There aren’t many people that get to play professional football in the city they grew up in, for the team they’ve supported their whole life. Missy-Bo Kearns is one of the very few on that list.
“Playing for Liverpool Football club means everything,” she says, and you can genuinely tell how sincere those words are coming out of her mouth.
“I don't take it for granted because I know how hard it is and how lucky I am. It still hasn't sunk in that this is what I'm doing. Maybe one day it will, but for me to be playing for Liverpool, the team that I've supported and watched since a young age, it's unbelievable.
“I only really sometimes realise when people come up to me and say ‘You're doing so well.’ Day-to-day I don't really think about it like that, I just think I'm playing football and it's for the club that I love and what else more? But it truly sinks in when other people say it to me.”
Kearns has gotten a lot of support from fans, but more and more people are certainly reminding her who she plays for after this season. Liverpool, who were relegated from the FA Women’s Super League after the 2019/20 season, were promoted back into the top flight last year, winning the Championship after recording only two losses during their 22 match season. Liverpool were far and away the best team in the league, finishing eleven points ahead of second placed London City Lionesses, and achieving a league best goal difference of 38, which was 23 more than the team with the second best goal difference: Bristol City.
Just because Liverpool were so dominant, doesn’t mean that the league win was an easy feat. In fact, the squad had to adjust to a brand-new formation. Kearns, who from midfield scored four goals and registered four assists in the league, may have made it look easy, but rest assured, it was not.
“We played a different formation this season, and to be playing my first full season week in week out in a new formation which I've not really played before, I think on a personal note, it's been brilliant,” Kearns says.
“I’ve learned at the age of 20, 21 to compete against top opposition in another formation. That will probably come in handy during my career in the future. And towards the end, I was getting the grips of it all. I ended up scoring in our title winning match. I was getting called off to England, and I was scoring when I was there too. And I was just very confident.”
Kearns definitely exudes confidence on the pitch, and her style of play is similar to a certain Scouse legend that all Liverpool fans admire, adore, and acclaim.
The fact that they play so similar isn’t a coincidence.
“It's a big role being a midfielder. You've got to attack. You've got to defend. And I think that's what I like about it. You're in the middle of the pitch so you've got to have an impact on everything. I like being involved, so I think that's one reason why I've always enjoyed it.” says Kearns who has been a midfielder since her early days playing youth football.
“But it was my coaches, when I was younger, who used to play me there all the time, and from then I've just grown and grown into that role in midfield. I don't really know any different.
“My idol growing up was Steven Gerrard. If I was to look at anyone's clips, it's him. I just think he's the all-around midfielder. He had everything in his game. Steven Gerrard is definitely the player that I've based my game on growing up.”
Kearns has continued to base her game around Gerrard, especially this season as she geared for her first spell in the top-flight. The WSL will certainly be a big step up from the Championship, but it’s no surprise that Kearns was ready to face that challenge.
“Every step up is massive in women's football, and I think because there's not as many women's teams when you do make the step, there's actual levels,” Kearns says.
“I'm so looking forward to getting challenged. I think the team will be fine. We've proved that this season when we played against top-flight teams and I'd say we’re a top-flight team. We were when we were in the Championship, we were just unfortunate. And I'm really looking forward to it, to see where I'm at and where the teams are at.”
This may have been Kearns’ first experience in the WSL, but Liverpool manager, Matt Beard, has been here before. He led Liverpool to back to back league titles in 2013 and 2014 respectively. He knows this club, and he knows what it takes to bring them back to the top.
“He's a very good manager. He has taken me under his wing and he keeps me on my level. He's always pushing me to never settle. I had a good season last year, but he's always pushing me to be better. Just because I've had one good season or a good eighteen months doesn't mean that will define me for the rest of my career. You've got to keep pushing on and think that's one thing that he’s embedded in me, and it has made me hungrier for more.”
For Missy, the promotion from the Championship is an accomplishment she’ll always be most proud of. They joined the men’s team bus parade across Liverpool, where hundreds of thousands of fans showed up in a sea of red to congratulate the girls.
“I keep getting flashbacks to that day now and think, ‘Wow, that was unbelievable,’” Kearns smiles as she recalls the day.
“There was a lad on a lamppost with a flare. He's literally hanging on with one arm and got the flare in the other. And as we drive past, he shouted ‘Missy!’ I looked over, and he passed me the flare. I just held it up and then it just went out. I was like ‘Wow, how has he done that?!’ Like, he was hanging on one side! I was thinking ‘Maybe he’s given it to me because he can’t hold on anymore, and he needs two hands.’ It was unreal.”
Kearns will most definitely have many more milestones to celebrate during her career. But she knows that the hard work must come before that.
“Every footballer wants to win trophies as a team, win individual awards and score as many goals as they can. I’m so passionate about football that I just want to achieve as much as possible. I'm not in any rush to do so, because everyone's career is different. Just because one player might do it younger doesn't mean anything. They might never win nothing ever again.
“It's just trusting my own pathway and keep working hard. After that, hopefully the good things will come.”
Photography: Callan Dooley.