It’s been a summer of change in Scottish Women’s Football. There was the introduction of group stages to the SWPL Cup, Celtic and Rangers announced their sides aiming to move professional, and there were also significant changes to the senior league structure.
These changes have drawn a lot of interest in Scotland and beyond, with an influx of international players moving to these shores. Previously, the Scottish Women’s Premier League had been made up almost entirely of Scottish players, with a handful of exceptions including Ireland’s Clare Shine at Glasgow City and Celtic’s German forward Josephine Giard. Now though, the league features footballers from across the world, with players from countries such as Iceland, Spain and Venezuela set to be plying their trade in the SWPL this season.
The Old Firm clubs in particular have looked outside of Scotland for signings, with a number of players moving to Glasgow. I spoke to two of those players, Demi Vance at Rangers and Sarah Teegarden at Celtic, to see how they’re settling in to life in Glasgow and how they hope to further their careers in Scotland.
At 28, Demi Vance could have been forgiven for thinking she would never be a professional, but that opportunity came to her at Rangers and she’s glad that a dream has finally become reality.
She said: “To become a professional for the first time at 28 is something I wasn’t thinking would happen anymore but hopefully playing every day will prolong my international career.
“Obviously it’s a different lifestyle, back home I trained, I had a job and I had to fit everything in amongst it, lucky enough here I can focus on football and do what I’ve wanted to do my whole life pretty much. I think it’s the same for a few of the girls, it’s been good and we’re keen and excited to get going at full time football at a club I’ve followed since I was a kid so obviously when the opportunity came up I was always coming.”
Across the city, Sarah Teegarden has joined the Fran Alonso revolution at Celtic, but the midfielder already has professional experience in America, Sweden and France so is excited at the new challenge that awaits her in Glasgow.
The 24-year old said: “I’m buzzing, it’s really good to get a Friday game on TV to start the season and I hope to make an impact in the team, to win games and getting to the Champions League is a goal and a dream so to be successful in the league and get to the Champions League would be amazing.
“I think we can absolutely finish first, last year the girls finished third and could have done better but the new players are great, we have a really strong team and can absolutely win the league and be successful. It’s a long season and we’re just at the beginning and there’s a long way to go but we can win it and do well.”
Settling in after moving to a new country can be a testing experience, but both Vance and Teegarden have found things a bit easier, thanks to some friendly faces. The Northern Ireland international has been joined at the Gers by Megan Bell, the two players on the same side this year having spent time as rivals at Glentoran and Linfield respectively back home.
“It’s been brilliant, city wise it’s (Glasgow) very similar to Belfast so it hasn’t been too hard to settle in, me and Meg live close back home and it’s quite exciting sharing a house with five of the girls so it’s been a good been a good way to get to know each other and we’ve all got settled in really quickly” said the midfielder.
As for Teegarden, she already had someone well known to her in Scotland, in the shape of Dundee United midfielder and fiancé Ian Harkes.
The former Lille player said: “With the distance between Glasgow and Dundee they’re obviously not next to each other but it’s been helpful. We understand each other’s schedules as footballers and usually we’re Sunday games and they’re Saturday so we can support each other and it’s good.
“It’s not an easy drive but after games he’ll come and support me which is nice. I get to see United as well, my home base is more there and I commute here more often so I have Saturday morning training and then drive over and watch his games and it’s perfect.”
The Glaswegian accent can cause problems for some visitors but having played in Australia as well, Vance feels she can cope and joked that it may be her that’s harder to understand, she said: “It’s OK, I think everyone is struggling with me more, I forget to slow down and people look at me blankly.
“We have two girls from France, Canada and obviously me and Meg but my accent is very different. Playing in Australia should help me, over there they struggled as well and when I came home I slipped in very easily but yeah I am trying.”
The two players are back in action this week with the American hoping to help Celtic top their SWPL Cup group away to Spartans on Sunday while Vance’s Rangers welcome Queen’s Park to the Hummel Training Centre on Thursday for their first SWPL Cup group game.