MATCHES between the respective champions of Scotland and England always have a special resonance, and a good crowd is expected when the Glasgow City women's team host their Arsenal counterparts at Petershill Park tomorrow.
As the game is expected to feature nine players who were in the Scotland squad for the recent 5-1 win over Northern Ireland in Belfast, the pre-season friendly will have more than passing interest for Anna Signeul, the national coach. For the players, bragging rights will be at stake. The match, which has a 2pm kick-off, will be a rare club outing in their homeland for the Arsenal pair of Jenny Beattie and Kim Little. A third Scotland internationalist, Julie Fleeting, will be absent as she is expecting her second child.
"It's the kind of fixture you want to see happening, and from what I understand there will be a fair number of people coming along, so I can understand why everybody is really looking forward to it," said Eddie Wolecki Black, the City coach.
Five players have left the club since last season, when City reached the last 32 of the Champions League and won the Scottish title for a fifth successive year. They have been replaced by five new faces, the trio of Lesley McMaster, Nicky Docherty and Julie Melrose, recruited from Rangers; Amy Bulloch from Hamilton; and Leanne Crichton from Hibernian.
Rangers' move into administration has left question marks over the future of their women's team, just as it has every other department of the club. However, the players who have joined City had decided to switch clubs before the extent of the financial crisis at Ibrox became apparent.
Wolecki Black said: "I hope their women's team will keep going because for the last five or six years we've lost a team virtually every year. It's upsetting for every other team when the fixture list comes out and then suddenly one club drops out."
The Scottish season will kick off on March 11 and with City bolstering their squad yet again and Rangers, Hibs and Spartans all losing key players, the main challenge could come from Celtic, who have also made some eye-catching signings.
City, the subject of a weekly documentary on BBC ALBA, recorded a morale-boosting 2-1 away win over Liverpool last Sunday. Like Arsenal, the Merseyside club play in the eight-team English Super League, but finished at the opposite end of the table "We dominated the game against Liverpool and controlled it for long spells, so maybe the scoreline didn't reflect our superiority," said Wolecki Black.
Lisa Evans, the City striker, is still with the club despite attracting interest from a top European side, Turbine Potsdam. The 19-year-old spent five days in Germany at the start of the month after impressing in the two Champions League ties between the clubs and is expected to return in May for further assessment.
"The coach told me at the end of the week that I was really good technically and had great speed but I need to work on my strength," said Evans. "They're hoping I will go back a bit stronger. They flew my father and I out to Berlin, picked us up at the airport and put us up while we were over there.
"Glasgow City are very much an amateur club on the finance side, so I wasn't used to that. If I was made an offer, it would be a big decision but I don't want to get ahead of myself."
Evans, who found the net for Scotland for the first time in the win over Northern Ireland, is expected to play from the start against Arsenal. She said: "I was delighted to get that goal. It is always special when you get your first for your country."