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Rachel Corsie: Aberdeen FC have to be ambitious with next steps for women’s team following Emma Hunter and Gavin Beith’s exit

Former Aberdeen Women co-managers Emma Hunter and Gavin Beith. Image: Shutterstock.
Former Aberdeen Women co-managers Emma Hunter and Gavin Beith. Image: Shutterstock.

Following Emma Hunter and Gavin Beith’s resignation, there is now a big opportunity for Aberdeen FC to show their ambitions for the women’s team.

Aberdeen should be the best of the rest in SWPL 1. With Rangers, Glasgow City and Celtic currently dominating – the Dons need to be the next best team.

And to do that, there needs to be a framework that is stable and solid.

There are currently a lot of clubs doing only what they need to do for the women’s team to just get by – but if you look at Rangers they went ahead of the curve.

They have put more resources into their women’s team – maybe more than they can justify right now – with the intention of it being a worthwhile investment long-term.

People who view women’s sport on where it’s valued now and not where they think it can – or will be – limits the possibilities and growth.

However, with men’s sport it is often the case that organisations view the potential and where things will be in five or 10 years down the line.

The validation of investment in the men’s game is very much forthcoming – but with the women’s game the lack of it is justified by saying “oh we’re just not there yet”.

Sport is like any business – if you’re not willing to put the money in and balance that risk and reward, then you’re never going to know what’s achievable.

Club has ambitious values – that should be reflected for women’s team

Aberdeen have the opportunity now – not just to get someone in a coaching role – but to reflect on the broader picture of the women’s team and put a really good plan in place.

The club are ambitious: they want to have a successful men’s team who win trophies, a successful team who play in Europe and a successful youth academy.

Those are the club’s values, so they need to make sure their next steps for the women’s team reflects those strong and ambitious values, too.

Aberdeen’s men’s team are currently third in the Scottish Premiership and will play in a cup semi-final in January. Image: Shutterstock.

It’ll be a test to see how much the Dons value their women’s team – and I do believe they value them highly. I’m optimistic that they will take a positive next step.

Aberdeen have come to the end of their original three-year plan for the women’s team, so there were always going to be questions about how they would continue the growth.

The next stage – which might have been accelerated because of the co-managers’ resignation – must be about stability which in turn will bring about even more progress.

New appointment will have to be willing to learn

The club can make a statement with who they bring in to replace Hunter and Beith.

That doesn’t necessarily need to be a big football name, but somebody who is eager to take on the project and take the women’s team in a positive direction.

I don’t believe that it needs to be someone who has worked in women’s football before, but what will be vitally important, if that is the case – is that they’re willing to learn.

It’s more than fine for someone – man or woman –  who is a great coach to come in and use that to bring out the best of the players in a high intensity environment.

That aspect of coaching isn’t gender specific, but the potential candidate has to be aware of or quickly identify the differences coaching in the men’s and women’s game.

Aberdeen FC Women at Pittodrie. Image: Shutterstock.

There have been instances before where coaches have come into the women’s game having worked with the men, thinking they know exactly what they’re talking about.

Not every single aspect is the same and that would be the case at Aberdeen.

The coach would be working with a majority of players who have played in what has only been a professional environment for a short period of time.

Different kinds of conversations will need to be had and different expectations will have to be set – it’s going to be a learning curve for the new coach and the players.

It’s going to be the first time in a lot of the Dons players’ careers where they will have to embrace the reality of working with someone new.

Whoever Aberdeen appoint to replace the departed co-managers will be a big piece in the puzzle of how seriously the club are willing to progress the women’s team.

Emma Hunter deserves credit for what she built at Aberdeen

It’s sad to see Emma Hunter leave Aberdeen Women, and she deserves credit for what she has done during her near four years as a co-manager.

Back in 2019, she took on a difficult project that not a lot of people would have envied.

The team, which had just a lot of players after suffering two relegations, were struggling and found themselves in the lower leagues.

Former Aberdeen Women co-boss Emma Hunter. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Emma rebuilt that high-quality environment and brought structure back to the club, she made it something that people wanted to be a part of again.

She’s achieved so much at the club from winning back-to-back titles, promotions and helped guide the team to an exceptional fifth-place finish in SWPL 1 last season.

After such a good season last year, it was always going to be difficult to meet the high expectations that she had helped set for the women’s team.

I’m sure it’s a difficult time for Emma right now, but I hope she feels proud of everything that she has achieved and helped build.

Old Trafford experience will be pinch-me moment

For most of my career, I’ve rarely stopped to appreciate things in the moment because I’m always looking forward, thinking what’s next or how can we be better.

But this afternoon I will be making sure I bask in the moment as I step out onto Old Trafford when my Aston Villa team plays Manchester United in the FA WSL.

It’s going to be an experience that I’ll want to appreciate  for what it is because when I think back to beginning of my career – a game like this would seem impossible.

I never would’ve believed that I’d play at somewhere like Old Trafford in front of more than 30,000 fans. I would never have thought it could ever be a possibility.

I’ve spent spent over a decade being a part of where the women’s game has grown to, so a game like today’s is one that reflects the progress.