Rangers and Celtic make this season unprecedented and fascinating - the 15 for city rivals is far from assured now
An influx of signings on full-time contracts at Rangers and Celtic heralded a new era for Scottish women's football.
For more than a decade Glasgow City have enjoyed a stranglehold on the top flight with only Hibs, in recent times, upsetting the apple cart with success in both the SWPL and Scottish Cups. And although Scotland's most decorated club managed to scrape over the finishing line to seal an unprecedented 14th consecutive league title in June, the challenge to make it 15 this season is now under serious threat.
The welcome announcement that Rangers and Celtic would launch their 2020 campaigns as full-time, professional outfits was hailed as a real game-changer. The blue half of Glasgow were able to lure Scotland internationalist Lizzie Arnot north from Manchester United while full-back Nicola Docherty brought to an end an eight-year career with City to cross the Glasgow divide. Celtic, meanwhile, tapped into the American market to bolster their squad. Both were confident their diligent recruitment process, not to mention significant financial investment from the clubs' hierarchies, would pay dividends.
But that frenzy and anticipation was wiped out in a matter of weeks as football – and life as we knew it – was thrown into complete disarray as coronavirus reared its ugly head.
Nevertheless, when competitive action was given the green light to resume seven months later in October, there was an indication that the pendulum may be about to swing as City were thrashed 5-0 by Rangers 12 days before Christmas. Another enforced shutdown in a bid to curb rising Covid cases thrust the women's game into cold storage until April. And despite an enthralling climax to the season that saw all three Glasgow clubs in title contention, it was City who would come up trumps. Yes, the gap had closed. It would have been unimaginable to find City on the end of a 5-0 defeat just 12 months prior. However, the narrative remained unchanged.
The Glasgow giants need little introduction where the men's game comes into play. We're now in uncharted territory as far as the women are concerned. But that siege mentality entrenched in both clubs' DNA can – and should – finally usurp City's dominance. It's work in progress, but even the Petershill Park outfit would be first to admit their reign at the top is now no longer a formality. They will relish the challenge. It's what the women's game in this country has craved since the early noughties.
All three squads have again recruited well for the current campaign that is little more than eight weeks old. Rangers are the early pacesetters in SWPL 1 with a two-point lead over City and Celtic, Hibs a further five points adrift in fourth. To add some spice into the mix, there is the small matter of an Old Firm derby at Airdrie this afternoon, live on BBC Scotland, while City travel to face Hibs.
And while this weekend's match-ups won't determine who lifts the league trophy aloft next May, a repeat of this afternoon's fixtures scheduled for the final Sunday of the season next May might very well do. This is a fascinating time in the Scottish women’s game.