There was a tough evening for Aberdeen Women through the week, as they found themselves on the end of a heavy 10-1 defeat to champions Glasgow City.
The Dons went into the SWPL 1 clash off the back of having won three on the bounce – the last of which was a 5-1 win against close rivals Motherwell.
Emma Hunter and co-boss Gavin Beith – who joined more recently – have built their young side sustainably since the team was fully integrated into Aberdeen Football Club’s infrastructure.
Having earned successive promotions to get the team back into the top division of the women’s game in Scotland, the Dons have had an impressive season so far.
Their progress was proven by a recent win over Hibernian, who have traditionally been one of the top sides in the Premier League. Despite Hibs’ resources, Aberdeen earned a 1-0 win to secure themselves in fifth place.
However, going ahead against title holders City in the opening few minutes before conceding five goals in each half was a harsh reminder of the gulf Aberdeen need to close on SWPL 1’s top sides.
A hat-trick for City’s latest signing, Kerry Beattie, along with four from Tyler Dodds, compounded a tough night in Glasgow – as the professional outfit proved impossible to contain for the Dons’ defence.
However, I have been impressed by Aberdeen’s consistency and progression as they have more than competed in the top flight in the first season since their return.
Outside of the top three, they have secured a healthy return from games against the rest of their rivals, including teams with far more experience and success in recent seasons.
The home side add another on the stroke of full time.
— Aberdeen FC Women (@AberdeenWomen) March 2, 2022
However, it has been evident the gap between the top teams and the rest continues to grow, and the defeat to City on Wednesday night compounded the 5-0 defeat the Reds suffered to them earlier in the season, as well as a similarly frustrating loss to league favourites, Rangers, with their meeting in October ending in an 8-0 loss.
By no means are these kind of results isolated to just Aberdeen, as most of the other clubs have suffered heavily to the trio – City, Rangers and Celtic – who are committed to building a comprehensive professional environment.
Clubs like Aberdeen, who have the capacity to utilise much more of their resources, need to do more than just implement the minimum standards being demanded in the women’s game and I hope they continue to build.
The impact of these types of results, and the difference in standards from club-to-club, will restrict the domestic game from reaching its potential, is harmful to its reputation and fuels the misconception it is lacking quality.
For Aberdeen, they will need to recover quickly as they welcome Celtic this Sunday. The Hoops are another club who could test Aberdeen’s resolve and it is another difficult prospect given the midweek result.
Katie Meyer tragedy reminds us of importance of mental health support
The football community across the world has been rocked by the tragic death of Katie Meyer, a flourishing Stanford University goalkeeper.
The news first circulated within the US college community before reaching those involved in the NWSL, and it saw many who knew Katie as a friend and team-mate express their devastation and sadness.
The Stanford community has suffered an unimaginable loss. Our thoughts & love are with Katie’s family & friends. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/3qXOyx7atO
— Stanford Athletics (@GoStanford) March 2, 2022
There is a large contingent of Stanford Alumni across the top pro league in US, with the university’s women’s soccer programme renowned as one of the most prosperous in America.
While many of those hurting were close to Katie, including her family – who will continue to be in the thoughts of many today and in the weeks ahead – news of her passing will have had a more widespread impact that those who knew her. There will be people out there who can relate, having gone through similar experiences, and this news will trigger wider distress.
I am still in close contact with both the players and the Players’ Association in the NWSL, and have seen the outreach work going on to try to support those players who have been affected.
As the news spread across the world, conversations also took place in my own club environment at Aston Villa, as they likely will have at many other clubs – and beyond.
Mental health resources must continue to be visible and accessible, and those who are struggling encouraged to talk. And not just in moments of crisis
In sporting environments, we must continue to educate players – and clubs – about the importance of looking after themselves mentally, as well as physically.
English cups heat up
This weekend plays host to the Continental Cup Final as Manchester City take on Chelsea at AFC Wimbledon’s Plough Lane.
Holders Chelsea overcame Bristol 6-0 in last year’s final.
The FA Cup quarter-final also draw took place midweek. Chelsea, who also hold the other domestic cup, and 14-time champions Arsenal watched their numbers drawn favourably, and home ties against Birmingham City and Coventry United, respectively.
Chelsea have had to overcome WSL opposition in every round so far, but a draw against struggling Birmingham is certainly a preferable outcome.
The Southern Premier’s Ipswich Town are the lowest-ranked surviving team and they will look forward to welcoming West Ham, meanwhile, Everton travel to Manchester City in the final tie.