KERYS Harrop is hoping Birmingham City Ladies can maintain their impressive defensive form of last season as they aim to once again push the more fancied sides all the way in the 2015 WSL1 season.
Harrop, 26, and 19-year-old Aoife Mannion were regulars at the heart of a solid Blues defence which played a significant role in ensuring David Parker’s side came within a whisker of being crowed champions in 2014 and Harrop is relishing the prospect of rekindling their partnership this season, which begins on Sunday (2pm) with the visit of champions Liverpool to Solihull for a fifth round FA Women’s Cup encounter.
The Blues conceded just 14 goals in as many league games as their determined rearguard set a solid platform for the more heralded midfield containing England seniors trio Karen Carney, Jo Potter and Jade Moore to thrive.
Now, with the team finally beginning to receive the attention their efforts of recent seasons have deserved, Harrop is optimistic she and her defensive colleagues can again impress.
“Defensively, 2014 was one of our best seasons for quite some time,” said Harrop.
“We were very strong and we had a consistent team selection with Aoife and myself in the middle and Chelsea Weston at right back and young Jess Carter left back.
“We are pretty experienced as a unit though, although it sounds strange to say that when there’s two teenagers in there including Jess who is still only 17.
“Everyone is comfortable with their roles at the back and we have plenty of determination and commitment in there to stop goals being scored against us.”
The team spirit among the players was evident throughout last season and Harrop said her relationship with Mannion both on and off the pitch is another example of this.
“I get on really well with Aoife and we have a good understanding at the back,” added Harrop.
“Aoife can go a long way in the game. She had a great season in 2014 and I really enjoy playing alongside her.
“We get on great off the field and it does help to have that rapport.”
Whilst their rivals have been busy on the recruitment front, Blues have kept their incoming business in the close season to just the addition of midfielder Alex Windell from Bristol Academy and striker Freda Ayisi from Arsenal, but Harrop is delighted by what she has seen so far.
She added: “Freda has looked very impressive in training and she looks like she could be a great contrast to Kirsty (Linnett), as we’ll now have a greater physical presence up front to complement Kirsty’s attributes.
“Hopefully they can spur each on and bring the best out of each other because it’s probably fair to say we did lack competition for places at times last season.
“Alex is a very good player and will give us real energy and impetus in midfield, so I’m really pleased with the business the club have done.
“We have a stable core of players and that is something you cannot buy.
“I still don’t think the pressure is on us this season, but of course we know what we are capable of and want to be challenging at the top again.”
Harrop said she was relishing the visit of Manchester City to Damson Park on March 29 to launch Blues’ league campaign.
“That’s an exciting fixture to start with. Everyone is talking about Manchester City and it’ll be great to have them here first up and take them on,” added Harrop.