AN emotional eight days for Joelle Murray concludes this afternoon when Hibernian host Rangers at the Tony Macaroni Arena. The central defender’s utter dejection last Sunday was followed by an almost unsurpassed high three nights later.

Murray admits she couldn’t get off the pitch and away from the Penny Cars Stadium fast enough in the wake of the 2-1 defeat to Celtic. The latter’s Charlie Wellings got the winner in time added on.

“It was worse than the three defeats to Celtic last season,” Hibs captain Murray pointed out. “To defend for 90 minutes and concede in the manner we did was sickening.”

Murray is one of four players – Siobhan Hunter, Shannon Leishman and Eilidh Adams are the others – who have supported Hibs since they were small children. Brought up in the Borders village of Chirnside, the 34-year-old was taken to her first match at Easter Road by her father when she was five.

So, it was a special occasion for these four players, especially, when they played in front of the record domestic crowd of 5512 in Wednesday night’s 3-0 win over Hearts. Instead of belting out Sunshine on Leith from the stands they were on the pitch hearing the Proclaimers’ anthem being sung in their direction by fellow fans; young striker Adams had the added thrill of scoring the third goal.

Murray, uniquely, has been involved in four Scottish record crowd occasions. She played in the 2019 Scottish Cup final which, with 3123 inside Tynecastle, remains the highest paid-for domestic attendance.

The defender also wore the armband in the Champions League home tie against Bayern Munich (2551) five years ago, and was on the bench at Hampden for Scotland’s 2019 World Cup send off match against Jamaica (18,555).

“Hampden and the Hearts game were both incredible, but completely different because I was on the pitch at Easter Road and grew up a massive Hibs fan,” Murray said. “It was also so much noisier than the Bayern match.We heard it and felt it and it gave us a massive lift.”

Murray, incidentally, agrees with Rangers assistant head coach Kevin Murphy that while these one-off occasions are hugely important for raising the profile and status of the sport, what’s even more essential is attracting bigger crowds to games on a regular basis.


WHICH organisation is best suited to running the top competitions? It’s an issue which will have to be tackled head-on in the next few weeks.

The women’s football strategy, published by the Scottish FA in July, stated: “We are committed to improving all aspects of elite competitions to help professionalise the environment and attract increased commercial investment.

“To do this we will review how elite competitions are delivered and implement an improved governance model by the 2022-23 season.”

Realistically clubs need to know by the end of December what the options are and then agree on the way forward. With the SFA showing no interest in taking over, the choices appear to be limited to the status quo (SWF) and the SPFL.

Neither, as things stand, would represent a Christmas present for the top clubs. The SWF workload is huge just administering the recreational side of the game, while the SPFL has been riven by internal disputes.

SWF may nevertheless have put down a marker on Friday evening when chief executive Aileen Campbell posted a link to an advertisement for a commercial partnerships manager to join the organisation. The governing body recently received £100,000 from a benefactor, and that will be used to fund the new post with further money being allocated to strengthen capacity and infrastructure.

Celtic and Rangers are among the clubs which would apparently prefer to be governed by the SPFL, while Glasgow City – who are not members of the men’s club organisation – aren’t in favour. The majority, however, are in agreement that SWF, as it is currently constituted, does not have the necessary expertise and resources to deliver for professional clubs.

And finally

TUESDAY’S news that positive Covid tests had forced the Scotland under-17 team to withdraw from the European Championship qualification round currently being played in the Netherlands received little or no publicity. The development was devastating, obviously, for all concerned.

The SFA would not allow me to speak to head coach Pauline MacDonald about the circumstances, pointing out that some of those involved were minors. Less understandably, access was also denied on the legitimate wider point of asking how much damage the pandemic has inflicted on the development of our elite young players.