The sheer mention of Liverpool V Everton stirs up emotions from the off. A Merseyside derby with a difference. Change the context, swap the Premier League for the Women’s Super League and well, it’s almost a different ball game. Only it isn’t.
On Sunday 17th November 2019 history will be made. Liverpool take on Everton at Anfield in the FA Women’s Football Weekend. It’s the first time an all female derby has been played on the hallowed turf of Anfield. The fixture follows in the footsteps of the Manchester derby back in September which saw match day attendance top more than 31,000.
Our resident blue nose, Kate Reilly James takes a look at why this game could be a catalyst for change when it comes to the women’s sport.
This summer has seen women’s sport thrust into the spotlight. It was standing room only at the official Vitality Netball World Cup fan park at Liverpool ONE as England fought hard to make the finals of the tournament, eventually taking bronze. Liverpool playing host to the 16 international teams, and the Roses’s brilliant performance saw the tournament reach fever pitch. Games sold out, fans travelled thousands of miles to enjoy some Scouse hospitality and there wasn’t a scrap of grass to sit on at the fan park.
I interviewed Olympic boxer and Liverpool’s own, Natasha Jonas as part of Liverpool ONE’s Summer of Champions. A series of events which also brought GB Athletes, Anyika Onuru and Kelly Massey to Chavasse Park to meet young fans. Natasha’s story is truly inspirational and continues to push boundaries as she returned to the ring after 9 months out to become a first time mum.
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France saw the Lionesses break down some long standing barriers – with homegrown talent and former Merseyside players such as Nikitta Parris, Lucy Bronze, Toni Duggan and more, receiving a first team call up. Our girls and young women seeing a whole host of actual role models showcased on every media platform for a sustained period.
How great is this. Supporting, and congratulating one of our own is what this city is all about. ? Liverpool is proud of you @JohnsonThompson ? @lpoolcouncil @TownHallLpool ? pic.twitter.com/2DAhA5COXU
— The Guide Liverpool (@TheGuideLpool) October 4, 2019
International female players dominated the news, their faces donned their home city walls, and some even p*ssed off the President of the United States. Our own Katarina Johnson Thompson took heptathlon gold at the World Championships earlier this month and in true Scouse tradition, her name and a HUGE gold medal adorned Liverpool Town Hall to mark her incredible achievement. Will the city embrace this historic derby with the same fervour?
2019 summer of women’s sport was a huge step forward in representation. But of course, there’s still so much to do and a lot of questions to ask. For instance, why are more of our women’s team fixtures not being played at major stadiums?
One team attempting to make a mark of their own is Merseyrail Ladies FC. Based in L8, the Premier Division team is the only women’s squad to have it’s own, non male team affiliated ground, Admiral Park. As developments unfold there over the next 12 months, I’m hopeful to see the floodlights go up, the stands completed and a community hub for female sport established.
My beloved toffees may have had an absolute nightmare beginning to the season, but I can at least take some bragging rights from Everton women going into this historic Merseyside derby, as favourites. I’m not alone in thinking this landmark fixture could bring about real change.
BBC Sport journalist and The Blue Room founder, Dave Downie explained: “Everton have won two and lost two of their opening four games, and can count themselves unlucky that they haven’t taken more than 6 points. Their only two defeats came against league leaders Manchester City in a narrow 1-0 defeat and they were also on the wrong end of a 5 goal thriller, losing 3-2 to Reading.
“It feels like a definitive period of renaissance for the Blues after they suffered several difficult years in the women’s game, and a prestigious clash with Liverpool at Anfield will be seen as a chance to lay down a marker for many with eyes on international call-ups.”
Everton Manager, Willie Kirk said: “It goes without saying that we (the staff and players) are all excited about the Merseyside derby at Anfield. I’m sure that both teams will put on a great show and I’m hoping that as many supporters as possible make it along on the day to be a part of it.”
By contrast, Liverpool have yet to earn their first victory this season and are currently second-bottom of the league having lost their last 3 games after opening the campaign with a draw away at Bristol City. Pressure will be on the Reds to put on a show at Anfield that will hopefully for them, be the catalyst to an upturn in performances and results.
The Anfield Wrap’s John Gibbons said:” It’s brilliant that the Women’s team are playing at Anfield for the first time. It’s been a great success when other teams in the league have played at their ‘traditional’ home this season, with some big crowds so hopefully Liverpool will be the same.
“It’s a derby as well so I’m sure plenty of Everton fans will be there too and it will be an exciting match. Everton are the form team at the moment, but of course we are backing The Reds.”
Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore told BBC Sport: “This is a historic moment for women’s football on Merseyside. We’re incredibly proud to have our women’s team play their first league game at Anfield and for it to be a Merseyside derby against Everton makes it extra special.”
With the news that England V Germany at Wembley on 9th November 2019 is not just a sell out, but is also on track to set a new record for attendance, I’m optimistic that a Merseyside derby, the following week at Anfield will help keep up the momentum. Will the fans of the men’s first teams actually go and support the women? Is a derby win a derby win, regardless of which club team takes to the field? Will massively discounted ticket prices help?
Tickets for the Liverpool V Everton FA WSL derby are just £5 for adults with up to three accompanying children going free.
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