As the oldest women’s football club in Scotland, FC Kilmarnock were looking to continue their resurgence in this season’s Scottish Building Society SWPL 2, following their league winning campaign last term.
The club currently sit second in the table, with just seven games remaining, ahead of their massive top-of-the-table clash with Motherwell this weekend. As the club continue to fight their way back to the top of the Scottish game, their attacking-midfielder, Lauren Sloan, has been on a comeback of her own.
Sloan scored a dramatic last-minute winner for Killie in their last league game, against Edinburgh University Hutchison Vale. The goal gave the home-side a 3-2 victory and kept them in touch with league leaders Motherwell ahead of their head-to-head.
Although there is a 13-point gap at the league summit, Sloan believes her side can still claw back Motherwell’s lead, starting on Sunday. “It’s a massive game against two really good teams. I believe we can still get the top spot and we’re going to be looking to pick up maximum points from the next seven games.”
There is clearly a good team spirit with the Kilmarnock squad, exemplified by the win in the last league outing. “We were down to ten for a long time but we were still the dominant team with a player less” said Lauren. “The style of football we play and the fitness levels of the girls really showed in that game. For me, it was also great from a personal point of view to get the winner at the end.”
Lauren is no stranger to battling back in the face of adversity having not once, but twice came back from a serious knee injury. She added, “I was out with the injury and it was pretty much the first serious injury that I had had in all my time playing football.”
Sloan thought her injury nightmare was behind her but in just her first game back from her long spell on the side-lines, she suffered a recurrence of the same injury. “It was just heart-breaking to have to go through it all again” recalls the 25-year-old. “The club really stood by me and helped me during that time. They did everything they could to help with the injury as well as keeping me involved.”
Lauren did stay involved at the club, even though her injury was preventing her from taking the field. “I was helping out with the coaching of the younger teams whilst I was out. It kept me involved and gave me something to focus on other than the injury.
“All I’ve ever known really since I started playing was training through the week and playing at the weekend. It was frustrating not to be involved in that way and I found myself getting quite jealous of the girls who were out there training and playing.”
The good spirit within the club again came to the fore as Lauren also credits her team-mates for helping her stay involved whilst she was out of action. “We’re really close as a squad and everyone really looks out for each other” she said. “There were always things going on off the pitch that kept me included with the rest of the girls so I always felt that I was a part of things”.
Togetherness is just one of the qualities that Lauren feels has helped the team compete at the top end of the league, even though they have just come up from the division below.
“We’ve really been working on fitness in training and I think it has really shown in the matches. Stewart and Michael’s training sessions have been brilliant and we’ve all really been feeling the benefit from that during the matches”.
Although the Killie midfielder is happy with how the season has gone so far, she says that the ambitions at the club are to go even higher.
“The aim is to get back in the top league. This is a massive club and the Premier League is where it belongs. Although we wanted to consolidate our position in this division after just getting promoted, our overall aim is to get back to the top.”
Despite being only 25-years-old, Lauren is currently in her twentieth year as a Kilmarnock player. “I joined the club at the age of six so I’ve seen a lot in my time here, despite only being twenty-five. We’ve been relegated twice but the club is really on the up now, it’s well-structured and well run and it’s great to be moving up.”
The Ayrshire side were bolstered over the summer break with the signings Monica Harty and Lisa Swanson. Lauren welcomed the introduction of the new faces and feels they can play a big part over the closing stages of the campaign.
“They’re both quality players and the rest of the girls are really welcoming to new faces, particularly when you can see the quality they have. Lisa gives us a real goal threat which is maybe something we haven’t quite had. There have been games where we felt we could have scored more and Motherwell have a far better goal difference than us, so that’s an area where Lisa’s quality can really help us.”
Despite Motherwell’s greater goal difference and the points gap at the top, Sloan believes both teams are evenly matched and that they will put on a good show in Sunday’s top-of-the-table showdown.
“Although we lost the last time we played we felt it was a close game, with the improvements we’ve made in our fitness, as well as the new players, we feel confident that we can win on Sunday and try and overtake them in the remaining games.”
Kilmarnock host Motherwell in the Scottish Building Society SWPL 2, on Sunday 19th August with a 4pm kick-off.