Linfield Ladies defender Louise McFrederick insists that the team must aim to replicate the successes of the club’s men’s team.
David Healy’s Linfield are enjoying success on the European stage this summer after winning their fourth successive Danske Bank Premiership title, but their female equivalents have endured setbacks in recent campaigns.
The Ladies side won four successive Danske Bank Women’s Premiership crowns, the most recent of which came in 2019, but have seen a series of star players move on with the club finishing fifth in last season’s standings.
“We have to try to replicate their success both domestically and further afield,” long-serving defender McFrederick explained.
“We are the same club and we have the same benchmark for success – winning titles and competing against Champions League sides.
“The men’s team are doing so well at the moment and that is what we want to replicate, to win the league and to progress through European ties.
“That is what the players at all levels of Linfield need to realise, that the standards here are that high and you will become a better player for being part of that.”
McFrederick began playing football at Fermanagh Mallards and represented Sion Swifts Ladies in the Foyle Cup earlier in her career, but first moved to Linfield in 2013.
That was when she was a student in Belfast – the city which is now her home – and she has enjoyed plenty of successes at the club, including four league titles on the bounce.
Seven of her former Linfield teammates were in Northern Ireland’s squad for the Euro 2022 squad – Kirsty McGuinness, Caitlin McGuinness, Kelsie Burrows, Abbie Magee, Chloe McCarron, Rebecca McKenna and Louise McDaniel (another, Megan Bell, missed out through injury).
Linfield Ladies enjoyed plenty of successes with that talented group of players but the core of that side has moved on to pastures new.
McFrederick was one of the starters who remained at the club and added: “I have a lot of amazing memories at the club and the medals to show for it but the recent years have been a sense of frustration.
“It is bittersweet for us because so many talented players have come through Linfield but have gone elsewhere to better their own careers, which is great for them but damages what we can do.
“It hurts more when you are losing players to other local teams but they were successful for so long at Linfield and moving to another club is a challenge to themselves to do that in a different environment – you cannot really blame them or anything like that, but that is the nature of football.
“The success we have had and enjoyed makes it more frustrating when you aren’t reaching those levels.
“But I have never had the desire to leave the club because Linfield has always felt like home for me and it is a great club to be a part of.”
Linfield have enjoyed an upturn in form this season – helped by a series of more experienced arrivals to compliment a notably youthful squad – and sit fourth in the standings.
However, McFrederick cited frustration having led rivals Crusaders Strikers and Sion Swifts Ladies until late on before throwing away late equalisers – believing that the Blues should be sitting in third spot.
“This season so far has been frustrating for us and particularly those games – we dominated possession and chances but ultimately did not win either of them,” she added.
“It was a similar story against Cliftonville this season – we conceded just before the break but then came out all guns blazing and equalised, but then mistakes cost us. It has been a frustrating them for us.
“We have to be aiming for a top half spot this season and to face the best teams in the league regularly, to become used to that level and knowing they are the expectations.
“The reality is we are competing against teams who are full of internationals and we are not, but our players either have the potential to reach or surpass that level, or we have the experience to be matching them.
“We need to be enticing the best and most experienced to our club, because we have a really good structure and setup – we are not far from that step up.”
Linfield Ladies restart their Danske Bank Women’s Premiership campaign when they travel to Mid Ulster Ladies on 1 August.