'Rangers and Celtic took us off our pedestal' - Hibs look to reverse culture shift in Sky Sports Cup final

The Sky Sports Cup final at Tynecastle on Sunday morning is the first major landmark of the Scottish women’s season as Hibs and Rangers, the old and the new within the women’s game, lock horns for the first silverware on offer this term.
Hibernian Women's captain Joelle Murray pictured with the trophy ahead of the SWPL League Cup Final.Hibernian Women's captain Joelle Murray pictured with the trophy ahead of the SWPL League Cup Final.
Hibernian Women's captain Joelle Murray pictured with the trophy ahead of the SWPL League Cup Final.

In truth, the League Cup presents little more than a chance to brag. Hibs are seasoned in this tournament having won it seven times, more than any other. For Rangers this is yet another foray into new territory; the Ibrox side have never yet succeeded in getting their hands on it.

That can be explained by the slow shift in culture within the women’s game across recent years. Rangers and Celtic were slow to invest in the female side of the club before injecting finances to offer modest professional contracts three years ago. Glasgow City, the most successful women’s team in the country, have kept pace but inevitably there was a knock-on effect to the likes of Hibs, one of the pivotal clubs in the country in driving forward the women’s game.

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Rangers’ rewards have been swift as they knocked City off their perch last season by taking a title they had held for the previous 14 seasons. Celtic, too, saw the fruits of their investment as they claimed both domestic Cups on offer. Little wonder, though, that for Hibs there has been a hiatus as they look to compete with differing budgets.

Hibs chairman Ron Gordon brought the women’s side fully under the umbrella of the football operation this summer, a significant step towards professional status with a number of players as well as manager Dean Gibson signing full-time contracts.

“It's a tough one because for so long we were the pioneers along with Glasgow City within the women's game,” said captain Joelle Murray who has been with Hibs at various age groups and levels since the age of 12. For context, she is now 36.

“We relied on loyalty from players to remain at the club because at that point there was no finances or integration within the club. It's hard when you've worked so hard to develop players and be successful over the years to see teams with that financial clout come along and take that away from you, take you off your pedestal, but I'd like to think that now we're fully integrated into the club, and they've heavily invested in us on and off the pitch, I'd like to think this is the first [professional] season of many for us at Hibs.”

Despite Rangers’ wet-behind-the-ears status ahead of this game their impervious league form makes them favourites to win it. Malky Thomson’s side did not lose a league game on their way to last term’s title and are yet to be beaten so far this term.

Hibs, though, ran them close with just a solitary goal between the teams when they last met, and between that and knocking out City in the semi-final, Murray has no fears about tomorrow’s meeting.

“That game was won on a set piece,” said Murray. “We showed both sides of our game in that fixture. Our attacking prowess, our nature, and in my opinion we finished that game stronger.

"We also showed our resolute defensive structure. We made it tough for Rangers to break us down – we stayed together as a defensive structure, a midfield structure and a forward structure. For us we want to better that and ensure that from set pieces we eliminate any threat.”

The Easter Road side have long shown a willingness for the resolute.



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