Ahead of the new 2019 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 Spartans Head Coach, Debbi McCulloch.
How are excited are you for the 2019 season?: We are all very excited about the new season. Last season was a bit of a rollercoaster for us but we proved in the second half of the season that we can challenge any team in SWPL 1 and we look forward to the challenge that lies ahead of us.
What are your aims and ambitions for the new season?: Our main goal is to achieve a top three finish. We feel this is a realistic goal as our record in the second half of last season confirmed we are more than capable of matching other teams. We also want to be competing in all cup competitions as after the disappointment of not reaching the SSE Scottish Cup Final last season, the players are hungry for success in the League and Scottish Cup.
Based on the other teams in the league, do you think this will be the most competitive season ever?: Based on player movement, yes I believe this will be one of the most competitive seasons we have had for a while. We have managed to secure 95% of our playing squad from last season and have added real quality to the current team so we are feeling confident that we can make progress from season 2018.
With the new season around a month away, how have preparations been so far?: Preparations have went well. We took the decision to return to full training (four times per week) at the end of November so the players have had five weeks of pre-season training before the festive season and will return early in the New Year, after a short break. We have four competitive friendlies confirmed and by combining these games with high intensity training every Spartans player will be raring to go come Sunday 10th of February.
Do you have plans to/have you had much change to the squad? What impact could this have on your season?: When I came back in during the summer break last season I knew the squad was good enough to compete at the top level. As mentioned earlier, we have only lost two players during the close season so from my point of view not much change was required. We targeted three new signings and with us already completing the signing of two out of the three (Robyn McCafferty and Beth McKay both from Hibernian Ladies). I’m confident we can add one more before the middle of January.
For perhaps new fans of the women’s game, who are some players in your squad they should look out for?: We have several young and experienced players in the squad who are always capable of creating magic moments. For me, Elena Santoyo-Brown’s ability in 1v1’s and her ability to score goals is an exciting prospect. Alana Marshall is another player capable of creating goal scoring opportunities and is defensively strong. Other players such as Michaela McAlonie and Tara McGonigle also have bright futures ahead of them.
As well, are there any new/younger players we may see more of in 2019?: Our latest signing, Robyn McCafferty, is only 15 years old and is a real talent who has already proved, in training, that she is more than ready to make her SWPL 1 debut. The average age of our team is 21 years old, with 50% of the squad being under the age of 21. Combine youth with experience you develop a competitive environment and hungry squad and that is exactly what we have here currently at Spartans.
You start the new season playing Hibernian, what do you make of that fixture?: An Edinburgh Derby is always a fantastic occasion and one we are very much looking forward to. Hibs have lost a couple of key players during the past few months, however we are fully aware of the talent and threat they still possess individually and as a team. The last time we played Hibs I felt we competed well for the first 45 minutes so this time around we will be looking to do it for 90 minutes to ensure we get our league campaign off to a perfect start.
How important do you think it will be to get off to a good start?: A good start is always good for building confidence however we have 21 league games to compete for so every game will be important to us. It’s going to a be a long season so our focus will be taking each game one at a time so we can achieve our desired goals and bring success to the club.
Given how big 2019 is for Scottish Women’s Football as a whole, how excited are you to be involved?: Personally I’m very excited as we have never had a greater opportunity to showcase our game/league. I believe SWNT qualifying for the World Cup and our WU19’s hosting and representing the country at the European Finals, we have a platform to promote the game and also raise the profile of women’s football in Scotland.
Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and support your team this season?: Women’s football in Scotland is progressing and as mentioned before, it’s an exciting time to be involved in the sport. Here at Spartans we strive to create a family environment and would welcome all current, and new, supporters to come along and back our 2019 league campaign.