Fresh from leading England to their first UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final, Mo Marley reverts to her role as Everton LFC manager as they make their UEFA Women’s Cup debut in Lithuania tomorrow.
Runners-up behind Arsenal LFC in England last season, Everton qualified for Europe as the Gunners won the continental trophy, and are in Lithuania to meet first qualifying round Group A1 hosts Gintra Universitetas, Northern Ireland’s Glentoran Belfast United and FFC Zuchwil 05 of Switzerland. Marley knows it is uncharted territory. "We had no expectations about who we would or wouldn't get," Marley told uefa.com. "When you go into these competitions and you don't play these teams regularly, it is an unknown quantity."
There is some reward for the group winners - a second qualifying round showdown with two-time champions 1. FFC Frankfurt in October. But Marley is focused on the job in hand. "We're not looking any further than the first round - we're just happy to be in it - but a lot of people have said to me that you are in for a shock if you progress and get through to play Frankfurt," she admitted. "We're just going to enjoy the first round because it is a new thing for the club and something we have never experienced. From a coaching and managing point of view, we want to take full advantage of the situation and if we are lucky enough to progress, isn't that what playing in UEFA competitions is about anyway: challenging yourself against the best?"
Arsenal have proved that English clubs can compete with anyone in their run to victory last year, and Marley is in no doubt the team that finished 14 points ahead of Everton in winning the 2006/07 league title are the club to catch. She said: "Arsenal are our benchmark. They are always going to be better than us because they have better resources and can attract better players for different reasons. That is something we accept...for us, Arsenal's success is a good benchmark and it has given us an extra incentive."
Like the Gunners, Everton also are boosted from backing by their parent men's club. "I've been in to see the Everton [FC] management. they are supportive of us and want us to be the best women's team," said Marley, who first joined the Toffees as a player in 1987. "They see Europe as being crucial to our progression. They know we are realistic about what we are trying to achieve and they are right behind us - in fact, they are delighted for us…it all helps to raise the profile of Everton, the people's club - they look after everybody - and it's about Everton being on the map worldwide."