With the SWPL 1 restarting after the mid-season break, Celtic face a trip to New Tinto Park to play Rangers in the Old Firm derby.
Celtic’s captain, Kelly Clark, was at Hampden Park at the sponsorship announcement and spoke to Tartan Kicks about Celtic’s season as well as the new sponsor.
In some ways, Celtic’s season so far has been impressive, but in other ways, very frustrating. They were tipped to challenge both Glasgow City and Hibernian for a top-two place, and with how they started, that seemed like a real possibility. In their second game of the season, they drew 1-1 with Glasgow City – having failed to take one point against City or Hibs in the whole of 2016. Clark spoke about her delight in doing this, and how they had started the season. “We started really well, early on we did well against Glasgow City – we drew. For me, it’s improved on last year because we have taken points of a City, something we haven’t done for the previous few years.”
The way they had started the season helped them reach the final of the SWPL Cup, where they lost to Hibernian.
Having played City and Hibs both twice in the league, this so far has been the only point they’ve taken against the title challengers. Despite that, Clark felt that how they’ve played in those games has been promising, saying, “Taking points off City has been great, we were more competitive against Hibs, being only beaten 2-1 which is closer than we have for a few years.”
However, they find themselves in joint third place, 11 points behind second-placed Glasgow City. Obviously, the results against the top two have contributed to that, but they’ve also dropped points against other teams: drawing with Spartans and losing to Rangers. This is something that Clark is frustrated by. “We’ve made the same mistake of being beat of the teams below us which is really disappointing because that makes our lives more difficult going into the second half of the season by dropping points against sides that Glasgow City and Hibs are unlikely to drop points against.”
Celtic’s restart to domestic football sees two crucial matches. First up, is the away trip to Rangers. They’ve played each other once in the league this season, a game which was won by Rangers 4-1. And then, they face their SSE Scottish Cup Third Round tie against Hibernian, in a repeat of the SWPL Cup Final. Clark was clear that whilst the Hibs’ game is important, they were determined to be Rangers. “Two big games, straight back into it. Massive game on Sunday, especially the last time we played Rangers we got beat so we want to make that right this Sunday.”
This week saw the announcement of Scottish Building Society becoming the sponsor of the SWPL, and Clark was delighted by not only the deal but also the growth of the women’s game in Scotland – helped by the recent international success.
Even for a club like Celtic, she was clear on the impact the sponsorship would have. “For us, the club gives us a lot, but even from the club’s point of view to see that people are putting money into women’s football, that might even spur them to put more money into women’s football.”
But more importantly for her is the impact on young players. There is a significant dropout of girls playing football during their teenage years, and she felt that this sponsorship could keep more girls in the game.
“If I was to sit down and tell our 17s everything that is going on in our league, I guarantee they would all sit back and go ‘wow’. And hopefully that will motivate them to keep going at a difficult time when you’re 17: you’ve got choices to make around university, you’ve got alcohol coming into your life. With things like this coming in, it’s just even more of a way to sell that this can be a future for you if you really want it, and this is how seriously it’s being taken.”