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'It's up to us to build on World Cup momentum' - Liverpool boss Jepson setting high standards ahead of new WSL season

17:00 EAT 07/09/2019
Liverpool Women's coach Vicky Jepson
After a memorable summer, the Reds get their WSL campaign underway against Reading on Sunday

For Vicky Jepson, there is one word which stands out above all others when it comes to the new Women’s Super League season: momentum.

Having spent part of her summer at the World Cup in France, and having seen the impact that tournament has had on the sport, the Liverpool manager is desperate to see that built upon as the WSL campaign gets underway this weekend.

“What happened with the World Cup was fantastic,” Jepson tells Goal , previewing the new season at the Reds’ Solar Campus training ground.

“And it was so important, too. To see the impact, to see how many people were tuning in to watch, how many people were talking about the sport and how many people were ready to give their support to their team, whether it was England, the USA, whoever, that is inspiring.

“To get, what was it, over 11 million people watching England play on TV, that’s massive for the sport and it has to be capitalised upon

“It's great to see those players emerge and start to become household names. For me, growing up it was Mia Hamm, she was the poster I had on my wall. Now, it might be a Lucy Bronze or a Steph Houghton, and that's great for the sport.”

Liverpool finished last season eighth of 11 teams in the WSL, and get their season underway against Reading on Sunday afternoon. It is seen as a game which will provide a good gauge as to where Jepson’s side can expect to be this term.

Steps have been taken to ensure a healthy crowd at Prenton Park. Liverpool have been proactive in distributing tickets to schools and football clubs across Merseyside and North Wales, while a partnership with Liverpool ONE, the city’s main shopping centre, will see app users encouraged to visit the official Reds club store where they can pick up free tickets for Sunday’s game.

For the first time, fans can purchase full season-tickets, while Jepson herself will write a weekly column for the Liverpool ECHO , keeping fans abreast of all the latest happenings at the club. Local media interest, sources say, has snowballed in recent months.

“Yes, but we can’t just say those kind of things,” says Jepson. “We can’t just use the World Cup and live off that. It’s up to everyone within the game to do everything we can to get people through the gates. 

“It’s up to us to make sure the product is as good as we can be, and that people remain engaged with the sport. We’ve had a few initiatives which we think will help in that regard, but our aim is to showcase the best of our sport and ensure that fans want to come and watch us on a regular basis.”

Support from Liverpool as a football club will help, too. This summer, Jepson and her squad accompanied Jurgen Klopp and his team to America for a pre-season tour, playing games in South Bend, Boston and New York. The experience, Jepson says, was fantastic.

It hasn’t always been the case, but thanks in large part to the work of Peter Moore, the club's chief executive and the chairman of the women's team, Liverpool is starting to feel like a united club. 

“The summer was fantastic,” Jepson says. “It was great to be a part of it and to show that we may be two teams but we are one club.

“The support and reception from the fans in the States was incredible, and shows just how far ahead the USA is in terms of women’s sport. From our point of view, it was great to experience that support and to take ourselves away from our usual environment, spend some time together, train well and play some good games – even if one of them was played in a ridiculous thunderstorm!”

For the new season, there will be a new-look squad at Liverpool. Key midfielder Laura Coombes joined Manchester City in May, but the Reds have strengthened with the capture of Becky Jane from Sunday’s opponents Reading. Also arriving are forward Mel Lawley, who was recently recalled to Phil Neville’s England squad and Jade Bailey, tipped as a future Lioness as a youngster but who is now rebuilding after a serious knee injury.

“We’re happy with what we’ve been able to do, even if as a manager you’d always like a couple more!” Jepson says.

“For us, the key thing will be keeping players fit. That cost us big time last season, when we lost players like Niamh Charles and Jess Clarke at key times, and we just didn’t have the numbers to cope with that.

“Now I look at our forward options, in particular, and I’m excited by what we can do. We were eighth last season, but I look at this year and think we can look at the top six as a realistic target. There are a lot of good teams in the league, especially with Spurs and Man Utd coming up, but we have quality ourselves.”

Liverpool FC Women take on Reading at Prenton Park at 2pm on Sunday. Tickets available  or you can pay on the gates.