Saturday afternoon saw the launch of a re-formatted SWPL Cup along with a new Championship Cup tournament for sides competing in the fresh out the box Championship North and South divisions as Scottish women’s football continues with it’s plans for transformation whilst hopefully pushing towards a sustainable future for our game.
Hibernian, who are now guided by former U23 coach Dean Gibson, have won a record seven SWPL Cup trophies defeated Glasgow City on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes with goalkeeper Jenna Fife, who has since moved to Rangers, the hero at the Penny Cars Stadium. The Edinburgh side along with the defending SWPL1 champions receive a bye into the quarter final stages with the winners of each group and the two best placed runners up joining last years finalists in the knockout stages. For all but two of the remaining sides their cup campaign will continue in the the SWPL Plate as clubs across the levels start the season with a chance to claim early silverware. Here at Leading the Line, Chris Marshall, takes a look at both the SWPL Cup and Championship Cup draws.
The SWPL Cup Groups
Spartans, Celtic, St. Johnstone and Glasgow Women
Celtic will go into Group A as favourites to progress as they seek a final return for the first time since their 9-0 humbling to Hibernian in 2018. Fran Alonso’s side, who have spent the last week preparing for the new season in Gran Canaria, start their campaign against the newly re-christened Glasgow Women where Craig Joyce will be looking to snatch second from favourites for that spot, Spartans, with the two set to meet in Matchday 2. St. Johnstone, who ran Celtic close in the Last 16 of last year’s Scottish Cup, will be keen to spring a surprise too as Jason McCrindle and Myles Allan approach the new campaign with largely the same squad that finished 7th in SWPL2 last term.
Hamilton Accies, Rangers, Dundee United and Queen’s Park
Big spending Rangers will be viewed as strong favourites in a group where they will face SWPL2 opposition on all three occasions. Cup success will be high on the Light Blues agenda but that success will be reliant on how quickly Gregory Vignal can mesh his vast array of new faces. There’s a tasty looking opening encounter between Hamilton Accies and Dundee United as two of the SWPL2 title favourites go head to head at the FOYS Stadium on Matchday 1 with the winner putting themselves in pole position for second spot. Newly promoted Queen’s Park round out the group with former Rangers Shelley Campbell and Jayne Cameron set for a quick return to the Hummel Training Centre where they played their trade last season with coach Mark Kirk aware that his side have been handed a tough opening foray into SWPL football.
Hearts, Stirling University, Boroughmuir Thistle and Aberdeen
SWPL2 champions Hearts, who have added former Manchester City Technical Director Kevin Murphy to their coaching staff, will go into Group C as favourites and they start their campaign with an Edinburgh derby tie at home to SWPL2 newcomers Boroughmuir Thistle. Aberdeen, the third team to earn promotion to SWPL2 in 2019, will host the Jambos at Cormack Park in Matchday 2 whilst there is potential that the clash between Hearts and last year’s SWPL1 bottom side Stirling University on Matchday 3 will decide who tops the group although a Dons side, now under the sole charge of Emma Hunter following Harley Hemdani’s move to Australia, that swept the board at the 2019 SWF Awards in SWFL1 – North will be a dangerous proposition.
Motherwell, Forfar Farmington, Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock
Whist the draw did not throw up any of the glamour ties that so many crave Group D is perhaps the most competitive of the four drawn with three of the four sides set to start with a new face in charge come kick off.
Eddie Wolecki-Black has returned to Motherwell whilst Ryan McConville has taken the reins in Angus with Northern Ireland international Billie Simpson one of a few eye catching captures at Station Park and the SWPL1 sides clash on the final matchday. Both Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle though will have designs on upsetting the odds with Thistle’s capture of Emma Craig from Celtic another move to raise interest whilst three new faces will be familiar to matchday 3 opponents Kilmarnock as Colette Fleming, Kim Murphy and Claire Docherty all switched. Ayrshire for Glasgow’s West End. At time of writing Killie are still in the process of appointing a replacement for the departed Stewart Hall who will be on the Well bench as assistant when the two sides meet on Matchday 2.
The Championship Cup
On Saturday the draw was also made for the first round of the Championship Cup with ten ties and six byes being announced. New kids on the block Livingston travel to Clyde with former Hearts pair Rachel Walkingshaw and Ashley Carse in their ranks. Gartcairn, who this week tweeted out that they would be one of the clubs paying players, host East Fife in one of a number of cross divisional ties whilst BSC Glasgow will be looking to replicate the exploits of their men’s side as they travel to take on Dunfermline Athletic in Fife.
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