Aberdeen Women welcome Rangers to Pittodrie on Wednesday night in what will be their first ever game at the club ground.
The homecoming match will be a landmark moment for the club, and one that they will hope they can bask in with plenty of supporters.
But it will be a difficult night on the pitch for Emma Hunter and Gavin Beith’s side as they come up against league favourites Rangers.
However, the game is about much more than the result.
In their first season back in SWPL 1, Aberdeen have adapted reasonably well and are right in the fight to finish 5th place – with only the league’s professional sides currently above them.
And a game at Pittodrie is another moment of success to add to the list for the club, for the fans, the local area and Scottish women’s football.
Here are four reasons why fans should head to Pittodrie in their numbers on Wednesday evening:
To support the players
Like I said above, it’ll be a difficult game for the Dons and one they will need their very own Red Shed to be in full voice.
Aberdeen have been well supported at Balmoral Stadium this season, and that will need to carry over to Pittodrie in what will be the biggest game of these player’s lives.
There will be feelings of excitement, nerves and everything in between when the players come out of the tunnel and step onto the pitch under the lights of Pittodrie.
The occasion feels somewhat heightened when you consider that Aberdeen’s team is full of local players and some that have been committed to the team for quite some time.
And for players like Kelly Forrest, I imagine a night at Pittodrie will feel like a long time coming.
The 33-year-old has been with the club through the highs and lows- consecutive promotions followed consecutive relegations- and has led the side since they became part of Aberdeen FC.
The opportunity to lead her side in front of a massive home crowd would be just reward for Forrest, and other long serving players like Loren Campbell and Carrie Doig.
While for teenage players like Bayley Hutchison, Eva Thomson and Jess Broadrick, it could be a glimpse of what’s to come in their future.
To play in front of a supportive large crowd will no doubt give them a positive experience to take forward in their career.
And those are just three names in the current squad that have the potential to go professional – whether that’s one day with Aberdeen or a move away elsewhere.
With the progress the women’s game is making, playing in front of thousands at Pittodrie might just prepare them for what one day might be a normal match-day.
To boost local women’s football
As of February 2022, there are 1,298 registered female footballers in the north – with that region covering Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
Many clubs in those areas have full player pathways for girls as young as five or six up to senior women’s football.
There are much better opportunities now for young girls to get involved in the game, and an occasion like Aberdeen Women v Rangers is the perfect chance to get even more signing up.
I think most football fans could tell you what their first ever in-person football match was and how that experience shapes your love of the game.
The women’s game is getting bigger and better and there will be plenty of young girls who can now say that their first football match was watching a women’s team.
Aberdeen playing at Pittodrie is another chance to do just that, but on an even bigger stage and make that experience even more memorable.
Not only will the Aberdeen players become more visible role models to youngsters, but the game could inspire a young girl in the crowd to become a future Don or Scotland star like Kim Little or Rachel Corsie.
To prove women’s football is a worthy investment
There have been several other games this year in SWPL 1 where teams have played at their club grounds.
Hibs hosted the biggest of the season so far when they welcomed Hearts to Easter Road and broke the attendance record of a women’s domestic game.
Almost 6,000 fans were at Easter Road that night, but tickets for those games were free to all.
I was skeptical about the Dons only offering free entry to season ticket holders, AberDNA members and under-12’s, but after speaking to their co-manager I can understand why they did it.
Emma told me that she felt that it was important that there was an entry fee so that the women’s team can show the club that they’re a worthy investment.
She said: “It’s a good opportunity for people to put their hand in their pocket and support the women’s team and show that there is a viable avenue there to generate income.”
Tickets are only £5, a fraction of the price you would pay to see the men play, but a ticket is worth it’s weight in gold for the future of the women’s team.
It’s an opportunity that will help show that financial backing from the fans is there, which can only benefit club going forward as the club continues to invest in their women’s team.
To see the best team in SWPL 1 – and what investment can do
There’s no question that Rangers are currently the best women’s team in Scotland this season.
Malky Thomson’s side are the only SWPL 1 undefeated in the league, and look certain to bring Glasgow City’s 14 consecutive title reign to an end this year.
And Rangers are the best team in the country because their squad is full of Scotland’s best players.
Players like Jane Ross, Nicola Docherty, Lizzie Arnott, Jenna Fife, Sam Kerr and Rachel McLachlan are all regularly called up for the Scotland national team.
No matter who you’re supporting, there’s no denying the level of talent that will be on the pitch at Pittodrie on Wednesday evening.
But in watching Rangers, it’s not just an opportunity to see Scotland’s best talent, but the chance to see the realms of possibilities with investment in the women’s game.
Rangers Women have a budget rivalling some of the professional men’s teams in the top two tiers of Scotland.
And while I’m not suggesting that Aberdeen should will start pumping hundreds and thousands of pounds into their women’s team off the back of one game, it’s just one example of what to try and aim for.