THE 2020 season, which starts today, is a historic one for Scottish women’s football. A domestic landscape which has been dominated by Glasgow City, particularly, and Hibernian since the formation of the SWPL, is no longer so predictable.

City and Hibs are not involved in the League Cup group stages, so the newly- professional Celtic and Rangers teams will take centre stage this afternoon, weather permitting. Both are at home, with Celtic playing Glasgow Women and Rangers hosting Queen’s Park.

While Celtic’s recruitment has been relatively modest, Rangers will start the season with almost a new squad. They have taken two players from Hibs as well as young central defender Carly Girasoli from City – and may have further intentions in that direction.

What is also noticeable about Rangers’ set-up is the unprecedented level of resources behind the scenes. The players have a top-quality training environment which, as new joint head coach Malky Thomson points out, extends to the food prepared by the chefs at the Hummel centre.

Thomson, whose own playing career was cut short in his mid-20s due to back problems, has packed a huge amount of coaching and managerial experience into the subsequent 25 years. He is in his third spell at Rangers, having worked in Dubai, India and Ireland, as well as England. In Scotland he has been involved at first-team level with a number of men’s clubs.

For all his travelling, this is a new experience for Thomson. He was working at the Rangers academy and was persuaded by women’s and girls football manager Amy McDonald to share the first-team duties with Gregory Vignal.

“I never gave a thought to working in women’s football – I never thought I would get the opportunity until this came along,” the 51-year-old admitted.

“Amy also works at the Hummel Training Centre and she sold it to me. She wants to drive women’s football forward. I buy into everything she was saying – and the club does as well.

“Greg and I worked together at Birmingham when he was a player and I was reserve team manager under Alex McLeish. We’ll make joint decisions and share the load. It’s a good dynamic and there’s plenty of debate.”

Zoe Ness, who has nine Scotland caps and was a prolific scorer at under-19 level, joined Rangers from Lewes on Friday, but won’t make her debut today as she has a knee injury. Fellow forward Bala Devi, who arrived in Glasgow on Tuesday night and played in a closed-door friendly 24 hours later, is likely to feature.

“She’s got a phenomenal goal-scoring record,” Thomson said of the Indian captain. “If you look at players like that they tend to do it at all levels from youth football upwards.

“That knack for hitting the back of the net is always there. It will be exciting to see how she fares over here.”

The signing of Ness brought the number of players who have played for Scotland up to three – goalkeepers Jenna Fife and Megan Cunningham are the others – while four more, including Devi, are internationalists with other countries.

“The Irish girls are technically gifted and have a wealth of experience,” Thomson said. “Demi Vance is left-footed, strong, quick and can play a number of positions. Megan Bell can play anywhere up top and midfield as well. Sonia O’Neill [Venezuela] is a strong and accomplished midfielder who uses the ball well.

“I’ve been really encouraged by the girls and their attitudes – how ambitious they are. That can only work out well for Rangers and the wider aim of growing women’s football.”


GIVEN that Storm Ciara is not the latest USA footballer to cross the Atlantic and join one of our leading SBS SWPL1 clubs, the forecast – at the time of writing – looked grim for today’s League Cup games.

It remains questionable why a summer season should start on February 9. Especially when another long mid-season break – this time for four weeks – will be taken in July when the weather, theoretically at least, should be ideal for players and spectators.

Scottish Women’s Football say previous problems remain. They cite limited pitch and referee availability in the height of summer, while member clubs want the extended break for their players and coaches.

The decision to change the format of the League Cup itself – each of the 16 teams in the four groups will play three games instead of the previous opening round – is presumably also another factor in the early start.