HIBERNIAN'S strong start to the season will be tested at the Penny Cars Stadium when they meet Celtic in today's top SWPL 1 game. It's the start of a huge eight days for the Edinburgh club, who lead the table on goal difference following convincing wins over Spartans and Motherwell.

Hibs, up until now, have been victims of Celtic and Rangers investing substantially in their women's sides. For many years they and Glasgow City routinely shared the honours between them, with City untouchable in the league and Hibs winning seven of the last eight pre-pandemic cup competitions.

That all changed dramatically last season. Although senior Hibs players and staff were irked when outsiders quickly wrote off their title challenge, the final table confirmed that early view.

Hibs were best of the rest in fourth, but 19 points adrift of third place Rangers and a huge 27 behind City. They also took just one point from a possible 27 in their nine games against the top three.

Head coach Dean Gibson is confident that will change now he has a bigger squad to work with. The Celtic game is followed by Hearts at Easter Road on Wednesday night and Rangers at the Tony Macaroni Arena a week today.

“I believed we would challenge last season, but the problem was we seemed to get injury after injury – and to a lot of key players,” Gibson said. “It can't be denied we only took one point from the games against the top three, but we were very competitive in these games.

“It was clear we needed to bring players in, but it wasn't to replace the ones we had. I'm happy with the squad now – we've got depth all over the pitch and if we do get injuries it won't be as hurtful as it was last season.”

Two of the new players, Alexa Coyle and Michaela McAlonie (against her old club) scored in the opening day 3-0 win over Spartans. Amy Gallacher returned from injury to come on as a substitute in the subsequent 4-0 defeat of Motherwell, but another big player, Shannon McGregor, is still a couple of weeks away from returning.

Hibs have 14 players on part-time contracts and Gibson is taking further encouragement from the new regime at Easter Road. American owner Ron Gordon and chief executive Ben Kensell are, he says, determined to make the club more inclusive.

“They're so far ahead of the kind of conversations you hear from other people,” Gibson pointed out. “They have a real plan to bring the whole club together.”

Kensell, who joined Hibs from Norwich City, Gibson and central defender Siobhan Hunter held a press conference on Monday to promote the Hearts game. Tickets are free and at the time of writing over 6,000 fans had booked seats at Easter Road.

The crowd is set to eclipse the 2500 who were in the stadium for the Champions League last 32 game against Bayern Munich in 2016. And as a further incentive for Hibs fans to turn up, the current record attendances for domestic games were both set at Tynecastle.

The SWPL best is the 1050 who watched Hearts win promotion to the top flight by beating Partick Thistle in November, 2019. Later that month 3123 witnessed Hibs lose 4-3 to Glasgow City in a thrilling Scottish Cup final.


FIRST Scotland goals for three different players lit up Tuesday night's 7-1 win over the Faroe Islands at Hampden. The expected result makes it six points from six in Group B, although Spain have already built up a significant goal difference advantage.

Chloe Arthur, brought in for Kirsty Hanson as the only change from the side which beat Hungary 2-0, got the second and third of the night within seven minutes. It was cap No 23 for the Aston Villa midfielder, but her prior appearances have either been off the bench or out of position at full back.

The 26-year-old made the most of her opportunity, giving her side much needed aerial potency in the opposition box and also providing the assist for Martha Thomas' second half goal. Christy Grimshaw scored the fourth to get off the mark in only her second competitive start, but even that was surpassed by Jenna Clark.

Playing at the national stadium was an impossible dream for even 100-cap former Scotland players. Teenage central defender Clark not only made her debut at Hampden, but calmly found the net 13 minutes after coming on to replace Jen Beattie.

It was (for the benefit of older readers) a Rose of the Rovers moment.