Liverpool’s Gilly Flaherty’s honour of breaking the record for most Women’s Super League appearances has been tarnished by on line abusers.

The defender secured the accolade in the 3-3 draw against Brighton. She turned out for the 176th time in the league, surpassing former Lioness Jill Scott. The achievement has come at a turbulent time with Liverpool’s slump in form and she is paying the price from hostile fans. 

Gilly Flaherty takes a throw in.
Photo: Hana Basir

Liverpool Women’s Supporters Club Chair Jo Goodall says Flaherty has been a welcome addition: “Gilly has got a lot of support from fans and the club. She goes out every game giving 110%, wearing a Liverpool shirt with pride, as do all of the players, and that is what fans want to see.” 

Flaherty’s first WSL appearance came in the red and white of Arsenal against London rivals, Chelsea. Coincidentally, Matt Beard, now Flaherty’s boss at Liverpool and previously at West Ham, was at the helm for The Blues at the time.  

Despite support from the majority, Flaherty hit back online abusers before eventually deleting her twitter account. Beard has also come out in her defence by inviting a twitter user to training to see the team’s hard work.

Flaherty is an advocate for mental health, supporting the “Time to Talk Day” campaign and shockingly revealed that she attempted to take her life as a teenager. Allie Heppell, co-producer and presenter at The WOSO Show hopes clubs get on the front to crack down on social media abuse. She said: “Telling people to kill themselves is not okay. Surely they can see what is being said. Stomp on it.”

Online abuse towards footballers has been rampant and with the growth of women’s football, with more and more players on the receiving end. Goodall believes being confident to report abuse will help: “There is a fine line between when criticism goes from being about a players performance to becoming a more personal attack.” She says fair criticism is fair game but she does not condone what she described as “vile abuse”.

Liverpool fan, Kate Jones rarely misses a game and saw how former Red, Meikayla Moore received abuse last season: “I was reporting posts and challenging these trolls.” Views get expressed in the heat of the moment, she said: “I think about what I’d be offended by so if I know I’d be offended I don’t share! Some things are better left unsaid.” 

Gilly Flaherty closes down on Steph Catley
Photo: Hana Basir

Before moving to Merseyside, Flaherty captained West Ham for four seasons and was the first player to make over 100 appearances for the club. Heppell who is also a “Irons” fan refers to her as their fearless leader who would throw her body on the line for the team. 

Heppell says it is painful to see their icon suffer the abuse but West Ham fans have also felt frustration towards the end. On the transfer, she said: “
Even though we will always be grateful to her, she was making rookie errors last season which cost us. I think she didn’t like Harder’s management style. Under Matt, she is solid so probably the best move for her.”

Heppell thinks although though Flaherty gave away penalties that angered fans, the focus would not be on the defender if Liverpool were performing better. “She is one of the only new defenders from their championship winning team so the fact they are playing poorly, it is going to be directed at her.”  

By calling out her abusers online, Flaherty is determined to prove the abusers wrong and is hoping to reach 200 appearances. With her career still in full force, the four-time WSL champion is on track to reach that milestone and calls for people to “be better, be kinder.”