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Rachel Corsie: Where do Aberdeen go from here with women’s side after manager Clint Lancaster exit news?

As well as the Aberdeen Women boss news, Rachel also reacts to the impending retirement of ex-Aberdeen Ladies team-mate Susan McNeil.

Aberdeen Women manager Clint Lancaster deliver a post-match team talk after a win against Dundee United in the SWPL
Aberdeen Women's manager Clint Lancaster delivers a post-match team talk after a win against Dundee United in the SWPL. Image: Shutterstock.

The departure of Aberdeen Women’s manager Clint Lancaster this summer should have the Dons thinking: “How do we make sure we take another step forward from here?”

After finishing last week’s column, it was confirmed by Aberdeen their first-ever full-time women’s boss will be stepping down at the end of the season – having held the role for just one campaign.

In a statement, Lancaster spoke about his firm belief the women’s operation is “heading in the right direction”, but said he is leaving to pursue opportunities closer to his family in England.

The Reds’ director of football Steven Gunn also confirmed the search for Lancaster’s replacement is under way.

I think it is a real shame Lancaster is leaving Cormack Park so soon.

Obviously I completely understand his stated rationale, as it is hard to be away from your family, and his wife and child are a fair distance away from Aberdeen.

Lancaster also said “I have had nothing but support through my time here”.

I do wonder, however, whether his decision to depart has also been brought on by a feeling he has taken the Aberdeen Women’s team as far as he can with the resources available to him.

He would surely have stayed if he thought there was a chance to make a big leap forward with the side next season.

The Dons are on course, with three SWPL matches left, to finish seventh this term – top of the bottom half – and they have proved themselves to be a steady mid-table outfit.

I don’t think it would have benefitted them to finish any higher this season, as the youthful Reds have probably gained more confidence playing out the end of the campaign against their bottom-half rivals than they would have against the strong sides who occupy the top half.

With an eye on next season, and the players and resources he expects to be at his disposal, has Lancaster decided he can’t take Aberdeen Women any further forward?

Aberdeen’s Keeley Banfield in action against Montrose at Pittodrie. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson.

As well as replacing Lancaster, the questions the Dons will need to ask themselves now are: Are the women’s players – some who get paid – getting enough time on the training pitch together each week?

Do they need more access to the gym, strength and conditioning sessions and all of the other additional stuff required to help them perform at an elite level?

I’d also ask who inside the club’s senior leadership is primarily focused on getting the women’s team to that elite level? As well as a new boss – who will still be full-time I would hope – do there have to be other staff members brought into the fold whose whole job, like the manager, is driving the women’s side of things forward?

The women’s game is further ahead than where a lot of clubs value it to be and you need to make sure you’re doing enough not to get left behind.

As I wrote last week, a club of Aberdeen’s size should be looking at the progress Hearts have achieved in recent years, culminating in reaching this season’s Scottish Cup final and showing signs they could be SWPL title contenders very soon, as an example to follow.

All the best to my former Aberdeen Ladies team-mate ‘Spidey’

The news this week my former Aberdeen Ladies team-mate Susan McNeil is hanging up her boots for good, aged 43, brought the memories of our time playing together flooding back.

I probably only played for Aberdeen Ladies for a season-and-a-half, maybe two seasons, but Susan would have been the captain at that point.

It’s funny, because it was 15 years ago – I was only 17 or 18 – and even at that point Susan would’ve been considered a senior player being in her late 20s.

Susan is maybe more well known across Scotland than she realises – the players from my generation and earlier from the central belt all know who Susan Murray (as she was called before she got married) is.

Susan Murray (now McLean), left, playing for Aberdeen Women in 2007.

I think this stems from the type of player she was. She was midfielder at that point and used to be everywhere on the pitch, making tackles and not taking any nonsense from anyone.

People used to call her “Spidey”. I think because it was like she had eight legs…

Susan was a good team-mate, who could have a real go at you, but would then check you were okay as well. She was just a really nice person, and someone who clearly just really loved and was obsessed with the game.

I think she’d appreciate me saying this, but she could be grumpy as well – and we always knew if we wound her up, she would bite every time!

Enjoy your retirement Susan.

Manchester United are my predicted Women’s FA Cup winners

I think Manchester United will bring their experience to bear against Tottenham in the Women’s FA Cup final on Sunday.

I went to the final last season – which United were involved in – and it’s a big occasion. There’s probably less chance of United getting sucked into that side of things, having been through it before.

Whoever wins, it is a big positive fans of those two clubs have sold out Wembley for the showpiece.

In Scotland, Celtic’s 0-0 draw with Rangers kept them top of the SWPL table on goal difference, and you obviously have to have them down as favourites for the title.

Having watched the game, and over the course of the campaign, I do think Rangers are the better team, however, and still have a suspicion they might overhaul their rivals to claim the league crown in the remaining couple of weeks.