Everton were in serious danger of being relegated in 2018/19, with only two wins relatively late in the season, combined with Yeovil’s points deduction, making sure of their WSL status.
But it has been a different story for the Toffees since then. The club, one of the early giants of modern women’s football in the 1990s and 2000s, has set itself a target of returning to the Champions League and is using ambitious and intelligent recruitment to achieve it.
A much-improved Everton finished sixth in the abandoned 2019/20 campaign, then fifth last season. More big signings this summer could now see them push on again.
In: Kenza Dali, Toni Duggan, Anna Anvegard, Nathalie Bjorn, Leonie Maier, Courtney Brosnan, Aurora Galli, Cecilia Runarsdottir, Hanna Bennison
Out: Ingrid Moe Wold, Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah, Georgia Brougham, Maeva Clemaron, Tinja-Riikka Korpela, Molly Pike, Hannah Coan, Anna Pedersen, Abbey-Leigh Stringer, Elise Hughes, Hayley Raso, Cecilia Runarsdottir
1. Sandy MacIver (GK)
3. Danielle Turner (DF)
4. Rikke Sevecke (DF)
5. Nathalie Bjorn (DF)
6. Gabrielle George (DF)
7. Kenza Dali (MF)
8. Izzy Christiansen (MF)
9. Toni Duggan (FW)
10. Simone Magill (MF)
11. Claire Emslie (MF)
13. Valerie Gauvin (FW)
14. Nicoline Sorensen (FW)
17. Lucy Graham (MF)
18. Courtney Brosnan (GK)
19. Anna Anvegard (FW)
20. Megan Finnigan (MF)
21. Leonie Maier (DF)
22. Aurora Galli (MF)
26. Grace Clinton (MF)
28. Hanna Bennison (MF)
30. Poppy Pattinson (DF)
Willie Kirk has played a major role in Everton’s improvement since 2019 when the Toffees were in danger of getting relegated from the WSL. He has overseen steady progress each season since then and is still considered a ‘young’ coach at the age of just 43.
Lucy Graham’s time at Everton has coincided perfectly with their rise up the WSL table from relegation fodder to Champions League hopefuls.
Now club captain, she joined from Bristol City in 2019 and has become a crucial player for the Toffees, even writing her name into the history books when she scored the only goal in the 2019 Merseyside derby against Liverpool at Anfield.
The Scotland international previously played for Kirk as a teenager at Hibernian and she has the perfect attitude to go hand-in-hand with Everton’s enormous ambition to grow as a club.
"There is a lot of respect there and a lot of trust obviously as [Kirk] made me captain,” Graham told BBC Sport when she signed a new contract this year. “He tries to get the best out of me in terms of challenging me and giving me responsibilities. You need to put yourself in an environment where you challenge yourself every single day. I'm trying to learn off everybody I come into contact with."
Young player to watch
Everton confirmed that they paid a ‘substantial six-figure’ sum to sign teenage Sweden international Hanna Bennison from Rosengard this summer. To put that into context, it is significantly more than the £86,000 deal, including add-ons, Arsenal agreed for Nikita Parris.
The midfielder was only 15 when she made her first-team debut in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan in 2018 and became a regular the following year. She had only just turned 17 when she made her senior Sweden debut and was part of the squad that won an Olympic silver medal this summer.
Bennison also has Champions League experience, helping Rosengard reach the quarter-finals last season, and will be keen to help Everton realise that ambition.
Live TV broadcasts have been chosen for games up to 10 October, other dates and/or kick-off times after that point remain subject to change. All games except those chosen for live TV broadcast will be available to stream free via the FA Player.
4 September 2021 – 12.30pm – Everton vs Manchester City (BBC One)
12 September 2021 – 12.30pm – Chelsea vs Everton (BBC Two)
25 September 2021 – 11.30am – Everton vs Birmingham (Sky Sports Premier League)
3 October 2021 – 2pm – Reading vs Everton
10 October 2021 – 3pm – Arsenal vs Everton (Sky Sports Premier League)
7 November 2021 – 1pm – Everton vs Brighton
14 November 2021 – 1pm – Everton vs Manchester United
21 November 2021 – 2pm – Leicester vs Everton
12 December 2021 – 1pm – Everton vs West Ham
19 December 2021 – 2pm – Tottenham vs Everton
8 January 2022 – 12.30pm – Aston Villa vs Everton
16 January 2022 – 1pm – Everton vs Chelsea
23 January 2022 – 3pm – West Ham vs Everton
6 February 2022 – 1pm – Everton vs Reading
13 February 2022 – 1pm – Everton vs Aston Villa
6 March 2022 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Everton
13 March 2022 – 1pm – Everton vs Leicester
27 March 2022 – 12pm – Manchester United vs Everton
3 April 2022 – 2pm – Birmingham vs Everton
24 April 2022 – 1pm – Everton vs Arsenal
1 May 2022 – 1pm – Everton vs Tottenham
8 May 2022 – 12.30pm – Brighton vs Everton
Recruitment has been Everton’s best tool to improve their squad over the last couple of years and the summer of 2021 has been no exception. Fringe players have departed, with no one other than Hayley Raso, who has joined Manchester City, moving on to better things.
The Toffees have gone after international-calibre players from top ranking nations and managed to get them. The capture of Swedish trio Anna Anvegard, Nathalie Bjorn and Hanna Bennison from Rosengard, who reached the last eight of the Champions League last season, stands out in particular.
Toni Duggan is also back home at Everton, having previously left the club in 2013 when she was an up-and-coming star, and has the potential to score plenty of goals in this team.
Breaking into the top three this season might be a leap too far, although it is definitely on the cards in the future if the Toffees continue on this trajectory. But with Everton’s squad improving again and Manchester United enduring a difficult summer, fourth place, at least, is well within reach.
Predicted final league position: 4th