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Emma Hunter: Aberdeen Women’s first season back in SWPL 1 was a rollercoaster

Aberdeen Women co-manager Emma Hunter. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Aberdeen Women co-manager Emma Hunter. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Aberdeen Women co-manager Emma Hunter has described her first season as a coach in SWPL 1 as a “rollercoaster” of emotions, due to the pressure of playing at the highest level.

The Dons made their return to the top-flight after successive promotions, and finished the season in fifth – behind only the professional and semi-professional teams.

Hunter, who has been co-manager since 2019, reckons this campaign was the best yet, surpassing the title-winning seasons in the two years prior.

However, the Aberdeen co-boss admits she has felt the pressure over the course of the season.

She said: “When I think about this season, it’s been phenomenal.

“It’s probably been better than all the other seasons. We’ve not won a trophy, but this has been our best season by far.

“To finish fifth in SWPL 1 is an unbelievable achievement, but I’ve not celebrated it the same because I keep pushing the expectation bar too high and it becomes pressure.

“It’s something I need to reflect on and maybe the players, too – we haven’t had the chance to stop and celebrate the success.”

Aberdeen Women finish fifth with 29 points in their first season back in the top-flight.

Hunter knows that there was always going to be an added pressure as Aberdeen made their return to SWPL 1, but admits a lot of those feelings are self-inflicted.

The Dons co-boss believes, as the women’s game grows and progresses, she heightens her own expectations which only intensifies that pressure.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a season,” Hunter explained.

“I’ve been reflecting it a lot and I’ve not enjoyed it the same. I’ve been speaking to the players about this – sometimes you have to control your own expectations.

“It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed it – you just don’t get the time to celebrate the success because the pressure is forever there.

“It comes with the game developing so much. I can’t see it as a negative, I do see it as a positive.

“You always want to be better and constantly chasing the teams above – and that’s good to have.

“I like that quality about myself. I always want to be better. If we lose a game, I’m thinking about it for weeks, that’s just my nature.

“As the women’s game grows so do expectations and that comes with more pressure, but that comes from within myself.

“I’m constantly pushing the bar really high.”

Increased scrutiny as the women’s game progresses

Hunter knows the pressure won’t relent, as she expects there to be more scrutiny from outside as the women’s game benefits from more investment.

She has already prepared her squad for that, especially those who will be being paid to play for the red jersey next season.

Aberdeen Women made a move towards semi-professional status by putting five players on paid contracts. From L-R, Jess Broadrick, Eilidh Shore, Eva Thomson, Bayley Hutchison and Francesca Ogilvie. Photo supplied by Newsline Scotland

Hunter said: “As women’s football becomes more professional, it does become a bit more difficult to enjoy it because you’re scrutinised.

“I’ve been saying that to the players who have been put on semi-pro contracts – that they need to realise that they’re going to be scrutinised.

“That might come from teammates, friends and family, fans or the club.

“The more investment that comes, the more scrutiny that comes into the game as well. It’s just something we have to deal with.”

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