ALTHOUGH, from the outside, it might appear a risky strategy to be in no hurry to replace your head coach, it has worked out very well for Glasgow City in the opening weeks of 2023.

With 34 days having elapsed since the departure of Eileen Gleeson, City’s position has strengthened. Not only has the interim appointment, Leanne Ross, won all three games – 16 goals scored and just one conceded – but unexpectedly title rivals Celtic and Rangers have both dropped points in the last seven days.

Going into today’s fixtures, City have a five-point advantage over Celtic and seven over Rangers, albeit that last season’s champions have a game in hand. We are now almost certain to witness a unique three- team title contest – and, even better, the last week has shown the outcome may not just be decided by matches between the contenders.

Hearts, who now look almost certain to achieve their pre-season aim of finishing in the top six, landed the first blow, holding Rangers to 0-0 at Oriam last Sunday. That was also the scoreline Motherwell achieved away from home on Wednesday night against a rampant Celtic side which had scored 24 goals in the previous three games.

Hibernian, who knocked City out of the Sky Sports Cup in November, will also feel they can play a part in determining the title outcome. The biggest surprise has been Rangers taking just six points from their last four games; previously the depth of their squad made a successful title defence look by far the most likely – perhaps even inevitable – outcome.

“Having that squad depth lets you consistently churn results out,” Hearts assistant manager Sean Burt said. “You know if one of your top players is having an off day, you can call on another top player to come on and change the game.

“If you look at Rangers’ bench last Sunday, they were able to bring on Jenny Danielsson, who is an incred-ible player, and Kayla McCoy, an international striker. Even in the away fixture, which was another tight game, they brought on Brogan Hay and Sam Kerr at half time.

“That’s the difference. But over 90 minutes, in a one-off match, I feel that we’re closing the gap. That’s the

aspiration for the rest of the season.”

Motherwell’s draw at the Excelsior was a huge coup for Paul Brownlie’s players, who were back at their day jobs the following morning. From a Celtic perspective there will be some reflection on top scorer Clarissa

Larisey’s move to Hacken, as well as Olivia Chance being allowed to play for New Zealand outwith the inter-national window.

Even allowing for recent events, all three clubs should win comfortably today, although Celtic will be wary of a Partick Thistle side who continue to make eye-catching progress in their second top-flight season. There will be a much more significant match next Sunday when Rangers host City – and it will be the first major test for Ross since she was put in temporary charge.

City chief executive Laura Montgomery provided some clarity on the head coach situation yesterday when she said: “We were not in a rush to fill the position as we are very confident in the existing team we have in place. When the time is right for us as a club we will officially advertise.

“The benefit of having a good structure and excellent coaching staff gives us the advantage of being able to take our time to make the right choice for our next head coach.”

PRIOR to taking the City job on an interim basis, Ross also had two other big commitments. She was the Scotland Under-16 head coach and is a member of Pedro Martinez Losa’s back-room staff.

The under-16s have a three-game tournament in Portugal starting on Thursday, and with the Rangers match coming amidst it, Ross will not be travelling. It has emerged she told the Scottish FA at the end of last month that she was stepping down from the position. Hamilton Accies manager Gary Doctor, who will be up against Ross at Petershill Park today, will be in charge of the squad in Portugal. He will be assisted by recent Aberdeen co-manager Emma Hunter.

It does, however, appear that Ross is going to continue with her Scotland back-room team role. The squad travel to Murcia for the four-nation Pinatar Cup in mid-February, and an SFA spokesperson said: “Leanne’s role with the national team is unchanged and planning is going ahead as normal for Pinatar.”