Caley Thistle Women will certainly have a difficult task in front of them when they host SWPL leaders Rangers in the third round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday.
It is a tough draw for Inverness, who play two divisions below the current SWPL leaders.
They have to go in with the right mindset. It is an occasion which should be enjoyed and that is not possible if the players are already expecting to be turned over by the visiting opposition.
The aim has to be to put in a performance you can be proud of and you can also try and embrace the magic of the Scottish Cup – and believe that anything can happen.
There will be no expectation on the Highland club to get a result, but that doesn’t mean they have to or should accept defeat before a ball is even kicked.
What will be vital is staying in the game for as long as possible. There will need to be an abundance of togetherness within the team to try to keep Rangers at bay.
They will have to play in a way which is hard for Rangers to break down. That is going to be the most important in the opening stages. If you can get to 20 minutes at 0-0, then you are used to the intensity and the tempo of the game.
I really do hope the Inverness players can go out and perform and enjoy the game.
It will be a real landmark moment as it will be the first time most of their players have come up against a full-time and professional side.
For some of their young players, it can be really motivating because they are of an age where they can think about how they might progress and whether playing at the highest level, like Rangers do, could be a possibility for them.
Rangers will come into the game as complete favourites, but they won’t be taking anything for granted and certainly won’t underestimate Inverness.
There will be a certain kind of pressure because of the gulf between the two teams and with that can come with a bit of nerves and uneasiness.
Rangers cannot afford to let their guard down, because if they do and Inverness get the result, then it will probably be one of the biggest shocks in the history of the Women’s Scottish Cup.
Since Jo Potter has come in as Rangers manager, she has had an authoritative approach to make sure her players realise their responsibilities.
Her expectation on the players will be a professional attitude which gets the job done.
When it comes to the cup, and especially if you are playing a team in a lower league, then some might think it s a free pass to rotate players and share the minutes around.
But Jo is somebody who demands standards and she won’t give an opportunity to a player if they have not earned it.
With this being the first game of the new year, she will have been keeping a close eye on players in training since they returned from some time off to make sure everyone is up to speed.
Rangers will want to build momentum which they can carry into the league – where they currently sit three points clear at the top of the table and are yet to lose a match.
I think that is another reason why the Rangers boss will want to go with a fairly strong XI. She will want to start 2024 off on the right foot.
A strong second half of the season my aim for 2024
I’m looking forward to the second half of the FA WSL season with Aston Villa now 2024 is here.
Our first league game back is against Leicester City on January 21, but we return to action next weekend when we face Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The opening few months was probably competitive the WSL has ever been and that will continue to be the case after the break, especially as there has already been a lot of player movement in the transfer window.
It shows that more and more players are keen to come to the WSL and I would expect to see some more new arrivals over the next couple of weeks.
The second half of the season does have a different kind of intensity to it. There does feel like there is more at stake.
Over the first half there is a feeling of a marathon not a sprint, but when the new year arrives and as you get into a run of games, things do have a little bit more importance.
At Villa, we had a really good few months during this time last year and picked up some good results, which was a really good feeling.
As for Scotland, there is an anticipation to see what our year will look like as we are waiting to find out who we will face in upcoming camps and our European qualifying campaign.
There is an opportunity this year to qualify for a major tournament again – and that is something we are all really desperate to do.