Campbell Finlayson recently spoke to Rangers and Scotland goalkeeper Jenna Fife and Celtic Women captain Kelly Clark ahead of a big season for Scottish women’s football as for the first time ever players have the opportunity to go professional.
Making the step up from part-time to full-time football is a big move in any player’s career, but it’s one that has faced both Jenna Fife and Kelly Clark ahead of the 2020 SWPL season.
The duo have both taken that next step in their careers recently, with Fife leaving Hibs to take over the goalkeeper’s jersey at Rangers while Celtic captain Clark was one of a number of Hoops players to take advantage of the club’s new regime by moving professional.
Leaving the capital club wasn’t an easy choice for Fife, but it’s one she felt she was right to make, she said: “It was a massive decision, I was at Hibs for six years, they were my first senior club and I won seven cups so to be successful and to be challenging for league titles, it was an honour to represent Hibs.
“Rangers came knocking and after talking to Amy (MacDonald) and Greg (Vignal) they made clear their ambition of the club. Full time football appealed to me and I made the decision that I thought was best for me and my development. It’s been brilliant so far, everything about the club, being full time has been great and I’ve loved it.”
At Celtic, Clark is also enjoying the change in her training schedule and is already feeling the benefits. The 25-year old said: “It’s turning up to work instead of turning up to a hobby, so there’s that expectation of quality every single time. You can’t fall back on I’m here because I want to be but because it’s your work and it’s living up to it so far.”
“I think my fitness, sharpness and all round competition has improved. The intensity, the style of living, eating, drinking, sleeping, training, resting, what you’re doing 24/7 is related to football whereas in the past football was just a thought at night.”
It’s not just at the Old Firm duo where there has been change, across the board in Scottish women’s football there have been improvements with a rise in girls and women now playing football in the country and the defender believes the game can only keep improving.
“Women’s football as a whole since the World Cup has just really taken off; it’s getting more and more exciting as we move forward and I think the sky is the limit.”
“This year we can only look to build on last year, everything that’s happened with the media, Rangers going professional, Hearts have really backed the women’s side, we’ve got the pro announcement, Glasgow City have a Champions League quarter final to play in the coming months, the Scotland squad did well and raised the profile, it’s raising awareness in Scotland and building a gathering that’s really excited for the season and hopefully the respect keeps growing.”
Rangers keeper Fife has featured in that Scotland squad but has found herself as backup to Lee Alexander, with just four caps to her name so far. She hopes to change that though with good performances at the Gers, she said:
“I’d like to play more international football and prove myself to Shelley (Kerr). That’s the ambition but I need to focus on my development and be the best goalkeeper I can be and Rangers can help me with that, I can try to prove myself to Shelley but first and foremost I need to focus on me and my career and how much I’m developing at Rangers so of course it’s an ambition but we’ll see what happens.”
There is of course no guarantee that all the changes will be good, but what is for sure is that this is the beginning of an exciting time for Scottish women’s football and the players and coaches at all the clubs are ready for it.
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