Liverpool Ladies: Revamped Reds target league success

By Paul GarrityBBC Sport
Liverpool Ladies train with men's team

When Manchester City won the men's Premier League title in 2012, they finally stepped out of the shadow of their local rivals Manchester United - and there could be an even more dramatic power shift under way in women's football.

In the two years of the FA Women's Super League, Liverpool Ladies have finished bottom both times and last season won only one game. But they've now been given financial support from the men's club in a bid to challenge for silverware.

For more than 20 years, Arsenal have been the dominant force in women's football in England, winning 36 major trophies since the club was founded in 1987. But the Merseysiders are bidding to break up the Gunners' dominance.

Liverpool Ladies are no longer a separate entity at Anfield and have officially been brought under the Reds' brand. Liverpool have even hosted a joint training session for both teams at the men's training ground as a statement of what managing director Ian Ayre calls the "one-club mentality".

"The London 2012 Olympics was at the forefront of showcasing the quality and depth of women's football," said Ayre of the tournament won by the US, with Great Britain eliminated at the quarter-final stage.

"It's has been a platform for renewed momentum for the nation's largest female team sport right now. Media interest is at an all-time high and the Football Association is investing in further developing every aspect of the Women's Super League for everyone to enjoy.

"Liverpool is at the forefront of these developments and we have made a number of significant changes to our ladies team which sees a new manager [Matt Beard] and the arrival of 12 new players including six international names."

It is the financial backing and the changes at Liverpool that have been most striking. After releasing 10 players at the end of the 2012 season, the overhaul of the squad is now complete, with the club taking the unusual step of bringing six foreign players into their squad.

The Reds also made a big move when they secured the services of England international Fara Williams - who boasts 111 caps and 36 goals for her country - from local rivals Everton.

Many of these new recruits are professional and train with the club four times a week, when most sides in the FAWSL train just twice a week. The club has also changed its coaching team and employed sports scientists.

England striker Natasha Dowie has also joined from Everton - and believes she is now well-placed to achieve success with the Reds.

Williams explains Merseyside switch

"The biggest reason for me coming here was so I can train every day, and it's like we're living a professional lifestyle now - everything's been covered," said the 24-year-old, niece of former Northern Ireland striker Iain Dowie.

"It's the most professional club I've ever been to and that just shows the club's expectations this season.

"They've put so much effort and work into making us a success this season and as players we want to show our gratitude to them and hopefully put a performance this season. We want to achieve big things."

The Super League was launched in April 2011 in a bid to improve the fortunes of the game in England.

Eight teams make up the division, with each having a minimum budget of £140,000, of which £70,000 must be generated by the club with a further £70,000 supplied by the FA.

Most sides work to that budget but a club can spend more than that as long as they can demonstrate they have the finances to do so.

Given Liverpool have signed high-profile players and brought in many from abroad, it suggests they are flexing their financial muscle to achieve success.

The Reds started the summer season with a 5-0 FA Women's Cup fifth-round victory over Aston Villa on Sunday, and aim to build on that when they face their more successful neighbours Everton in the Continental Cup in Widnes on Saturday.

All eyes will be on Liverpool this season to see if they can set a new trend in backing the women's game and raising the standards of English women's football.

The BBC is showing the FAWSL for the first time this season, with four highlights programmes and live coverage of Euro 2013 this summer. The BBC Sport website will also keep you up-to-date with all the latest news and scores.

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