Liverpool midfielder Laura Coombs believes this is the year that she needs to kick on after finding a “happy environment” at Liverpool following her permanent move from Chelsea.
The 26-year-old, who came through the ranks at Arsenal before moving to Chelsea, has had various loan spells during her career, but after some impressive performances during a temporary spell in 2016 at the Reds, she made the move to Liverpool a permanent one.
“I’m not a young player anymore, I’m in an environment where I am happy and feel comfortable in this team,” she said.
“I think this year I have to kick on, put in consistent performances and become a mainstay in our midfield.”
The two-time FA WSL champions got off to a flying start during the recent Spring Series, putting in some impressive performances, which included a staggering 4-4 draw away at Arsenal.
There is plenty of talent in the Reds squad, with Coombs joined by the likes of Caroline Weir, who has been so impressive since joining the club from Bristol Academy two years ago, and new recruit Beth England, who has taken a similar path to Coombs having recently joined the Reds on loan from Chelsea.
But Scott Rogers’ side will have to make do with two of their key players from the last couple of years – Katie Zelem, who has joined ambitious Italian side Juventus, and EURO 2017 winner Shanice van der Sanden, who has joined UEFA Women’s Champions League holders, Lyon.
Despite the departures, Coombs is confident the team still has enough quality to compete.
“Both Shanice and Katie are losses for us, Shanice with her blistering pace and Katie with her goals tally. However, their absence will allow young players – for example the likes of Niamh Charles – to develop and play a bigger role within the team.
“We have some fantastic players in our squad, plus we have players coming back from injury, and there is a lot of competition for places now.
“Last year was a transition year so our results were hit and miss, the team and I are confident that won’t be the case this year with the quality we have within the squad.”
The red side of Merseyside have had a tough pre-season that included two matches against French giants Lyon and the emerging Montpellier in Toulouse. A 6-0 and 3-0 defeat to the French sides would have taught a few harsh lessons for the Reds, but the matches would have been a good test for what is a fairly young Liverpool squad, with some sprinkles of experience across the field.
There is also no denying that for all FA WSL clubs, pre-season will have been slightly disrupted with the EUROs sandwiched in the middle, meaning players have been away, and training being slightly altered.
“Not too much has differed in terms of content, but the main difference was the first few weeks quite a few players were away competing in the EUROs, which left us short of numbers.
“However, that allowed coaches to spend more time working with individuals.”
If there was one fixture that Scousers would have chosen to kick-off the new season, a Merseyside derby would have been it. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what we’ll get when Liverpool face Everton in their opening fixture tonight at the Select Security Stadium.
Coombs, who will no doubt play a key role, is looking forward to the opportunity of a first league derby between the two clubs since 2014.
“Friday is a big game for us as it’s so important we get off to a good start in the league. It is a derby and we are fully focused in trying to play our way – with good, clinical football. We are ready and excited for the match!”