The Scottish Building Society SWPL is back and there are eight exciting ties to get us back into the swing of things.
Celtic v Rangers
K-Park, Kick-off: 2pm
The first game to kick-off in the 2018 SBSSWPL 1 season, and what a fixture, as Celtic host Rangers in the Old Firm Derby.
Both teams are going into the game with a reason to be looking to right a wrong from 2017. Despite finishing third in the table, Celtic lost the first two matches against Rangers. Whereas, Rangers, will be looking to get revenge for a heavy defeat in the final Old Firm of 2017.
Both clubs have strengthened in the pre-season, with Celtic bringing in Claire Adams, Keeva Keenan (Glasgow City), Rachel Donaldson (Stirling University) as well as Claire Crosbie who returns after a long-term injury.
Meanwhile, Rangers have also been busy in the transfer market. Khym Ramsey and Lisa Swanson return after spells in Finland, whilst they also pulled off a fantastic move in bringing in twins Jade and Lauren Gallon (Stirling University). This week, they also announced the signing of talented forward Carla Boyce (Glasgow City).
Glasgow City v Stirling University
Petershill Park, Kick-off: 2:10pm
SWPL 1 champions Glasgow City begin their defence of the title with a home tie against Stirling University. Stirling have finished fourth for the past two seasons.
Last season, City beat Stirling twice at home but Stirling did pick up an impressive goalless draw in the match played at Stirling.
City have brought in a series of impressive young players. They brought in forward Kirsty Howat (Celtic), defender Donna Paterson (Aberdeen), and forward Hannah Stewart (Aberdeen), although, Stewart has gone out on loan to Forfar Farmington until May. They’ve also brought in Maddie Hill from Verona.
Stirling University have appointed Barry Rodgers as their new Head Coach. They’ve also strengthened their squad, bringing in Orla King (Central Girls), promoting Gemma Mason from the development team, and Kim Guthrie returning to their SWPL squad.
Hibernian v Spartans
Ainslie Park, Kick-off: 3:45pm
It’s the Ainslie Park Derby as Hibernian host Spartans.
Hibernian, who missed out on the title, will be beginning their first full season under Kevin Milne. They’ve been busy in the transfer market, bringing in Shannon McGregor (Aberdeen), Kirsten Reilly and Jamie-Lee Napier.
Spartans missed out on fourth only on goal difference, and it will be the first game under new Head Coach Paul Greig. They’ve have re-signed key players, as well as bringing in Michelle Russell (Stirling University) and Kaela McDonald-Nguah (Celtic), who was on loan at the club last season.
Both clubs will be hoping to avoid the weather that hit the pre-season friendly between the clubs where the match was called off at half-time due to snow.
Hamilton Academical v Forfar Farmington
Superseal Stadium, Kick-off: 4pm
This is a really intriguing fixture as Hamilton Academical host Forfar Farmington.
This time last season, it was Hamilton who were preparing for their return to the top fight, a position that Forfar now find themselves in. So, Hamilton will understand how dangerous Forfar will be.
Over the pre-season, Hamilton who finished seventh last season, have brought in Katie Rice (Rangers) and Nina Fitzsimmons (Celtic).
Forfar Farmington, who won the 2017 SBSSWPL 2 title after losing just one game, have brought in defender Cassie Cowper (Aberdeen), Tammy Harkin on loan from Dundee United and Hannah Stewart on loan from Glasgow City until May. They have also seen Sophie Milligan return to the club after a year abroad.
Glasgow Girls v Aberdeen
Greenfield Football Centre, Kick-Off: 12pm
These two sides have the honour of playing the first game of the 2018 SBSSWPL season.
Both sides are among the pre-season favourites for the title, but as history shows in this league, there will likely be a series of twists in that battle.
Glasgow Girls have finished third in 2016 and second in 2017, so will be looking to continue that progression to hopefully winning the title. They’ve been one of those sides that have always slipped under the radar in the first half of the season and then end up fighting for the top spots. They’ve managed to re-sign their entire 2017 squad as well as strengthening it with new players, so that understanding between the players could prove critical.
Aberdeen will be looking to bounce back after being relegated from the SBSSWPL 1. They’ve lost key players like Cassie Cowper and Donna Paterson, but they are a club with a superb youth system that is used to replacing senior players. The club have also added players, including Loren Campbell returning. They’ve also announced that they will be playing their games at Aberdeen Sports Village as well as announcing that Susan Murray, who played for the club for 13 years, has joined their coaching team.
EUHV v Hearts
Pefermill Playing Fields, Kick-off: 1pm
Like in the SBSSWPL 1, the fixture calendar has thrown up an Edinburgh Derby and one that is rarely free of excitement and drama.
Last season it was EUHV who had the upper hand in this fixture, winning all three games in the league. This is the second season of the partnership between Edinburgh University and Hutchison Vale, and the club will be looking to continue their form from the second half of the last season. They’ve added players to their squad like Katherine Smart and Yasmin Emek and look like they will continue to be a side that will progress in this division.
Hearts will be glad to see the end of 2017. They were expected to fight for the title, and they started the season that way, but soon results fell away and the club ended up battling against relegation. Whether this was due to a series of injuries and key players leaving the club, or for another reason is up for debate but there is a desire within the club that they will not let that loss of form happen again.
Kilmarnock v Motherwell
Rugby Park, Kick-Off: 4pm
Promoted side Kilmarnock host the surprise package of 2017 in Motherwell.
Kilmarnock has a huge amount of history behind them, winning the inaugural Scottish Cup, SWPL Cup and SWPL. Now they are back where they feel they belong. It is always tricky to make predictions for newly promoted clubs but as history shows, they can really make an impact in this league. After their impressive showing last season as they won the title with only one defeat, they look like a side that could cause problems.
If they want inspiration, they only need to look at their opponents. Motherwell were a newly promoted side last year, and they lost their first three games. They then went on a 14-game unbeaten run and nearly won the title, and were the only side to beat Forfar Farmington. They are a much-changed club, with Eddie Wolecki-Black the new manager and eleven new players joining, including Emma Black and Kerry Montgomery.
St Johnstone v Central Girls
McDiarmid Park, Kick-Off: 4pm
The last game in the SWPL 2 sees St Johnstone entertain the other promoted side, Central Girls.
It is arguable that the most significant business that St Johnstone have done this pre-season has been off the field. The partnership between St Johnstone and Jeanfield Swifts has become closer, with the SBSSWPL side now playing under the St Johnstone branding and kit. They have also signed a sponsorship deal with SSE. St Johnstone are a possible dark horse in the title race.
Speaking to other SBSSWPL 2 clubs at the press launch, it is clear how the other teams admire Central Girls’ for their development of players. Whilst their squad is the youngest in the division, those players are full of talent with several of them in the Scotland U17 squad. They are going to be a team that is full of energy and skill, one that is capable of being this year’s surprise package.