THE 2017 Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) which begins on Sunday is shaping up to be the most competitive in the event’s history and Hibs Ladies head coach Chris Roberts believes that his team has the ability to break the monopoly that Glasgow City have exerted for the past decade. 

Last year, Glasgow City won their tenth consecutive league title but Hibs won both the Scottish Cup and the SPL Cup, defeating City in the final of both.

All is needed now for them is to transfer that form into the league and if they manage this, there is every possibility that the Edinburgh side will prevent City winning their eleventh consecutive title. Roberts acknowledges how tough a proposition this will be though. 

“We’re trying to develop a winning mentality which I think we have done and so we want to take that into the league,” he said, speaking at the launch of the 2017 SWPL. “I think that this year’s league is going to be as competitive as it’s ever been. We plan to be successful — we want to defend our trophies and we want to go and win the league.”

For Hibs defender, Claire Williamson, the prospect of building on last year’s success is an enticing prospect. The 20 year-old realises the importance of her team’s victories over Glasgow City on the biggest stage but it’s the consistency of performing week in, week out that Hibs need to perfect.

“Last season, we got a taste of winning and so we want to push on from there,” the defender said.

“We want to take all our experience from the cups and the Champions League last year and use that to improve. Having beaten Glasgow City gives us real confidence- they are so consistent though and that’s something we’ve been looking to improve so that we can bring out those performances not just in big finals but every week.”

Glasgow City are in no mood to relinquish their grasp on the league title though. Several high-profile departures, including one of the most promising young Scottish players, Erin Cuthbert, leaving for Chelsea, forced City’s manager, Scott Booth, to make a raft of new signings. The former Aberdeen and Borussia Dortmund player has been at the helm for almost two years and he is well aware that City’s rivals are closing the gap.

“There’s definitely more competition now and it’s good for the women’s game in Scotland that we have that,” the former internationalist said. 

While the standard of women’s football in Scotland is rising rapidly, it remains limited by the fact that none of the teams can enable their players to be full-time athletes. This makes is almost impossible to get the better of professional teams but Booth believes that Scotland is getting closer to having a professional league of its own. “I would love to see a professional league in Scotland — you don’t want to run before you can walk but at the same time, it has to keep improving,” he said. 

Booth’s players may not be full-time athletes but there is no dearth of star quality. One of his headline signings is Lauren Silver, the American-born Jamaican internationalist who signed from French team, Metz and the 23 year-old has been pleasantly surprised at what she has found in Scotland.

“When I first came to Scotland, there was some hearsay that maybe the league wasn’t all that great but in pre-season, we played Rangers who are a mid-table team but they beat us and so that made me sit up and take notice,” she said. “I love competition and so having that strength from top to bottom is awesome.”