A clash of the titans is on the cards on Sunday as Glasgow City take on Celtic in the Scottish Women’s Premier League reports Catherine Etoe.
The reigning SWPL 1 champions were beaten by a late, late Kelly Clark winner in the pouring rain when the two clubs met back in February, but lockdown brought that season to a swift end without either side playing another league fixture. Scottish football is ready to go again, though, and this long-awaited return will be broadcast live on BBC Alba.
Glasgow City have lost some key names, but they have also been bolstered by signings such as South Africa skipper Janine van Wyk, Californian defender Zaneta Wyne, Manchester City loanee Tyler Tolan and Hibs striker Lauren Davidson.
So what can we expect from the title holders? Head coach Scott Booth and midfielder Leanne Crichton met the press on Wednesday to talk new signings, title favourites, the winter season, fans and more. Here’s what they had to say…
Scott Booth on his squad:
It’s looking good. This last three and a half weeks or so has been good for us to get together. The players are now starting to know each other a bit more and we’ve had the chance to work together quite a bit, so it’s been good.
Leanne Crichton on the new faces settling in:
We’re lucky, we’ve kept the main core of the team and the players that have come in are now finding their way within that and it’s nice to have that new buzz of energy. They’ve all done really well.
LC on who has impressed:
I don’t think I can pinpoint anybody individually as such, that time will probably come when the games come round and you see the true value in people, because training and friendly games are always hard to even gauge that as a teammate. I’m really excited just to see how the girls take on this challenge and listening to some of the senior players, they get what it’s about.
SB on defender Janine van Wyk’s injury:
Janine is going to be out for several weeks. She sustained a knee injury that was kind of a freakish injury, it was actually a challenge, she did absolutely nothing wrong. She had come back from a knee injury previously and it was nothing to do with that either. It was just one of these things that can happen in training. Right now she’s seeing specialists and is getting a sort of handle from them on the sort of timeframe she’s going to be out for.
SB on Janine’s desire to return:
She is 100 per cent professional. Despite having done a lot of things in her career, she wants to play football, she is desperate to play football for Glasgow City. She has loved every minute of her time here and has got on really well with the players. She has respected them and they have respected her and it’s been really sad that she’s sustained this injury because I was really looking forward to seeing her play for Glasgow City. She brings so much, but I know the kind of mentality that she’s got, she’ll be back quickly because she will work tirelessly to make sure that she gets back as quick as she possibly can.
SB on Janine’s presence around the group during her injury lay-off:
She is an amazing person, she really is. She loves to be around football, she loves to be around the girls and to talk to the girls, the new ones that come in, she’s one of the first over to speak to them. She gets on with the young ones as well as the more mature players, she has just been for me the type of player that I love, [that] I don’t have to do much with to be honest. I’m lucky because I’ve got a lot of players like that in the squad, that I don’t really have to manage so much, it’s the players that help me manage the rest of the team and themselves, so she definitely fits in in that department.
SB on facing a tough opponent in the first match back:
It is a tough first game, but to be honest, you prepare in the way that you do in pre-season for the first game no matter who it is against. You’re working as a coach to get the players as physically and mentally fit as possible for that first game but not just that game, it’s for the season. At the moment we are in a good place. The players are highly motivated, we had a session this morning and it was great to see how sharp the players are and how much they are looking forward to the game.
SB on losing to Celtic in February:
What happened in the previous game is such a distant memory now. We don’t take it for granted that it is a distant memory because we’ve obviously picked up on certain things that we could have done better that night. However, I don’t see it being a game like that at all. I think the conditions that night dictated the game. We could have performed better even despite the conditions and I’m sure Celtic will think the same, so it’s going to be a really nice opener for the season because it’s going to be really challenging for both teams and competitive.
LC on naming the favourites for this season:
It’s hard to say. It would be the wrong thing for people to assume that Glasgow City were not going to be challenging, having won last season’s title in the manner in which we did, but it would be naive of us to think that teams haven’t strengthened around us. Our biggest challengers will be ourselves ultimately, we can be the only ones that will beat ourselves by not performing. I think it’s probably the most exciting that a season has looked. There’s not just one or two games now that could potentially be a stumbling block.
LC on sticking with a winter season:
For me as a player it makes sense now. I found it quite challenging over the last number of years with the season being different from when it’s played in most parts of Europe, especially the English league as well. When it comes to tournaments and preparation for other parts of the season it can be quite challenging for players to peak at different times of the year. For me, moving forward, it would be great if it stayed this way.
LC on if not having fans affects performance levels:
I think a lot of the players that are in and around the women’s game have been used to, as sad as it sounds, playing without big crowds so it’s not something that impacts us. Of course I love to play where there’s a crowd, the  Scottish Cup final, the [record] crowd there at Tynecastle was incredible, probably one of the most memorable nights I’ve had playing in Scotland, especially Glasgow City, so those moments will last forever. But ultimately we’re just glad that we’re back playing football and that’s what we need to keep at the forefront of our minds.
LC on the feeling among the players:
We’re literally just desperate to get on the pitch and the buzz is real Even last night, the whole team training, you knew it was the week that the season was starting, it just felt different. Ultimately what you want as a footballer is games and it’s very, very close.