After weeks of waiting and lack of clarity, the top tier of Scottish Women’s football has finally been given the green light to return. April 4th will see the first round of SWPL1 fixtures take place since December.
Rangers went into lockdown on a huge run of success. Putting a whopping nine goals past Motherwell and beating reigning champions Glasgow City 5-0. Malky Thomson’s side sit at the top of the table as April comes fast approaching. Can the Gers upset 13 years of dominance led by their Glasgow rivals?
Her Football Hub sat down with Rangers’ Assistant Head Coach, Kevin Murphy ahead of their much-awaited arrival back on the pitch.
Back to the grind
The Rangers Training Centre had been without its women’s team occupants for more than three months. Players had to make the most of their training programmes, at-home gyms and self-motivation to keep in shape. Whilst the majority of the public are eager to hear of pubs and restaurants to re-open, Rangers were elated to hear they could get back to team training back in early March.
“We were very fortunate in the SWPL1 to get the exemption at the very start and resume the season and play those seven games,” Murphy said. “We were looking forward to January again then we got told it was a three-week break, which turned into three months. Which obviously was very frustrating for everyone.
“But as you can imagine, the girls are buzzing but also the staff behind the scenes are also very excited to be back because it’s been a long time coming. We understand not every tier in women’s football is back, it’s only the top tier, so we’re thankful for that and hopefully we can continue from now and resume until the end of the season.”
The spread of success
After a nine-year wait, the men’s side took their 55th league title back to Auchenhowie after constructing a mammoth gap between themselves and Celtic. The women’s squad arrived back to training with a buzz of success greeting them at the door.Embed from Getty Images
“When the men’s team do so well, it filters across everybody and everyone feels that they’re part of that journey because we are one club,” the Gers assistant coach said. “I think it makes you hungry for that success as well, and from the women’s side of things, we want to continue to keep that feel good factor within the club. We obviously will do everything we can to make sure that does happen come the end of this season.”
Sharing a training centre is a rarity between the men’s and women’s sides of a club, but at Rangers it’s the minimum. The club supply the best of the best to ensure equality within their group of elite female athletes.
“The advantages for us of course is the financial backing,” Murphy admitted. “The club have invested in the team to make sure we compete as best we can. Also, the additional resources and the training ground. Its [Rangers TC] world class facilities, so we have access to that which maybe not other teams are that are affiliated to their male counterparts have.
“We are not only benefitting from the investment and training facilities, but even just sharing our resources with our experiences with other coaches and teams within Rangers. It tends to be from informal interactions aswell between staff members and sharing good practices that you get the biggest benefit.”
Three points at a time
Glasgow City – the biggest and best women’s side in Scotland for over a decade. Title after title since 2008. Now, as Rangers and Celtic strengthen their teams in the hopes of disrupting the long run of dominance, the Light Blues are looking to maintain their spot at the top of the table with the Old Firm derby just around the corner.
“Without getting too cliché about it, I think it’s really important you don’t look too far ahead,” Murphy continued. “If you look at the Celtic game coming up and we take our eyes off the Hearts game or the Spartans game, then that might come back to bite us. So we’ve got to be really professional about it.
“Particularly now that we’ve been away for so long in relation to training and of course those teams that you’ve mentioned [Glasgow City and Celtic] have strengthened in the window so it’ll be a very new look Celtic team and Glasgow City team when we resume again. If you don’t prepare properly against the likes of Hibs, Hearts and Spartans then you might drop points which then could be costly.
“Our focus is on Hearts just now on April 4th. We’ll focus everything we have on Hearts first and then we’ll take that a game at a time approach.”
A squad of winners and big hearts
Lizzie Arnot and Kirsty Howat are just two of a handful of huge name players Rangers added to their team in the last year. The transition into a professional side attracted talent, experience but good people too. A mixture of culture and pasts have built the foundations of strength they have now.
Murphy commented: “We want to bring in not just good players, but good people too and I think Lizzie and Kirsty and others as well have absolutely brought that.Embed from Getty Images
“Talent will get you in the door but it’s how you behave and how you interact that’ll keep you there. We’ve also brought in international players, so that brings in a real good flavour. Whether it’s Bala from India or Chantelle and Brianna with their experiences in America in the college system – that for me has been really good but when you’re not only getting good people and good players in, but other cultures aswell they can learn from each other.
“Their experiences will be crucial to this [the season] but they’ve been through these sorts of courses before as a footballer. Hopefully we can drop on that experience when those final two or three games come around and we’re on the hunt for the trophy, hopefully the experiences [of the players] we can use to get the job done.”
Exposure, entertainment and ‘The Rangers Way’
The Scottish Women’s Football Association announced that BBC Alba agreed to broadcast at least seven SWPL1 matches come the return. Without fans, Rangers haven’t been able to showcase their brand of football they’re so famous for. With the new deal comes that, and the chance to inspire the next generation of young Scottish girls.
“It’s just massive for everything isn’t it?” Murphy said. “I think the exposure of the women’s game, the more that it’s on TV the more people can see it and young girls can see it and want to emulate them, looking up to a Lizzie Arnot or Kirsty Howat and want to be them one day.
“Whether it’s Rangers fans who want to see more about the women’s team then it’s more accessible, particularly at the moment when we can’t get fans into the stadium. It’s important for us. But we also want to entertain, and I think that’s a key thing.
“I said that in my first week coming into the job when I spoke to the players, is that we want to entertain at Rangers we want fans to come. Not just because it’s Rangers obviously, but because they want to actually come and support the team because it’s exciting to watch.”
Murphy continued: “You see that with the men’s team just now they’re very exciting to watch, they play a great brand of football and we’re no different in the women’s team. You know, we want to go and entertain and yes win, obviously, but we want to win in a fashion that’s in keeping with the club at Rangers.
“BBC Alba will allow us to broadcast that, and people can then actually see the style of football and brand of football that were playing. Then when Covid-19 reduces and fans come back in, we’ll have rangers fans who want to flock to the women’s game and watch it because of the brand of football that we’re playing, that’s a passion of ours.”