Celtic Women begin their season with a home game against Hibs at Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie on Sunday.
It’s an exciting time for Fran Alonso and his side as they hunt for more silverware this season. Last season ended on a high note as the girls secured a historic cup double, defeating Glasgow City 3-2 in the Scottish Cup final in May, thanks to a last-minute goal from Izzy Atkinson. The Scottish Cup joined the League Cup in the Paradise trophy cabinet, with the girls clinching their first title of the season back in December 2021 with a superb 1-0 win over the same opponents.
But at Celtic we never stop and the focus is now very much on the 2022/23 season. Women’s football is riding a wave of success following the thrilling European Championship tournament which drew record attendances and we hope the club will capitalize on this by investing in the women’s squad and helping to grow football in Scotland. However, it was a mixed preseason for the girls in green, particularly in terms of recruitment and retention.
Cup heroine Atkinson has left the squad to join the Women’s Super League and she’s not the only talented player to make the move during this transfer window. This week Celtic also announced the departure of Jodie Bartle, who was a real key player for Alonso’s side last season. Cheyenne Shorts, Chloe Warrington, Tyler Toland, Maria Olafsdottir Gros and Annie Timoney also join the list of first-team players to make the exit.
There were additions in the form of Amy Gallacher from Hibs and Lucy-Ashworth-Clifford from Lewes FC, a former club of manager Fran Alonso. This week also saw the signings of Ourense’s Shen Menglu, who looked impressive in trialist performances last season, and Coventry City’s Liv Fergusson.
However, it is clear that Fran Alonso would have welcomed more newcomers to his squad ahead of Sunday’s league opener and in the pre-match press conference he cited visa issues delaying further arrivals. To add to the frustration, there is still uncertainty about the status of some key players from last season’s double-winning squad. Between attending Friday’s press conference and publishing this blog, Celtic announced they had sold their top scorer, Charlie Wellings, to Reading – a major blow to the team.
There is also uncertainty about midfielder Sarah Harkes and New Zealand international Olivia Chance, neither of whom attended the pre-season training camp in Gran Canaria. With the England transfer window just weeks away, it could be expected that some players are still considering their options, a fact Fran acknowledged in today’s pre-match press conference, available below.
There were positive things to report on the pitch. With the first-team absent, the Academy players had a chance to shine and some of the youngsters like Ferguson and Burchill were particularly impressive. Additionally, Clarissa Larissey was in superb form, scoring another 3 goals against Aston Villa U21 in a friendly on Saturday, taking her total goals tally to 11 in 4 pre-season games.
In another pre-season game, the young side held their own in the inaugural City of Glasgow Cup against a strong Rangers side that eventually ended in a 2–1 loss from a deflected own goal. After the game we spoke to Fran, who said he was pleased with how the young girls were able to keep up with last season’s league winners, with not much separating the two sides, whilst stressing that the squad will be bolstered with quality recruits must.
Other positive news: Veteran players Chloe Craig and Caitlin Hayes, as well as captain Kelly Clark and player of the year Jacynta Galabadaarachchi have all extended their stints at the club and are sure to be very important players this season. Another player to watch out for is the talented youngster Tegan Bowie, who is making his first team appearances at just 18 years old. Goalkeeper Rachael Johnstone, 18, was also in excellent form in pre-season, building on impressive performances last season when she was called up to the Scotland national team.
There is no doubt that Fran’s ambitions this season will be to go on and win the league title to continue last season’s cup success – but if this season we see Rangers and Glasgow City (who finish 1st and 2nd respectively occupied) want to overtake it is imperative that Fran is supported in the transfer market and that the club give women’s football the support it deserves.
Support from the fans will also be fundamental this season. Fran and his team really appreciate the fans supporting the team and would love to see that continue this season. With more teams in the league turning professional or semi-professional this season, it’s sure to be a tougher season than ever for the girls in green.
If you’ve never jumped at the chance to go to a women’s game, now is the time. We know all too well about the card fiasco and blackout of Saturday’s men’s game against Ross County. You don’t need to be in Dingwall to see Celtic play live this weekend. Visit Excelsior Stadium and watch the women’s team open their season in what is sure to be an entertaining game against last season’s runners-up.
Tickets for single games are available at the gate. Season tickets for the women’s team are available online, from just £80, see the Celtic website for more details.
We at CeltsAreHere keep you updated on the progress of the women’s team with updates, news and match reports available on the channel. Join us as we support the women’s team this season and help them stock the trophy cabinet at Celtic Park with more silverware.