Scotland return to action this week and as well as giving four new players a chance to impress, interim head coach Stuart McLaren has invited Bristol City boss Tanya Oxtoby to join the camp reports CATHERINE ETOE.
Oxtoby, who took maternity leave from the Robins at the start of the year and gave birth to a son in March, will team up with McLaren and his assistant Leanne Ross as they oversee friendlies against Northern Ireland and Wales.
“Tanya is somebody I’ve known for a number of years now and I’ve followed her coaching career quite closely,” McLaren told She Kicks. “She’s somebody whose view not only on football and coaching, but on how to treat and manage people I certainly share.
“I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to get together and work with what we know is a terrifically talented squad of players. In terms of her maternity leave from Bristol City, she’s obviously managed that situation with the club directly and we’re appreciative that they’re allowing her this opportunity to come and work with us for the camp.
“I’m sure the girls will enjoy working with her, she’s a terrific personality, great football insight and the added benefit to me [is that] with a number of our players coming from the Women’s Super League and Northern Ireland and Wales players as well, she gives that extra bit of knowledge and insight into those players individually also.”
Former Stirling Albion boss McLaren, a Pro Licence holder who started his coaching career as player/manager for the Brisbane Strikers in Australia, currently oversees Scotland’s under-16 boys.
He took interim charge of Scotland’s women following the departure of Shelley Kerr, overseeing a 10-0 win over Cyprus in their penultimate Euro qualifier in February before the team bowed out of a disappointing campaign with a 2-0 loss to Portugal.
With the Scottish FA yet to announce a successor to Kerr, McLaren has stepped into the breach again as the women’s side turn their focus to September and the start of their World Cup qualification campaign.
Speaking to the press after naming his squad to face Euro 2022-bound Northern Ireland and a Wales side that has recently brought in Gemma Grainger as head coach, McLaren said it was a “huge honour” to work with Scotland’s women again.
“I was delighted that the feedback from the February camp that I was involved with seemed to be quite positive from the players’ perspective,” he said. “Certainly from my perspective, I enjoyed working with the group.
“Hopefully I can give the players the best possible preparation over these two games and when that permanent appointment is made they can pick up the reins from there and take things forward.”
McLaren has freshened things up for this camp by including uncapped Charlton Athletic keeper Eartha Cummings – who played under Oxtoby at Bristol City – and 20-year-old Hibernian player of the year, defender Leah Eddie, in his squad of 23.
Another new face is California-born Brianna Westrup, a stand-out performer for Rangers and their player of the year, who is qualified to play for the national team through her Scottish mother.
“She’s eligible and she’s good enough, she’s selected,” said McLaren, who added that he had spoken to Rangers about the central defender’s character and watched her closely in recent weeks.
AC Milan’s Christy Grimshaw, 25, is also in the squad for the first time and McLaren said he had been impressed with the Kirkcaldy-born forward’s athleticism, goal threat and adaptability.
“She’s played a couple of different roles with Milan this season and has shown, from a tactical point of view, she’s very good at executing instructions and playing to a game plan so I’m excited to give her an opportunity.”
Team GB picks Kim Little and Caroline Weir are also in the squad, while striker Lana Clelland returns and midfielder Lisa Robertson keeps her place after impressing in February.
“What Lisa showed us during that camp and what she subsequently showed at Celtic has been a consistently high level of form,” McLaren said. “So she’s earned her place fully on merit for this one so, delighted for her, she will bring a lot to that midfield.”
Injuries have denied Scotland of the services of Jen Beattie, who has had surgery for a back complaint but should be back for September; Lisa Evans, who is returning from a troublesome Achilles; and Martha Thomas who has a foot problem.
Scotland play Northern Ireland at the Seaview Stadium in Belfast on Thursday, kick-off is 7pm. They travel to Llanellii to take on Wales on Tuesday 15 June for a 7.15pm kick-off.