A CLOSE season like no other in Scotland saw Rangers make history by unveiling the first two players in their new professional squad on Tuesday. And not just semi-professional as expected either – head of girls' and women's football Amy McDonald has revealed that many of the new players will be on full-time contracts.

They include the two who heralded in the new Rangers era, Northern Ireland midfielder Demi Vance and Scotland goalkeeper Jenna Fife. Two more, including Kirsten Reilly, were unveiled yesterday and there will be a steady drip of new signings from the club.

“Whilst there will be some players who are semi-professional, the majority will be full-time,” McDonald pointed out. “That means the girls can just focus on their football.

“The board have made it clear the direction they want to go down. The full-time players will do anything between seven and nine training sessions a week. It will be a big commitment, but the good thing is they'll have enough time for rest and recovery.”

McDonald belongs to a generation of players who couldn't, in their wildest dreams, have expected such a development. The first to benefit were 24-year-old Fife, who has four Scotland caps, and Vance, a left-sided midfielder or occasional full back who is four years older and has played 60 times for Northern Ireland.

Celtic, meanwhile, are expected to announce their plans for full-time football soon, even if the number who have already signed full-time contracts may be nearer five than the earlier speculation of a dozen. There is also activity at Hibernian, albeit on a more modest scale, and it is understood that players are currently being offered contracts. An announcement is expected soon.

What seems certain is that Glasgow City will have a much harder job to land a 14th successive title than they did the previous 13. Some of those wins were little more than processions, and although Hibs ran them very close in 2017 and 2018, the title was wrapped up this year with three games still to be played.

“Hopefully it will be a more competitive league next season, and the aim for everybody is to close the gap,” McDonald confirmed. Increased competition and the advent of professional teams will almost certainly generate more media interest, another development which is long overdue.

Exciting as the new Rangers plans are, McDonald admits there was one aspect she would have preferred to avoid. Some 15 players from the 2019 squad were released, and imparting the news was painful given that most played for the love of the game and, in many cases, the club.

“These players have given us tremendous service and managed to put us in this position,” McDonald pointed out. “It's just unfortunate the way it has come to an end for them.

“It has has been very difficult because every one of them is a really, really good person. They gave everything they could to do their best for the club.”

WHILE Rangers are setting new standards, it was a difficult seven days, to put it mildly, for Hibs. As previously mentioned they are now taking steps to implement their plans going forward, and it is understood some players may have already signed contracts.

The mystery is why the club, and its Foundation, took so long to react. The plans were in place before the season ended, so will Hibs pay a heavy price for the delay in activating them?

In the space of the last few days they lost head coach Grant Scott, as well as Fife to Rangers and full back Cailin Michie to Swedish club Pitea. This was after Jamie-Lee Napier signed for Chelsea, while another departure was Scotland under-17 goalkeeper Alicia Yates to Spartans.

Earlier in the summer Hibs failed to attract Emma Brownlie and Rachel McLauchlan back to the club after spells in England. Attacking midfielder Reilly, whose recent move to Bristol City hasn't worked out, made it three yesterday.

Losing players to full time football in England is viewed as inevitable if unfortunate, but it's a different matter if the switches are to Glasgow City or Rangers. It is to be hoped that Hibs, who have been a big force in women's football over a long time, have found a formula to stay at the top.

THE deadline for the Celtic head coach job is tomorrow. An announcement is expected soon thereafter, but the previous manager is already back in work.

Motherwell announced on Friday that Eddie Wolecki Black has returned to Fir Park in the enhanced role as head of the women's football department.