What's next for Everton after manager Willie Kirk's exit?

By Emma SandersBBC Sport
Everton players and Willie Kirk
Everton currently sit eighth in the Women's Super League table

Everton sit nine points behind the Women's Super League leaders Arsenal and are now without a manager, having lost four of their opening six games in all competitions - so what is next for the club?

Just over a month ago, Willie Kirk was eyeing a charge on the WSL's established top three and a place in the Women's Champions League following another summer of heavy investment.

But after damaging defeats by Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, Everton's early optimism has taken a hit and Kirk paid the price when his sacking was announced on Saturday.

So where did it go wrong? Who could be the next Everton boss? And what's next for Kirk?

What went wrong for Kirk?

Everton results graphic
*Result in the Continental Tyres League Cup

When Kirk arrived in December 2018, Everton were bottom of the WSL table after an eight-game winless run.

He guided them to a Merseyside derby win over Liverpool in his first game in charge and they avoided relegation that season.

Everton finished sixth and fifth respectively in the following two campaigns - as well as reaching the FA Cup final in 2020 - after increased investment from the club.

But despite progression in league standings, Everton were 16 points adrift of third-placed Arsenal last season - a gap which Kirk said was "way too big".

This season's aim was to close that gap but four early meetings with top-three opponents saw a return of zero points, 16 goals conceded and only one goal scored.

Big names such as France's Valerie Gauvin, England's Toni Duggan, Italy's Aurora Galli, Sweden's Hanna Bennison and Germany's Leonie Maier have all been added to the squad in the past two summer transfer windows.

Kirk told BBC Sport last month he thought the club were still "way ahead of where I thought we would be" with their recruitment.

But he also acknowledged a top-four finish or silverware was the "bare minimum" required this season and Everton's early form was not on course to achieve that.

Who could be the next manager?

Jean-Luc Vasseur
Jean-Luc Vasseur played for Paris St-Germain early in his career

Everton's next game is on 3 November against Leicester City in the League Cup and a club statementexternal-link said they hope to have a new manager in place by then.

That means Everton have more than two weeks to appoint Kirk's successor with the WSL on an extended international break.

The club's next WSL fixture is at home to Brighton on 6 November.

Ex-Lyon boss Jean-Luc Vasseur is the frontrunner to be named the new manager.

The Frenchman won the 2019-20 treble but was sacked in April, replaced by Sonia Bompastor, after Lyon's five-year reign as European champions and 14-season run as league champions was ended by Paris St-Germain.

Should Vasseur join Everton, he will not have to face a top-three side in the WSL until 16 January when Everton host defending champions Chelsea at Walton Hall Park.

What could be next for Kirk?

Willie Kirk
Everton lost 4-0 to Chelsea last month following a 4-0 defeat by Manchester City

While Everton look for a replacement, Kirk should not be short of opportunities.

The former Bristol City boss has plenty of WSL and Women's Championship experience, having also spent a few months as assistant to Casey Stoney at Manchester United in 2018.

He also had success in Scotland, guiding Hibernian to two domestic cups before earning the Scottish Women's Football Manager of the Year award in 2013.

However, Kirk is understood to not be lining up a new job at the moment.

Around the BBC - SoundsAround the BBC footer - Sounds

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC