Liverpool Ladies defender Satara Murray is convinced the former FA Women’s Super League champions’ new-look team can perform much better after finishing seventh in her first season.
Many players – and a manager – have come and gone in the six months since the season ended and the American centre-half is clearly excited by a fresh start under the guidance of new boss Scott Rogers.
“It is a very new team but for the past few months I think we’ve really gelled together,” said Murray.
“It’s a really good bunch of girls so it didn’t take long at all for us to come together as a group. Those games that we played out in South Africa were really good for us, it was a really good test and the sides that we played were very good. I think it has helped prepared the girls for what’s coming.”
Long distance pre-season tours are now a common theme for some of the wealthier FA WSL clubs and Liverpool were just one of several teams to jet off for matches over the winter.
But there were a few stumbling blocks when South Africa head coach Vera Pauw took to Twitter to say she had no knowledge of a pre-season game against Liverpool, with Rogers’ side instead taking on a couple of domestic clubs.
Despite the hiccup, Murray says the trip away was crucial, given nine of the 18 players on tour were new signings.
She said: “It can get a little awkward at times because obviously a lot of people have never met so it was a really good chance for us to get to know each other – both on and off the pitch. The friendships grew a lot stronger whilst we were in South Africa so I think that was very good for us.”
After only managing to finish above relegated Bristol Academy last season, things looked bleak for Liverpool before Christmas when manager Matt Beard departed for Boston – taking goalkeeper Libby Stout with him. Then Fara Williams left for Arsenal and striker Natasha Dowie moved to Doncaster Rovers Belles, leaving Rogers a wafer-thin squad.
But the arrival of nine internationals has certainly boosted the mood around the club and Murray is confident that with the focus on teams elsewhere, Liverpool can go under the radar in 2016.
She said: “There really isn’t much pressure on us so it’s really on us to go out there and have fun and not think about last year. It came and went, we’ve got a new manager now and a lot of new players so it’s a new start and we’ve got to take it one game at a time for now. If things don’t go our way early on we have plenty more games to go but I think it’ll be a good season for us.”
Liverpool face a depleted Birmingham City side in their FA WSL opener on Wednesday night after being knocked out of the SSE Women’s FA Cup on Saturday night by Manchester City Women.
And the 22-year-old acknowledges that the first few games will ‘set the tone for the rest of the season’.
Murray added: “The way we started last year I think pretty much set the tone the other way, so if you can start off really well it gives you that momentum to move forward throughout the year.
“We won’t be taking anything or anyone for granted, we have to always respect our opponents and hopefully it will help our game.”
Murray was born in New York City – Brooklyn to be exact – and played for Washington Spirit before Beard brought the young defender to England.
But despite the constant rise of women’s football across the pond, Murray has enjoyed her first year in the country.
“I’ve really liked it,” she said. “This is my second year here and last year was a massive test for me. It was kind of humbling because there were certain things I couldn’t get away with that I maybe could in America.
“It’s a lot of fun – the culture is very different here in England but now I know what is expected of me and this league and I think it’s going to be even more competitive this season than it was last season. But it is fun, definitely – I have really enjoyed it.
And on the chances of an American superstar pulling on a Liverpool shirt sometime soon?
“Ah, we’ll see,” she laughed. “National team coaches tend to want their players in their own country so I don’t think we can say we’ll see an Alex Morgan or a Hope Solo or anyone like that coming over any time soon!”