Derby shoes, ultras and record store footfall in Glasgow and Edinburgh as SWPL prepares to take center stage

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Women’s football within Scottish football has made great strides over the past five years. There were qualifications for the European Championship and the World Cup. The national team call Hampden Park home and draw large crowds, while players can be found at Real Madrid, Chelsea and America.

At the national level, there have been investments in all areas. Celtic, Rangers, Hibs and Hearts have given their women’s teams more love and support. The teams have been able to attract internationals to the SWPL 1. A league which is now part of the SPFL. Matches are regularly televised live, the BBC has a highlights show and the Sky Sports Cup final between Hibs and Rangers will be shown live by the sponsored broadcaster next month.

Some of the toughest growth avenues, but ones that are being whittled away, are generating enduring and passionate interest week after week in terms of attracting crowds and changing perceptions around the women’s game that has been handled with nothing short of contempt by the Scottish FA for so long.

This weekend presents a great opportunity to offer a showcase. The Premiership is on hiatus as lower-flight teams take part in the Scottish Cup third round. The SWPL 1, meanwhile, features a bit of a derby weekend. Partick Thistle will face Glasgow City, Hamilton will host Motherwell and Dundee United will host Aberdeen. Additionally, Rangers take the Celtic and Hearts trip to Easter Road.

Highlight clash of the Old Firm season

The game between Old Firm is huge, even at this stage of the season 10 games with a point separating the top three. Reigning champions Rangers lead on 28 points, ahead of Glasgow City on goal difference with Celtic behind. Last weekend, the front two lost their only points of the campaign as they drew 1-1. Between the three teams, they conceded six and scored 132.

When the top three are in such a position, at higher levels than the rest of the league, it’s the results between them that are key. Celtic have already lost to Glasgow City and really, it has to be said, they can’t afford to lose. The league wouldn’t be over, not by a long shot, but mentally and optically it would really show that it might be a two-horse race, with Rangers set to win the title again after assembling an impressive squad under Malky. Thomson. The latest Scottish squad had five Rangers players while Thomson can call on American, German, French, Finnish, Jamaican and Dutch stars.

Easter Road Show

Hibs and Hearts will play to record crowds on Sunday at Easter Road. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group)

This will serve as a warm-up for the big meeting on Sunday in the capital. At the time of writing, 11,000 Edinburgh Derby tickets have been purchased, double the previous record set between the teams. Yes, it should be noted that the tickets are free, but the fact is that the demand is extremely encouraging.

It should be quite a spectacle on and off the pitch. Hearts will be supported by approximately 2,000 supporters. Among them will be the newly formed Gorgie Ultras who have improved the atmosphere at Tynecastle Park and at away games. They will be located behind the goals in Section 28 of the South Stand. At the other end, Hibs “agreed to host a vocal section in the Famous Five booth to help build the atmosphere”.

“It’s so exciting,” said Hearts boss Eva Olid sky sports. “I think more about women’s football in general. We hope that in the future we can play in stadiums every week and have over 10,000 people watching. This is a dream.

“We are seeing progression. We know it can’t all happen in a year, but it’s progression. If this year it’s 10,000, then next year 20,000. Young girls are now watching games football on TV and say ‘I want to be there.’

Rangers host Celtic in a top-flight clash on Saturday. (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)

On the pitch, it will be a fascinating encounter with balance, going from the season so far, moving to the brown and white side of town. Hearts sit fourth in the table, four points ahead of rivals Hibs, having won as many games this campaign as last. This improvement is due to the work Spain boss Olid has done on the training ground and in the transfer market. She identified increased experience, particularly in defense with just ten goals conceded, as key to this progression as she aims in the long term to steer the club to the Champions League. Hearts also boasts one of the country’s most promising teenagers, Rebecca McAllister, who bowed out in Scotland earlier this year.

For Hibs, it will be about closing the gap and trying to show that they are the best dogs in town. They have goals in them with Cyprus internationals Krystyna Freda and Eilidh Adams, as was the case last weekend when they knocked out Glasgow Girls for six. The Hibees have so far proved that in their day they can match anyone who beat Glasgow City in the Sky Sports Cup semi-finals, with Freda scoring twice against his former side.

Sunday at Easter Road should be the highlight of a great weekend for the women’s game in Scotland.

Both matches can be watched on BBC Alba, iPlayer and BBC Online

Eva Olid led Hearts to fourth place in SWPL 1. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group)

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