Everton’s Gabby George hopes more fans will come and watch women’s football this season ahead of the first Merseyside derby in nearly three years in the Women’s Super League this weekend.
The WSL has witnessed a surge in interest after England won the European Championship on home turf this summer, with clubs set to play in bigger stadiums this season after reporting record ticket sales.
This weekend, the Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton will be played at Anfield, while Arsenal have sold a record breaking 50,000 tickets for their match against Tottenham at the Emirates on Saturday – live on talkSPORT.
As well as that, Manchester United will play Aston Villa at Old Trafford in December, while Chelsea are also set to play at Stamford Bridge at some point this season.
Everton’s George hopes this isn’t just a one off and says getting more fans into stadiums is vital for the long-term future of the women’s game.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, George said: “I think it’s really important to get more bums on seats and I think the girls at the Euros did an amazing job at showcasing how good women’s football can be.
“I think bringing it home will hopefully make us get bigger attendances at games, whether that be at our normal home ground or bigger stadiums. First and foremost, we need to start filling out our usual stadiums and hopefully, we will get more and more fans and that will then take care of itself when we do come to play in the bigger stadiums.
“When I first came into the game, it was literally nowhere to be seen and now it’s everywhere. I was driving into training today and in Manchester there was a big billboard about the women’s game and [the season] starting.
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“I think it is very visual and I think we’ve just got to continue developing that side of it and get bigger attendances and make it inspirational for the next generation.”
Jurgen Klopp has challenged Liverpool fans to make this weekend’s game against Everton a sell-out, but George won’t be fazed by whatever atmosphere greets the Toffees on the day.
The defender – whose cousin is Nottingham Forest midfielder Jesse Lingard – knows what it takes to be on the winning side at Anfield having been a part of the Everton team which ran out 1-0 winners in the last Merseyside derby in the WSL between the two sides in November 2019.
It has been a summer of change, though, for Everton following a disappointing campaign last season with a new head coach now in charge in Brian Sorensen and ten new signings also through the door.
However, the Toffees lost the experienced Danielle Turner and Simone Magill to Aston Villa this summer as well as number one Sandy MacIver to Manchester City and George revealed that the team have been ramping home the importance of the Merseyside derby to their new signings.
“It’s exciting with Liverpool being back in this league and giving us those games,” the 25-year-old continued.
“I think everyone knows that Liverpool and Everton are big clubs and we should be competing on the biggest stages against each other and obviously now that is able to happen. So, we want to make it and exciting fixture for everyone to watch and hopefully, one for everyone to remember.
“We have a lot of new players this season that probably haven’t participated in a Merseyside derby so we have been reiterating how important it is not just for the club, but for the fans.
“These are games that the fans want to get one over on each other and I think as players, the club means a lot to us so we want to go out there and show what the club have been doing and hopefully, we can pay back the fans for all their support home and away.”
Everton have something of a point to prove after finishing in tenth place last season, which was viewed as a hugely underwhelming campaign for a club that had challenged for the final Champions League space in previous years.
The Toffees sacked Willie Kirk after just five matches last season and his replacement Jean Luc-Vasseur didn’t last much longer, as he was shown the door in February after just ten games in the dugout.
George, though, is confident that Everton have now got the right man in charge in Sorenson, who joined on a two-year deal this summer after impressing with Danish side Fortuna Hjorring.
“He’s very knowledgeable,” George finished.
“He knows the game inside out and he knows what he wants and I think he puts that across to us. This is probably the most I’ve learnt in a long time and we’re continuing to learn day-in, day out.
“I think the good thing about him is his communication. He’s very straight to the point, which is what a lot of players want.”
Gabby George was speaking courtesy of Everton FC sponsors Stake. 18+ Please gamble responsibly. BeGambleAware.org.
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