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.
Before the appointment of their new Head Coach, we spoke to Kilmarnock Assistant, Michael McDougall. They finished fourth in SWPL 2 last season, just two points shy of their 2018 tally.
How are excited are you for the 2020 season? We’re all very excited to get going. There’s been some changes around the club and a new head coach has still to be appointed but we’ve been working hard to make sure we’re prepared for the long season ahead. There’s a buzz around Women’s football in Scotland at the minute and hopefully that continues.
What do you make of the changes for the new season? I think it’s the right move. SWPL 2 is an extremely hard league to get out of and it’s something I’ve said myself for a couple of years now that a play-off would make things more interesting. The extension to 10 teams is also a good move, giving teams more games across the season has to be beneficial both in terms of games played and the opportunity for exposure of our game.
What are your aims and ambitions for the new season? The aim is to win promotion to SWPL 1, its where we as a club want to be so we go out with the intention of winning every game we play in with the hope of being up there come November time. We’re looking forward to the new league cup format as well and hopefully we can progress further than we have in previous years in this competition.
Based on the other teams in the league, do you think this will be the most competitive season ever? Absolutely, looking at last year it’s clear that it’s getting more and more competitive with anyone capable of taking points off of each other. With the massive movement of players that has happened in the break each team will be looking to set a marker down early. We know the quality that the likes of Hamilton possess and I think St Johnstone have huge potential and their league position last year didn’t really reflect their efforts. Add to that the addition of Aberdeen, who are a very good side, I think we’ll see the most competitive SWPL 2 season to date.
With the new season around a month away, how have preparations been so far? Preparations are going well, we’re a couple of pre-season games in now and we’re looking sharper each week. We’re aiming to really challenge ourselves in pre-season to give us the best possible opportunity at achieving our goals for the season.
Do you have plans to/have you had much change to the squad? We’ve had some changes to the playing squad as well as awaiting the appointment of a new head coach but I don’t think it’s going to have a negative impact on what we want to achieve. We were disappointed to lose Colette, Clare, and Kim as they are big characters and have had an influence on the team during their time here but in the early days of pre-season we’ve seen others step up and raise their game which is exactly the reaction we needed. We’ve added a couple of quality players, and with Lauren Chisholm returning after having a baby last season she’s like a new signing. We’re in a good place.
For perhaps new fans of the women’s game, who are some players in your squad they should look out for? I don’t like to single people out but if you’re pushing me for an answer in this one there’s a few in our squad who I could mention. Last season Lauren McGregor, Laura Neil, and Amy Burrows were mainstays in the defensive side of the team and they never fail to continue to impress us so I would definitely look out for them. Abby Robinson and Monica Harty are young exciting players who offer a lot in more advanced areas of the pitch but I also think we’re lucky that our entire squad has the ability to standout in any given situation.
As well, are there any new/younger players we may see more of in 2020? There’s definitely potential for this to happen, already in pre-season we’ve had a couple of young players in Abbey McDowall and Reese McCulloch play for us despite being 14/15 years old and they didn’t look out of place. Rebecca Galt also stepped up from our development side during last season to become a member of the first team squad so we will see plenty from here over the course of 2020.
You start the new season away to Aberdeen. What do you make of that fixture? It’s a very tough fixture for us to start with an away trip to Aberdeen. We’ve got huge respect for them and the progress they’ve made after relegation and the rebuilding they’ve went through to get back up to SWPL 2. They knocked us out of the Scottish Cup last year so we know what they’re capable of, and despite being a newly promoted team I fully expect them to be challenging for promotion again this season but we are really looking forward to playing them and showing what we can do.
How important do you think it will be to get off to a good start? It’s hugely important, with such a competitive league the team that finds the best consistency in this league will get out of it so it’s vitally important to get off to a good start. The addition of the two league cup games to kick off the season is a bonus as it gets everyone into competitive football before starting the league proper, so we hope to take advantage of that.
Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and support your team this season? I think I would say to people if you’ve never watched women’s football before to give it a chance, get down and watch a game and see what it’s all about. You’ll surprise yourself, the technical ability on show and the athleticism of the players in our top leagues can match anyone now, give them the support they have worked hard to earn. Our players work/study full time, fit in three on pitch sessions a week, gym sessions as well as a game on a Sunday all balanced with normal everyday life, come and show them the appreciation they deserve, you won’t regret it.