My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
With league reconstruction of the SWPL, the 2015 season was always going to be an artificial element of excitement to the relegation group. But due to the results of Hibernian, this season seems to have the feeling of a title race that will go down to the final stages. And due to the success of Glasgow City in Europe, this season’s runners-up will come away with more than a consolation prize. For the first time, the SWPL’s second-placed team will qualify for the 2016-17 UEFA Women’s Champions League.
In the era of the SWPL (from 2002), Hibernian Ladies have always been one of the dominant sides. They are the second most successful in terms of leagues won: in between the 2003-04 and 2006-07 seasons, they won the league title three times. The other season was won by City, and in each of the Edinburgh titles, it was City who finished as runners-up. In fact, in Glasgow City’s nine title wins, Hibs have finished second three times. And since winning the league the last time, the lowest they have finished is fourth. Last season was effectively another second place, with them being pipped to the place by Rangers only on goal difference.
There is no doubt that if they, as if looks like at the time of writing, secure a top-two finish that European football will help Hibs grow. But do they have the foundation to challenge City over the next couple of seasons? It is difficult to judge as there will be two massive uncertainties for them to deal with – the impact of playing European football, and the reduced league size. However, if you look at their squad, it is obvious that they have a promising foundation to build upon and continue growing.
Although, during this season, Hibernian have lost Lucy Graham to Malbackens IF and Katey Turner to Rangers, they still have five players from the 2014 UEFA U19’s Women’s Championship Scotland squad – and four from the squad that competed in the 2015 La Manga tournament. If they can keep that talented core of youngsters together, that is a fantastic sign for the future.
Then you look at the two City-Hibs this season. Back to May, Hibs came close to beating Glasgow City in the league. Hibs went in at half-time 2-1 up, but City recovered to go 3-2 up before in the 87th minute, Hibs equalised through a Cheryl McCulloch own goal.
The two sides clashed in the 2015 SWP League Cup Final. The Edinburgh side looked like they were about to end their four-year trophy drought, until Kerry Montgomery equalised in the 77th minute. Four minutes into extra time, Susan Fairlie scored City’s winner to lift the trophy. And then yesterday (16th August), Hibernian and Glasgow City produced another classic with a 3-3 draw.
All the evidence shows that Hibernian are going to push City all the way in this league campaign, although hopefully they will suffer a setback today. More interestingly, all the evidence shows Hibs have the potential to create a rivalry with City to dominate over the next few seasons.