Megan Finnigan has revealed the current Everton squad is the "nicest" she has ever been a part of and believes the culture at the club is much improved under manager Brian Sorensen.
Finnigan joined the Blues at the age of nine, progressing through the club's academy before making her senior debut in 2015. The defender has since gone on to make more than 150 Everton appearances and has been an integral part of Sorensen's squad this term, helping the Blues climb up to fifth in the WSL table following a string of impressive displays.
It marks something of a departure from last season, when Everton finished tenth after a difficult campaign that saw the dismissal of two permanent managers in the space of four months. The arrival of Sorensen from Fortuna Hjorring in the summer has had something of a transformative effect on the squad and Finnigan is confident things will only continue to move in the right direction with the Dane at the helm.
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"I think in comparison to last season it’s two different ends of the spectrum really," the defender told the ECHO. "I think we’re making progress and it’s felt like that since day one under Brian to be honest. Obviously now the results are coming as well."
One of the manager's first tasks after arriving on Merseyside was to oversee an overhaul of the exisiting squad, with nine departures and ten new arrivals before September's deadline day. And Finnigan believes the new additions at Walton Hall Park have played a fundamental role in changing the atmosphere in the dressing room.
"I think (Brian's) recruitment and they type of players he’s brought in, they’re obviously really talented players but they've also created a really good environment," she said.
"It’s such a nice team to be in. It’s the nicest I’ve been in in my time at Everton and it’s just a really good group of girls who are all fighting for the same thing. We’re all on the same page and we’ve got a clear identity of how we want to play and I think that was something that was lacking last season. We didn’t really have a style but I think game by game this season it’s clear what we want to do."
Perhaps one of the clearest examples of Everton's growth under Sorensen was their emphatic victory over Liverpool back in September, in which Finnigan opened the scoring with a smart header in front of the Kop.
"It was amazing," the 24-year-old said, reflecting on her goal. "I think you could tell by my reaction how much that meant to me. I’d missed the game before that through injury so I was dying to get my season started.
"I thought we played really well and I think the occasion didn’t get to us. It probably got to Liverpool a little bit more to be honest and we just kind of thrived under it. Having the fans there in the separate away end and getting to celebrate with them was amazing and scoring at Anfield is definitely one of my career highlights so far."
While a goal in the Merseyside derby is one of the pinnacles of Finnigan's football career to date, the centre-back is hopeful she will have many more memorable moments in an Everton shirt, as well as the opportunity to earn her first senior cap for the Lionesses.
"I’ve always said as long as Everton want me and make me feel valued here then I’ll want to continue my career here," she said. "Within that, I want to start winning things which is not going to be an overnight thing and is why this journey that we’re on with Brian is going to be a slow one but we’re definitely going in the right direction.
"I’ve obviously made a lot of appearances for the club and I’d like to make many, many more. And then personally I want to play international football as well. That’s been a long term goal of mine and I’m at the age where I’d like to experience that."
Despite Sunday's surprise FA Cup exit at the hands of Birmingham City, Everton will hope to notch their fourth consecutive league victory when they return to WSL action against Manchester United next weekend. And Finnigan is excited to see just how far up the table the Blues can finish in their first season under Sorensen.
"I think this season was always going to be a year for us to build and see just how far up the table we can get so obviously at the end of the May we’ll judge that," she said.
"There’s still a long way to go but we’ve got a good run of games now in the next couple of months where we can really try and make progress."
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