Holders Glasgow City began their defence of a 14th consecutive title with a 6-0 thrashing of Motherwell, as the new Scottish Women’s Premier League season kicked off yesterday.
Supporters had barely taken up their seats at Petershill Park when the opening goal arrived after just 18 seconds. Costa Rica midfielder Priscilla Chinchilla to open the scoring for the home side at Petershill Park, with centre-half Claire Walsh adding a quickfire second just moments later on her debut.
The match was over as a contest before half-time as South Africa international Ode Fulutudilu struck twice before striker Taylor Fisher and Israeli Vital Kats completed the demolition in the second half.
But which teams are likely to serve it up to the 14-in-a-row champions in the battle for silverware this season and can a much-changed City side be caught in their quest for an elusive 16th SWPL title?
Former Hibernian Women’s coach Grant Scott has kickstarted a new era for City after taken over from Scott Booth on an interim basis, although it remains unclear if he will still be at the helm come the end of the season with an unknown coach reportedly due to take over.
The lure of managing in the Women’s Super League with Birmingham City proved too strong for Booth, who enjoyed great success during his six years in charge, winning six domestic titles, a Scottish Cup and guiding the club to a Champions League quarter-finals spot.
Following a shortened 2020/21 campaign due to Covid-19, an expanded 10-club top flight is in place this term following the decision of Forfar Farmington to withdraw, citing a shortage of players.
Last season’s runners-up Celtic and Old Firm rivals Rangers have both delved into the transfer market to strengthen their squads and expectation levels at both clubs will have risen as a result.
Hibernian will also be hopeful of mounting a title charge as they look to improve on disappointing fourth-placed finish, which saw them end 27 points behind City last season.
Hearts finished bottom of the table last season with just eight points from 21 games, but they avoided the drop with no there being no relegation. New Spanish head coach Eva Olid will look to transform their fortunes, while Motherwell are also under new management.
New threats to City may come in the shape of Aberdeen, fresh on the back of notching back-to-back promotions and Hamilton Academical, while Spartans and Partick Thistle make up an exciting division that is sure to contain many thrills and spills as the season unfolds.
Here, we look at some key players to watch out for:
Glasgow City’s dominance of the SWPL stretches back well over a decade now and judging by Sunday’s opening day score line they don’t appear in any mood to loosen their grip on the trophy.
Some critics may point to the departure of vastly experienced midfield duo in Leanne Ross and Leanne Crichton as a major blow to their title ambitions. Ross has opted to hang up her boots at the age of 40 while 34-year-old Crichton has taken up the offer of a player/coach role at Motherwell.
However, quality remains a consistent theme among the City ranks with the likes of Scotland internationals Hayley Lauder, Lee Alexander and captain Joanne Love all still a pivotal part of their set-up.
City are yet to show any real signs of weakness and on Wednesday’s evening they will bid to book their place in the Champions League group stages with a win over Swiss champions Servette.
Following a 1-1 draw in Geneva last week, Scott will hope his players can seal their progression worth a guaranteed £340,000 in prize money.
MY PLAYER TO WATCH: JANINE VAN WYK
The centre-back, South Africa’s record cap holder with 170 appearances, arrived at City last summer with her signing hailed as one of the “biggest ever signings in Scottish women’s football by previous boss Scott Booth.
Van Wyk has been a rock at the heart of City’s defence and having captained her country on their World Cup finals debut in 2019, the well-travelled 34-year-old will look to make her presence felt once again in both her own and opposition penalty areas this season.
Fran Alonso believes his Celtic side will be “third favourites” to lift the title this season, despite finishing a close-up second last term.
The three-time runners-up came within just one win of a first SWPL title last year as they finished five points clear of closest rivals Rangers.
That secured a Champions League berth which ended prematurely after defeats to Levante (Spain) and Minsk (Belarus), but with seven new recruits among their squad, a rejuvenated Hoops side will no doubt be in contention towards the end of the campaign.
Alonso has scoured the globe in pursuit of clinching silverware with arrivals from China, New Zealand, Canada, Iceland, USA, England, and Ireland.
MY PLAYER TO WATCH: CHARLIE WELLINGS
The Walsall-born striker made the move North of the border this summer after departing WSL side Bristol City. The 23-year-old rose up through academy at Birmingham City and scored in the 2017 FA Women’s Cup Final at Wembley Stadium against Manchester City. It took just 14 minutes to open her Celtic account during Sunday’s 4-2 win over Aberdeen as she celebrated an opening day double.
A third-placed finish for Rangers last season will have disappointed head coach Malky Thomson.
Injuries to a number of key players hampered their progress, despite only conceding just ten goals over the entire season, the fewest of any club in the division.
Striker Lizzie Arnot ended the campaign as top scorer with 16 goals and the former Manchester United player will be eager to hit the ground running once more alongside new strike partner and ex-United team-mate Jane Ross.
Thomson will arguably call upon the strongest strike force in the division to fire them to title glory.
MY PLAYER TO WATCH: JANE ROSS
A vastly experienced and prolific goal scorer with a glittering CV having turned out for Glasgow City, Manchester City, West Ham United and Manchester United. Ross has 62 international goals to her name from 136 appearances and admitted completing a move to the club she supported growing up was “an easy decision.”