The wait is almost over for Emma Hunter and her Aberdeen FC Women’s squad.
Sunday will mark the 175th and final day between matches for the Dons as their SWPL 2 title challenge resumes at Cormack Park against Stirling University on Sunday.
Five months and 24 days will have passed from the team’s last game, a 5-0 win against Kilmarnock on December 13, and Hunter says it has been a challenging period for all concerned.
She said: “There is a feeling of relief and excitement at moment now the game is just days away. We can see the players are hyped up, but we have to manage that hype and elation they are all feeling.
“It has been really challenging. There were days in the midst of it all where it was really tough and there are only so many zoom quizzes and other morale building sessions you can do online.
“When were given the green light to train again we did so with no real impetus. It was non-contact initially and we’ve had to manage the emotions as we’ve progressed through the various stages.
We’ve not had the best of preparations for the return as we’ve only been in contact training for three weeks and we’ve not played any friendlies. The physios are working remotely and the access to the gym and sport science has been a challenge.
“It has been a huge test of character for everyone, but I could not be prouder of the players for how they have handled it all and we’re all just delighted to finally have a game to look forward to this weekend.”
The Dons resume their league campaign in a strong position. They lead SWPL 2 by seven points with eight games to play, but Hunter insists no-one is taking promotion for granted, especially with a taxing schedule of weekend-midweek-weekend matches in the next month.
Former Dons boss Derek McInnes expressed his concerns at the potential for muscle strains for his squad in the Scottish Premiership after a long break due to Covid last summer and Hunter will be cautious.
The manager said: “We will use squad rotation and it will be a real team effort in the remaining weeks.
“We’ve talked about the schedule a lot and how best to manage it as a group. We want to try to keep injuries to a minimum, but we’re fortunate to not only have a big squad but one of real depth. We’ve got a lot of players fighting for places every week and they know they all play their part.”
Despite the lengthy break in play, promotion to SWPL 1 remains the target for the team, but Hunter is refusing to get carried away.
She said: “People are maybe looking at us being seven points clear and thinking it is in the bag, but there is nobody here with that mindset.
“We cannot think like that. We treat this league and every opponent with the respect they deserve and we know any team can take points off another at this level.
“We are into the second half of the season and we know the other teams will be gunning for us now. We’re top of the table and they want to beat us. I know it’s a cliché, but we’re taking it one game at a time.”