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Rachel Corsie: Close friend Jen Beattie signs off with Scottish women’s football legacy guaranteed

Jen Beattie in Scotland colours. Image: SNS
Jen Beattie in Scotland colours. Image: SNS

Jen Beattie has retired from international football with her status as a legend of the Scottish women’s national team assured.

After years of playing for the national team together, the 31-year-old is a close friend, and I knew Jen was considering retiring for some time.

Following the disappointment of missing out on qualification for the World Cup, I think she felt it was the best moment to step away, rather than halfway through the next qualifying campaign.

Having made her debut at 16, Jen has racked up 144 caps and 24 goals across 15 years playing for the senior Scotland side.

To play at the elite level for so long is unbelievable, and she was a big part of the history-making teams who reached the 2017 Euros, and the 2019 World Cup – playing at the latter after injury robbed her of the chance to star at the former.

Jen Beattie, number five, and Rachel Corsie, four,  ahead of Scotland taking on England at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Image: SNS

Although we’re now both recognised at centre-backs, Jen and myself haven’t actually played as a defensive pairing over the years as many times as I imagine people would think.

In her early years, Jen was often deployed at right-back, left-back and upfront.

She’s obviously quite tall and, as a result, made for a good attacking focal point in Scotland’s days of playing a more old school, direct style.

I think her stature maybe tricks some people as to how good she actually is, as you can’t be so versatile without being a technically-accomplished footballer.

This talent is evidenced by the fact Jen went down to England to play for Arsenal at just 18 – playing in the Champions League quarter-finals before she was 20, scoring goals and racking up winner’s medals in the English domestic competitions.

Jen has also been a great person to have around the Scotland women’s squad for the camaraderie of the group.

She’s got a warm-hearted personality and has traditionally taken up the role of making sure the newer players feel welcome. She has always been intent on speaking to everybody, which is an important thing in international football, where you often hear about squads struggling to stop club-based cliques forming.

Scotland’s Jen Beattie during a training session at Oriam, Edinburgh. Image: PA

Her retirement, after serving the national team with such distinction, should be a celebration – and I believe fans will have the chance to mark her contribution at a future SWNT game.

Jen’s breast cancer diagnosis in October 2020 and the way she fought through her health scare was inspirational to people across women’s football, women’s sport and far beyond, and made her a role model to so many.

Now in her second spell with Arsenal, Jen has decided the time is right to put her full focus on performing for the Gunners.

Although she could have racked up more caps if she’d wanted, I think it’s probably guaranteed, having turned out for the national team so many times, and with the game and amount of players continuing to grow, Jen will go down in history as one of Scotland’s most-capped players.

She is currently in the top five alongside Mintlaw’s Kim Little – who is also now retired from international duty.

When we first started – when the Scotland set-up was in an earlier stage of its development – there were around 15 internationals each year.

Countries don’t tend to play so many now, so I don’t think there are many players who will be able to emulate what Jen has managed to do in terms of volume of appearances.

I, however, am just seven caps behind on 137, so if there is a positive to Jen stepping back from Scotland… it’s that I might now be able to catch up!

Aberdeen Women can forget Hearts result, as Maddie Finnie role gives me hope for future

Despite last weekend’s 1-0 SWPL1 defeat to Hearts, Aberdeen Women have definitely made a positive start to 2023, and have a great opportunity to bounce back against Glasgow Women on Sunday.

The Dons know they are coming up against a team they’re better than, they’ve beaten before and who have been struggling all season.

They shouldn’t be feeling too disheartened by a tight defeat to a semi-professional side in Hearts.

The Dons team was very young, with an average age under 20 and even 16-year-old Maddie Finnie playing at the back, so I don’t think it should affect the stability and increased flow of points they’ve managed over the past few matches.

Having progressed in the Scottish Cup and beaten Hamilton Accies in the league this month, if they get three points against Glasgow Women, I think they can tick off January and say: “ok, that was overall a positive month – let’s build on it in February”.

On defender Finnie, I think I was already 17 by the time I played for the then-Aberdeen Ladies for the first time, so she’s beat me.

Maddie Finnie started against Hearts. Image: Shutterstock

Given the way the domestic women’s game has progressed over the last decade and more, with the introduction of more pro and semi-pro teams in the top-flight, to play in the league so young suggests Maddie is very talented and has a bright future ahead of her.

The north of Scotland, including Aberdeen, has a reputation for producing talent in the women’s game, which was the case even in my early years, and elite women’s role models and the route to the top are now much more visible for players of Maddie’s generation than they were when I was a teenager.

I think it’s crucial the talent flow, which is vital factor in clubs like Aberdeen reaching their potential – continues, and this latest step in Maddie’s development will also hopefully serve as an inspiration to those girls who are coming through behind her in the north and north-east.

Top half has to be our aim at Villa

It has been a significant period for my club side Aston Villa.

Our 1-1 draw with Manchester City last weekend temporarily moved us up to fifth in the FA WSL table.

Although there was disappointment in the League Cup quarter-finals in midweek against Arsenal, the next three matches look like a great chance to progress in the FA Cup, as well as strengthening our position in the league.

We recruited well in the summer, adding good quality players, like England midfielder Jordan Nobbs, to what was already an honest, steady squad, and I think we feel, generally, we go under the radar a wee bit in the FA WSL, because there’s a lot of focus on the two Manchester teams, Chelsea and Arsenal.

The focus is valid, because at the moment the top four are ahead of the other eight teams in budget, stability and pedigree.

But we came into this season with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and the desire to be recognised as a decent side, and thought we could target the best of the rest tag.

It’s not been plain-sailing the whole way, but we are well placed.

Our next game is Sunday evening’s FA Cup fourth-round clash at home against third-tier AFC Fylde. It’s a great chance to take a step towards silverware.

Next month, our only two FA WSL matches will, in a slightly unusual fixture quirk, be back-to-back home and away meetings with Brighton – which will have a big bearing on how high we end up this season.

Brighton have a really great framework behind them, like us, but they’re 11th at the moment, and are probably still in a transitional phase under new management. We have to meet their challenge and target six points.

Everyone at the club, from the board down, are very happy with the season has gone so far, and the progress from last term, but I think we need to keep being ambitious and aim for a top-six finish.