Photo courtesy of Colin Poultney.
Ahead of the 2020 season, we’ll catch-up with every single Scottish Building Society SWPL team. From new Head Coaches, new signings, and new aspirations, it’s set to be another exciting campaign.
We spoke to Celtic’s Head Coach, Fran Alonso. The Spaniard, formerly Ronald Koeman’s assistant at Everton and a technical coach at Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino, was brought in from Lewes FC Women to replace the departing Eddie Wolecki Black.
How are excited are you for the 2020 season? I’m very excited for our first season as a professional Club. The girls are very excited too and we can see that in every training session and game we have played. There is a huge passion at this Club and we all feel it so we cannot wait to begin the competition.
What do you make of the changes for the new season? Everything which creates excitement for the growing fanbase could be positive. Play-off games will generate interest not only for the Clubs involved but for football fans in general.
What are your aims and ambitions for the new season? It is a transition year for us. We are changing the way we train, the way we recover, and the way we play on the pitch so the first aim will be to get familiar with our style and try to master it as soon as possible. Then we will focus on one game at a time and see how far we can go. Of course we are Celtic FC and Celtic win titles, so we will need to do that at some point, just for this first year we will focus on transitioning efficiently from amateur to professional and try to win as many games as possible and playing at the highest standard possible.
Based on the other teams in the league, do you think this will be the most competitive season ever? I believe so, this season Scottish teams have been able to attract some very good players from other countries and also improve budgets, better resources have improved squads quality and also staff quality. I think this season we could potentially see a good fight between four or five teams where everyone can take points from each other. I think Glasgow City are the favourites because they have been so dominant in the domestic competition for so long but they will probably be challenged more than ever been before by other teams. Very exciting times for Scottish football.
With the new season around a month away, how have preparations been so far? Pre-season has started a bit late for us but we are catching up. We have had a fantastic camp in Gran Canaria where the girls have worked hard and well. We look forward to starting the competitive season on the 9th February against Glasgow Women in front of our fans and all our preparations are focussed on being ready to try to get the first win of the season and to play to a very high standard.
Do you have plans to/have you had much change to the squad? Yes, but not a lot. We have a lot of quality in the squad and I am very happy with our young players, all youth Scottish internationals, who have impressed us in Gran Canaria. We will just bring two or three more players to strengthen certain areas, but our plan is to carry on giving our young players opportunities to develop in a professional first team environment.
For perhaps new fans of the women’s game, who are some players in your squad they should look out for? I would help opponents in their scouting duties if I give you the names, but I can say that we have four or five players that will impress everyone in the league. Some are new signings and some were here before but are responding very, very well to our new playing style so I believe they will have a fantastic season.
As well, are there any new/younger players we may see more of in 2020? Our youth pathway is fantastic and we have been doing things the right way. We have taken six U-18’s players to our training camp in Gran Canaria and they all have started one game, got over 90 minutes, and all have impressed. It’s very exciting times for them and for the Club, we really believe in giving opportunities to our young players.
You start the new season hosting Glasgow City, a match which is live on BBC ALBA. What do you make of that fixture? In the league we will have a very tough opening game against the current champions, Glasgow City. We will think about that game the week before but obviously we will have to prepare ourselves to have one of the biggest challenges of the season but I am sure it will be a very exciting opening game for both teams and for football fans in general.
How important do you think it will be to get off to a good start? It is important to start well and we will make sure we try our best to do that, but the league or the cup are long competitions so what matters is where we are the last two months of the competition. Of course a good start could help in terms of team moral and confidence levels but starting well is not as important as finishing well.
Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and support your team this season? So far we have had fantastic feedback in the games we played in Spain. Spanish and Scottish fans at the games have been asking us how they can watch us play every week, where they can stream our games etc. there is globally an increasing interest in women’s football and Scotland is another good example of the growth of the women game. I believe this is going to be the most exciting league to date. We have been able to attract great players to the team and this time we will keep them, we want our fans to be proud of us, not only bringing them good results but trying to play a good attractive football that they feel identified with. It won’t be easy but we certainly try our hardest.