A reasonable 5th placed finish in the 2013 campaign means that the loss of key players, Jill Scott, and the prolific and talismanic striker Toni Duggan will be of concern of fans of Everton Ladies. Manager Andy Spence will need his lengthy, in-depth knowledge of the women’s game to keep the Blues tradition of remaining competitive in the new WSL era.
Last season wasn’t by any means all doom and gloom. Toni Duggan’s goals meant that Everton carried a threat (they ran their neighbours and eventual champions, Liverpool, close in both derby games). The second worst defence in the 2013 campaign was, in many respects, offset by their potent attack and so much this term will depend on Nikita Parris; a precocious talent and a striker who is pacey and skilful, and a product of the club’s centre of excellence. Jody Handley’s huge experience will be vital to a largely young squad and the former England international will look to compliment Parris’ boundless energy up top.
Elsewhere in the squad, Rachel Brown-Finnis is one of England’s top ‘keepers, with over 70 caps, and will be integral to the organisation of the team from back to front. Fern Williams and Lindsay Johnson provide experience at centre back alongside a youthful back line which includes Paige Williams and Alex Greenwood, to name just two. New skipper Michelle Hinnigan is a dependable and combative midfielder, she’s been handed the arm band following Scott’s departure and it will carry massive responsibility. Kelly Jones, alongside her twin sister Vicky (in defence) will also be a key player. Both joined from (and support) Liverpool, so they’ll be up for the Merseyside derby’s this season! Also in midfield, Brooke Chaplen will be important in a holding midfield role having played in a variety of positions over the last few campaigns.
The good news for Everton Ladies fans is there is a nucleus of a young, hungry and talented players in this squad. Keeping Nikita Parris means she will be the player that will need to deliver the goals previously scored by Duggan.
On the debit side, Scott and Duggan (established internationals) leave enormous gaps to fill and there are bound to be questions as to whether there is enough experience in the squad to maintain their proud tradition at the top table of women’s football. This season may prove to be the Toffee’s toughest test yet.
Prediction: 6th to 8th
Key Player: Nikita Parris
Everton begin their 2014 season away to Birmingham City Ladies on April 16th (7.30pm) at Solihull Moors FC.
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