Matt Beard has been announced as Liverpool’s new manager for next season. The 43-year-old will return to the club following stints with Boston Breakers, West Ham and Bristol City.
He succeeds Vicky Jepson, who parted company with Liverpool in January. Assistant manager Amber Whiteley was her temporary replacement, and will remain at the club to work alongside Beard.
Beard has a mammoth task on his hands. Liverpool have experienced a dramatic fall from grace since Beard led them to successive Women’s Super League titles in 2013 and 2014. They are now in the Women’s Championship, finishing third this season behind Leicester and Durham.
Will Beard be able to return Liverpool to its glory days? GiveMeSport Women takes a look.
Return to Liverpool
Beard first joined Liverpool in 2012, with the club finishing bottom of the WSL that season. Despite the rocky start, the team’s fortunes soon changed. Liverpool won the league in 2013, going on to successfully defend their title in 2014. Beard left the club with his head held high in 2015, moving on to a now-defunct Boston Breakers side.
Having been at Liverpool for three years, Beard not only has a proven ability to get results, but has experience of doing so at the very club he is joining. His knowledge of Liverpool could prove crucial as he looks to guide the team back to the Women’s Super League.
Beard revealed he was looking forward to returning to the Merseyside outfit.
“I’m delighted to be back at Liverpool Women,” he said. “When the opportunity arose it was something I wanted to do. I’ve always followed the club since I left, it’s close to my heart. When you’re here and then you’re away from the football club you realise how special and unique it is.”
Beard doesn't just have managerial experience with Liverpool. He is one of the most proven managers in women’s football, managing Milwall Lionesses in 2008 and 2009, Chelsea from 2009 to 2012, and West Ham from 2018 to 2020.
Having resigned from his role at the Hammers after disappointing results, Beard stepped in to provide maternity cover for Tanya Oxtoby at Bristol City. He very nearly saved the club from relegation, but the Robins will now be one of Liverpool’s main rivals in the Championship.
As a result, Beard has extensive experience at all levels of the game. He knows how to win when chasing a league title, and knows how to battle when facing relegation. In addition, his insight into teams such as Bristol City will surely be of benefit to Liverpool.
Liverpool agree that Beard’s understanding of women’s football will be crucial. “We have great pleasure in welcoming Matt back to Liverpool Women,” the club said in a statement. “Of course we know him particularly well from his highly successful previous spell with the club and have followed his progress closely.
“But this is an appointment for the future. We believe Matt’s experience and know-how can help the club in our quest to return to the Women’s Super League. Much hard work lies ahead and we believe Matt is ideally placed to lead that journey.”
Significant obstacles to overcome
Beard may struggle to succeed at Liverpool, however, despite his best efforts. The club have been heavily criticised for failing to invest adequately in its women’s team, with many fans attributing this to their relegation in 2019.
There have previously been issues with the facilities on offer to the female players. Liverpool have played this season at Prenton Park, home to Tranmere Rovers. The pitch had issues with waterlogging during the 2019-20 season, although this was sorted after considerable investment from Tranmere.
Many have called for the women’s team to be included at Liverpool’s new multi-million pound training facility in Kirkby, but it is not known whether this will come to fruition.
Liverpool have previously failed to match the level of investment put in by Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, and have subsequently fallen behind these teams. They are also at risk of being leapfrogged by the clubs around them in the Championship. Take Leicester, for instance, who put significant resources behind their women's team this season and were immediately promoted to the WSL.
If Beard is to succeed in getting Liverpool back to the higher echelons of women’s football, he will need the full support of the club.