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Willie Kirk: Everton Women to face Chelsea 'with confidence and without pressure'


Willie Kirk took charge of Everton on 1 December, 2018, with the club bottom of the WSL

Everton have a “completely different mindset” in matches against the top Women’s Super League teams this season, says manager Willie Kirk.

The in-form, fourth-placed side host leaders Chelsea on Sunday, on the first anniversary of the Scot taking charge.

Everton have already surpassed their 2018-19 points total of 12, with five wins from seven WSL games this term.

“Last year, against big teams, we were trying to come up with a plan to maybe steal a point,” Kirk told BBC Sport.

“This year, we’re going into it [Sunday’s game] confident, we’re going into it without the pressure of needing a result, and with the possibility of getting a result which can actually affect the league places.

“Managing to put together five victories has got us in a really strong position in the table. Our mindset will be completely different to last year.”

‘Competition for places has gone through the roof’

Former Hibernian boss Kirk, 41, has overseen league wins over Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Merseyside rivals Liverpool at Anfield and his former club Bristol City.

Then a 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday kept the Toffees within four points of the leaders and just three points off a Champions League place.

“We were really, really happy with our summer recruitment, and because of that, our training intensity and competition for places has gone through the roof,” Kirk added.

“Nobody in that squad is guaranteed their place anymore, so that’s made a huge difference to the way we work and the competitiveness in training.

“They’ve got a duty to each other, to help improve each other by training at full intensity. We’re constantly reminding them about that.

Everton 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur

“We’re getting the benefits as a club that all 20 players are really buying into that philosophy and challenging each other in training.”

Arguably the only negative of Everton’s campaign so far has been their home attendances, with BBC Sport figures showing the Toffees have the WSL’s lowest average crowd this term at 325.

But the club have been playing at Southport’s Haig Avenue – around 16.3 miles from Goodison Park – while awaiting their move back to Merseyside and their planned new home at Walton Hall Park.

“We’re waiting for this move to Walton Hall Park, which will make a huge difference for us, to be one mile from Goodison and in the L4 postcode,” Kirk continued.

“We’re patiently waiting for that to happen. We hope it happens sooner rather than later, because goals like Sunday’s deserve to be seen by a few thousand, not just a few hundred.”

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC in 2019, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.



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