the world.

It’s a credit to the trailblazers of footballers I played alongside and those who continue to inspire today.

Women’s football continues to grow in England and I feel incredibly lucky I can continue to be a part of it through my work in the media.

I feel privileged to be put in a position where I can inspire other women to achieve success.

To become a pundit, commentator or follow in my footsteps as a player, it’s all possible and you can make a career from it.

I’m a big advocate for change. It’s important to keep asking questions and pave the way for women to achieve their dreams.

My love for football is just as prominent from the days I stood between the posts.

That passion for the game isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

By Rachel Brown-Finnis, Everton goalkeeper (2003-2014)

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Tickets for the Merseyside derby, which includes the opportunity of recognising the achievements of Everton’s 97/98 title winning season, are on general sale now. Tickets are priced at £8 for adults, £4 for under-18s and over-65s. For full details, please click here.