Everton went from playing in an FA Cup final at Wembley to struggling at the wrong end of the Women’s Super League table in two years, but are they now back on track?
The Toffees had a season to forget in 2021-22 with two sacked managers, poor results and a high turnover of players in the transfer window.
But the arrival of new Danish coach Brian Sorensen has brought optimism and ambition to the club.
“What we asked for and strived for as players was stability. We have a lot of that now,” captain Izzy Christiansen told BBC Sport.
“We have a true following of ambition on both the men’s and women’s sides. Brian and Frank [Lampard] they are two managers who are quite similar in terms of what they expect from their teams.
“Brian has implemented a lot of new ideas and cultural changes without saying too much.
“I feel really comfortable in my role as captain to bring this team to better standards so we can push each other.”
Everton welcomed around 1,000 fans to an open training session at Goodison Park last month and you could feel the solidarity more than recently.
The players spoke of the “relaxed” atmosphere created by Sorensen and his staff as fans waited for autographs, selfies and a word with the new boss on a Friday morning.
Sorensen, who signed from top-flight Danish club Fortuna Hjorring, knows what a challenge he faces. Last season he says the team “didn’t meet the expectations of where we want to be”, and added that “the team split up when it got into a bad spiral”.
The 42-year-old Dane will take charge of his first WSL game this weekend, away at West Ham, but came to the club just weeks before the end of the last campaign to watch training and see which players wanted to leave.
“Everybody just wanted a break,” he said. “Now everyone is motivated, we still have the core of the team but we needed the numbers, [and we have] added real quality players. Now we have to win games and regain confidence.”
New club signings including Arsenal winger Gio Queiroz, who joined on loan this week after moving from Barcelona to London, Denmark’s Karen Holmgaard and Manchester City striker Jess Park on loan.
“I wanted to bring a strong culture,” Sorensen said. “I know the right type of players needed for the locker room.”
Another one the new arrival was Dutch forward Katja Snoeijs, He told BBC Sport that he was enjoying Sorensen’s style and philosophy towards the game.
“Hopefully we can build on what we’ve done in pre-season. We’ve been really working to create our identity.
“Hopefully when the season starts we will be in a position to win games and show the Everton fans what we are capable of.”
‘A fresh wind’
So what can we expect from Sorensen’s team?
“He’s a front man,” defender Gabby George said. “He likes us to attack and defend in numbers. He likes to play in a team.
“Hopefully that will be passed on and people will say ‘that’s an Everton team’. I think that’s something we’ve lost in the last couple of years.
“[Sorensen has] It has been a breath of fresh air for the club. His ambitions, what he wants to do, his philosophy and style are exciting. I think it comes in handy when we’re playing.
“I’m enjoying all his shows. It’s been fun and exciting for me.”
Everton finished in 10th place last season with five wins from 22 WSL games. Naturally, they want to improve the results, but Christiansen said that it is important to “learn to walk before running”.
Not so long ago there were plans to challenge for Champions League qualification, but the ‘process’ required to build a sustainable Everton project is now understood.
“Last season there were a lot of bad moments and now we want to build momentum. It doesn’t matter if we fail in a game, we learn from those mistakes and move on,” said Christiansen.
“Obviously the goal is to win. We know where we are, so a good start is essential for any team. It’s amazing what you can do because of your confidence. We also know if we do.” We are in a win-win process and a journey.”