The Blues welcome FA WSL newcomers West Ham United to the Academy Stadium for the first time this Sunday as they look to keep up their unbeaten run in the league.
West Ham made the jump from third tier football to the top flight during the FA’s restructure of the women’s football pyramid, the Hammers one of two new teams to have their licences approved for the fully professional league.
New manager Matt Beard, who led Liverpool to back-to-back WSL titles in 2013 and 2014, recently managed NWSL team the Boston Breakers who sadly folded earlier in the year. As well as managing Liverpool, he has managed Chelsea Ladies as they were known then and has also coached at Charlton Athletic and Millwall Lionesses.
Beard wasted no time in signing new players for his squad and some of the first through the Rush Green training ground doors were Claire Rafferty, Becky Spencer and Gilly Flaherty, formerly of Chelsea FC Women. As well as bringing in players from the home nations such as ROI international Leanne Kiernan and former Blue Jane Ross, Matt has brought in international players like Swiss Alisha Lehmann, New Zealander Ria Percival and Dutch players Esmee De Graaf and Lucienne Reichardt.
Speaking to whufc.com when he was appointed manager, Beard said this of his new position: “I’m absolutely delighted to be joining West Ham United. I’ve been really impressed with the set up here and the ambition of the football club”.
Managing director Jack Sullivan said this on Beard’s appointment: “For our debut season in the WSL we knew it was essential to bring in a head coach who could boast a wealth of experience in the women’s game and also comes with the desire to succeed. With Matt, I feel we have found both of these things in abundance”.
“Matt knows what it takes to perform at the highest level of women’s football, having done so before with Liverpool and Chelsea, and he knows the ladies’ game inside and out. He has come to England, after a spell coaching in America, and he is eager to get started”.
West Ham have started well in the WSL so far, earning a 0-0 draw in their first game of the season against Reading and a 2-1 win over Yeovil, as well as recording wins in the Continental Cup with a 4-3 loss to Arsenal on the record. A few of their players headed off on international duty this time round, Lehmann and Kiernan included while key players such as Ross, Flaherty and former captain Rosie Kmita taking a rest.
Man City have won all their WSL and Continental Cup games so far, despite bowing out of the UWCL early and will hopefully have a bigger bench then they did at Birmingham before the international break.
Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Jill Scott both returned from Lionesses’ duty with ankle injuries while Mel Lawley withdrew due to illness, but it is hoped that at least the forward will be fit for Sunday’s fixture. Abbie McManus may have picked up a slight knock to her knee against Australia however the defender did play just over 85 minutes, while Lauren Hemp could still be out with a hamstring injury.
Kick-off is at 12:30pm at the Academy Stadium on Sunday, with the game is being aired live on the Red Button and BBC Sport website. Season cards were due to be out for the game however there has been a technical issue and the club are unable to send them out in time; print at home tickets will be sent via email.