After a summer of investment and sensational signings, Everton were tipped to be the dark horses of the new Women’s Super League season.
The rhetoric from the club was equally confident. Before a ball had been kicked, manager Willie Kirk had his sights set on a spot in the top three and a place in next season’s Champions League.
So far, Everton have not yet lived up to expectations, although their start to the season was particularly tough. They were beaten 4-0 by Manchester City on the opening weekend, before losing to defending champions Chelsea by the same scoreline.
Conceding eight goals in two matches without response is tough to take, but defender Danielle Turner told GiveMeSport Women she was confident the Toffees could turn things around.
"It’s been a tough start," she conceded. "Two heavy defeats, albeit against two very tough sides, but we probably expected more from ourselves during those games. We didn't perform how we know we can, we conceded some cheap goals.
"It’s a disappointing start, but we've had a bit of an international break now and hopefully the girls will all come back confident. The rest of us have been working really hard at Finch Farm to improve and be better, so hopefully we've got a bit of renewed energy this week.
"I think sometimes when you get an international break, and you've had a loss, you want the next game straight away, to rectify what's gone on. But hopefully this has given us time to refocus, re-energise, and now we can kickstart our season."
The next opportunity for three points comes tomorrow, against Birmingham City. Everton’s opponents have also failed to register a win this season, heightening the importance of the game for both sides.
Turner was honest about Everton’s failings so far, and what needed to be done against Birmingham to make amends.
"We can’t give away cheap goals," she said. "That's something we've got to improve on from the last few weeks. Trying to display our attacking quality, we've got a lot of it in the squad and we’ve maybe not been able to show that over the past two games.
"We’ll probably expect to have quite a lot of possession, and that’s up to us how we use that and how we create opportunities going forward, and get our first goal of the season and flourish from there.
We’ve got to be defensively solid, and then in possession really create opportunities.
"We know Birmingham will be tough to break down, we know they'll be looking for their first points as well, so we know it'll be a tough game."
The match will be shown on Sky Sports as part of the new broadcast deal. Turner revealed she was "really enjoying" the coverage so far.
"You get a lot more in depth analysis now, and they go into a lot of technical and tactical detail, which is really great to see. It’s fantastic that women's games are getting that exposure now."
The 30-year-old also revealed she was looking forward to welcoming back fans to Walton Hall Park. Everton began playing matches at the venue in February 2020, but only one match with spectators was held before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the season to a halt.
"It’s been 18 months since we've had fans here, and that was only for one game back in February 2020, so hopefully they can be key to helping us get the first win of the season," Turner explained.
Walton Hall Park has undergone a series of major improvements since last year, including a newly-laid surface with an upgraded irrigation system, new LED floodlights, and new TV and gantry positions.
Despite the revamp, Everton played their opening match of the season at Goodison Park, attracting around 6,000 fans for the clash against Manchester City.
Turner gave her thoughts on the debate regarding the best venue for women’s football matches – a big stadium not at full capacity, or a smaller stadium bursting at the seams with fans.
"I do think it's good to have a mix of both, and have the odd game at bigger stadiums to increase exposure. You can get more fans in those stadiums, I think we got 6000 at Goodison.
"But at Walton Hall Park, it’s a lot closer to the pitch and a bit more intimate for the fans, so that’s good. I think we can really build something here at Walton Hall Park.
It’s a fantastic facility now and hopefully we can build a really big fan base here, and that will be key to us being successful this season.
For now, Everton will be aiming to collect their first three points of the season. Given Kirk’s confidence in Everton achieving a top three finish, does Turner still think qualification for the Champions League is achievable?
"We know the quality that we've got in our squad, so we’re still confident, it’s still the aim to finish as high up as possible," she responded.
"There's still a long way to go in the season, still plenty of games to play, and we're only going to improve and be better. That’s definitely still going to be the aim for us, and we’ve just got to quietly go about our business now on the pitch, and start picking up points."News Now - Sport News