Everton midfielder Lucy Graham has said she feels "safe" to enjoy her football under manager Brian Sorensen and believes her new boss has set out a clear plan that will see the club progress.
Graham arrived on Merseyside in July 2019 and has since established herself as a mainstay in the Everton squad, captaining the side along with fellow senior players Gabby George and Izzy Christiansen. Though the Scot is conventionally deployed in the middle of the park, she has been tasked with playing as a right wing-back since Sorensen's arrival in the summer; the Dane brought into steady the ship after a turbulent league campaign saw the Blues finish 10th after sacking two permanent managers.
After taking the reins from interim coach Chris Roberts, Sorensen oversaw a huge overhaul of the squad, with nine departures and 10 new arrivals before September's deadline day. And while Graham believes Everton still have plenty of things to improve on, she is confident things are moving in the right direction with the 42-year-old at the helm.
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"For me, the biggest thing is that I feel safe," Graham said following Everton's narrow Conti Cup defeat to Durham on Saturday. "I feel safe in terms of there’s a structure, there’s definitely a plan there. It’s easy to follow, there’s clarity. I think in the past there’s been little bits of that that have been missing and I think that’s where the hesitation and inconsistencies come.
"I think there’s still definitely things we can improve on but I think, even in a short period of time, you can really see the transitions that we’re making. We’re all enjoying our football and I’m really looking forward to the second half of the season."
Everton moved into the top half of the Women's Super League table following their emphatic victory at Tottenham Hotspur in midweek. However, the Blues were unable to sign of the year with a win on Saturday as Lily Crosthwaite's goal was enough to secure Durham the victory at the Marine Travel Arena. Sorensen made nine changes from the side that triumphed at Brisbane Road, and Graham believes handing minutes to young players - including three senior debutants - was even more important than getting the win.
"I think there’s a bigger picture to be looked at in terms of the result," she said. "I think if you look at the team sheet you see a lot of young players getting experience, a lot of players getting game time under their belts so I think coming into the game we knew it was going to be a bit bitty with people maybe not making the right decisions or mistakes.
"Overall there was a bigger picture there to be looked at. Obviously, you always want to get the result but a lot of people have worked hard (on Saturday) and ticked that off the box."
Graham started the contest with the Wildcats at right-back, but proved Everton's brightest attacking outlet as they pushed for an equaliser in the second half. Reflecting on playing in different positions under her new manager, the 26-year-old said: "It’s different. I’ve been playing right-back and right wing-back since pre-season so its something I’m trying to get my head around.
"There’s a little bit of inconsistency there with it being a new position but I’m enjoying it. I’m seeing new pictures, linking up with different players and I’m getting up and down the pitch but I’m enjoying it overall."
Everton will now have four weeks to recover before they welcome Reading to Walton Hall Park when the WSL returns on January 15. Explaining the Toffees' plan for the winter break, Graham said: "I think first and foremost it's just to rest, enjoy Christmas and enjoy New Year.
"It’s been an intense six-month block for the first half of the season and we fully expect that going into the business end of the season as well so just now it’s rest and recuperate and hopefully we come back fresh and really ready to kick on."
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