Going into 2019, the women’s football first XI is going from strength to strength. In BUCS 1A they sit second but are on level points with the first placed team. In cup competitions they have progressed into the semi-final of the Women’s Queens Park Shield. Since their promotion from Scottish 2A in 2015, this season the team has accumulated an unprecedented number of points. Greater still, the program as a whole is flourishing with the second XI also top of Scottish 3A. Going into the final two games of the season the women’s XI are strong contenders to win the Scottish 1A title. Through interviewing players and coaches involved with the first XI it is clear that the success of the season is due to a number of factors. First is the strong tradition of the club continues to flourish. This is combined with the program’s dynamic outlook and unprecedented squad depth.
There is a long established culture of hard work. Coach Graeme Hart has stated that over the years this work ethic has been set by senior players and passed down to the junior members of the squad. In his words there has been a constant goal to “demand better” of themselves of players. Director of Football Stuart Milne has reiterated that the hardworking ethos is not just created by the players, but also by all the coaches who work tirelessly behind the scenes. This hard-working ethos can be seen in the rigorous training schedule of the first team. They train four times a week, along with multiple tactical and fitness sessions. The team was even back two weeks before the start of this semester to begin a gruelling pre-season, in order to be match fit for their upcoming games. Vice Captain Meredith Ferneau even mentioned that many players choose to do further fitness outside of the already substantial football workload. It seems to certainly pay dividends this time of year when other teams in their league may not have such a rigorous training schedule. The ability of the first team to outwork opposition must have played a factor in their back-to-back demolition of Edinburgh’s second team in January.
This is combined with the strong community of the Football Club. From the Wednesday socials to the cold, dark 7 am training sessions, the club creates a strong bond. Fresher Grace Surgent talked of how welcoming the club is and how this community and social aspect is something she may not have gotten back home at an American college team. Women’s Club President Katie Nelson emphasised that from third team to first team there is a great degree of chemistry. This clearly has had an effect on the pitch for all of the women’s football section.
A second aspect to the first team’s success this season can be seen through the forward thinking of the side, and the football program as a whole. Ferneau explained that over her three years in the first team, there has been noticeable advancement in the set up. For example, for the past three years there has been an increase in friendlies against Scottish league sides. This season alone, the first team have played Raith Rovers and Celtic Development. Milne has stated that not only does this aid the development of players, but it attracts a number of prospective players due to the pull factor of being able to play such well-known sides. This has since been built upon. Now St Andrews women footballers are also representing clubs such as Dundee United. Last season, Goalkeeper Eva Snaith was the trailblazer of this growing affiliation. Since then the gauntlet has been passed on to Taylor Brackin, who has played competitively a number of times for Dundee United this season. Hart has stated many more first team members are getting involved in the Dundee United set up. So this should continue to push the women’s first team further and accelerate the development of the squad members.
More recently, a postgraduate scholarship scheme has been introduced to the football club. This has allowed the women’s first team to bring in a masters student on scholarship. This season the scholarship player is Taylor Brackin. Milne said of her, “she has had a huge impact.” He further said that Taylor has four years of NCAA playing experience, which has undoubtedly added a great deal of quality to the already strong side. Along with her quality on the pitch, more junior members of the squad undoubtedly benefit from her as a role model. Milne concluded by describing the scholarship program as a “tremendous success” and will look to continue it in the future.
Thirdly, the expression “it takes a village” is very fitting for the success of the woman’s first XI. Coach Graeme Hart stated, in his six years here, the women’s section currently has the “strongest strength in depth.” Many players in the second team have been rewarded with places in the first XI, as it stand five players have made the jump from the second XI into the first. The second team’s first-place position in 3A really reiterates that the buck does not stop with the first team in terms of expecting high standards and the need to work hard. In doing so Hart feels it has driven the first team players to push themselves harder.
The mixture of tradition, community, dynamism, and comprehensive success across all levels of the women’s section of the football club are just a few reasons why the first XI are in the strongest position they have arguably ever been in Scottish 1A. Yet the season is not yet over. When interviewing Hart, he was quick to reiterate that it is important not to get too carried away at this stage in the season, focussing instead on the task at hand. There are three big games remaining in their season. First is Aberdeen ones in the league. Then there is a top-of-the-table clash between Glasgow first team and the Saints. The first team have won already against both these sides and so will be looking to continue this dominance in the coming weeks. Perhaps Glasgow would seem to be the bigger game, as it is a second place vs third place clash. Yet Hart was quick to state that, based on results across this season, anyone can beat anyone on their day. Accordingly both games are equally crucial. Putting the league to one side, the team is on an impressive cup run. They will face Stirling University in the semi-final of the Women’s Queens Park Shield in the coming weeks. They will be looking to better their runner-up finish from a few seasons ago. The Football Club’s motto is “Our legacy. Be remembered.” This year’s first team are certainly creating quite the legacy.