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Sophie Goodwin: It’s unfair to be overly critical about Aberdeen Women’s start to the season

Aberdeen Women. (Image: Shutterstock)
Aberdeen Women. (Image: Shutterstock)

It might seem fair to be critical about a team who have lost five out of their opening six games of the season.

However, before passing judgement, you must understand the ins and outs of SWPL 1 and Aberdeen Women’s position in the Scottish top-flight.

The Dons have only picked up one point so far this season, which was a 2-2 draw at home against Partick Thistle, and currently sit second bottom of the league.

But, history would suggest that the Dons are more than capable of getting themselves out of a losing rut – having done so last season.

After a reasonably positive start, the Reds went on a seven-game winless run in the league and the cup, before winning five out of their next six in all competitions.

Those wins propelled Aberdeen up the table and gave them a solid platform to finish mid-table, which they ultimately did after picking up three more wins and a draw.

Emma Hunter and Gavin Beith can look back at how last season panned out for reassurance that their current run of form is nothing more than a blip.

Performances against full-time teams highlight other poor results

I fear sounding like a broken record, but there is a gulf in Scottish women’s football and there always will be until all the teams are full-time, professional sides.

Out of their first six games, Aberdeen have played three out of the four professional outfits, including reigning league champions Rangers and cup-double winners Celtic.

They also went toe-to-toe with 15-time SWPL 1 winners Glasgow City who were fortunate to pick up all three points after a close encounter.

In the 2-1 defeat, the Dons frustrated City and scored the first and still the only goal that any of the top-three have conceded so far this season.

Performances against such teams – namely Celtic and Glasgow City – have suggested that the Dons are moving in the right direction, despite the lack of results.

Aberdeen Women co-managers Gavin Beith and Emma Hunter.
Aberdeen Women co-managers Gavin Beith and Emma Hunter.

But those performances mean nothing if they can’t reapply them against teams they should be beating – which they’ve been unable to do thus far.

And the other teams that Aberdeen have played – Hamilton, Partick and Spartans – are teams they can beat as they did it last season.

The opening day defeat to Accies was a shock, while in the draw with Partick Thistle, Aberdeen were on top for most of the game but failed to make it count.

Against Spartans, a terrible decision from the referee gifted the Edinburgh side a goal despite the ball not crossing the line, leaving Aberdeen with a difficult task.

But despite that decision, co-manager Beith said things in the build-up to that “goal” should’ve been better, and ultimately, his side failed to perform over the 90 minutes.

Those are the games that will define the Dons’ season – not the ones against the professional teams – and those are the games where criticism is fair.

Off-the-pitch positives

The future is bright for Aberdeen thanks to their young players, who are currently making quite the name for themselves in the national team set-up.

Next week the Dons will have five players away with Scotland’s U19s squad, the most of any club in SWPL 1, while four Aberdeen youngsters are currently away with the U17s.

Their continued selection is a reflection of the commitment that the club has towards their youngsters’ development, and the top-level opportunities the Dons can provide.

Those young talents have the capability to have a career in football, but that will only happen at Aberdeen, or even in Scotland, if continued investment is made.

The Dons are currently semi-professional – they have five players, out of 23, on paid contracts for the first time this season.

Aberdeen Women’s five semi-professional players.

It’s progress, but not something that will reap immediate rewards on the pitch, nor is it enough to convince young talents that their long-term future remains in the north.

The right investment is being made by the governing body, as yesterday the SPFL announced that Sky Sports will become an official partner of the SWPL.

In a deal that’s reportedly worth £4 million over seven years, Sky will broadcast a minimum of five SWPL matches and will become the title sponsor for the SWPL Cup.

And while five games doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s considerable progress considering the mainstream media coverage the top-flight has previously received.

The money and visibility will come in pretty handy, especially for clubs like Aberdeen.