Abi Harrison can remember a primary school project where the class highlighted their role models and laid out their ambitions for adult life.
“I managed to interview Julie Fleeting who I really looked up to,” says the Hibernian striker. “Then about four or five years later I was actually in Julie Fleeting’s team, at Celtic, playing alongside her. So it is good to have dreams.
“My dream growing up was to play for Celtic and I’d managed to do that by the time I was 14! Obviously, I have already exceeded some of my childhood dreams but I am ambitious and I want to go to the next level. As far as I can remember this is what I wanted to do so it would be great to make a living out of it.”
Playing football since she was four, Harrison is now one of the players today’s youngsters look up to as she and her Hibs team-mates stand on the brink of pulling off a feat many will have dreamed of but few will have imagined. At 1pm this afternoon, they take on Glasgow City, at Ainslie Park, Edinburgh, aware that victory in the head to head would afford them the chance to derail the Glasgow side’s decade-long domination of Scottish women’s football.
Two points behind the club that has won ten consecutive top tier titles, a win would take Hibs top of the pile with one game remaining and bolster their hopes of a domestic treble.
The winners of both the League and Scottish Cup last season, they have already defended the former and are hoping to retain the latter when they take on Glasgow City in the final on 26 November. But, by then, they also hope to have added a league title to the trophy haul.
“This game is make or break,” states the 19-year-old. “We all believe we can beat them and go on to win the title but we know it will be difficult. We know we will all have to work hard for it.
“At the start of the season our aim was to win the treble and we have been working hard all season to try to achieve that. We have made it hard for ourselves because, so far, we have not beat City in the league, but, luckily for us they have dropped points to other teams so this is the one that really matters. If they win, they will win the league, if we win then we will probably go on and win the league.”
The task arguably became tougher when Hibs’ captain Joelle Murray and vice-captain Lisa Robertson were sent off in their last game. The suspended pair will have to watch from the sidelines, but that just means others will have to step up and provide the leadership, according to both Harrison and Hibs’ manager Kevin Milne.
“When we look at the cup game against Glasgow City in April, we were missing Joelle and Lisa and we won, so as much as I would have loved to have them available, it doesn’t mean it is a weakened team, it is just different personnel. I am still very confident and still believe we can produce a result,” said Milne. “Tactically, it doesn’t change the way we approach the match. We were always going to have to be aggressive in the way we go about out business.”
Top scorer Harrison will be key to that. Described as dynamic and strong, she can create openings and finish opportunities that come her way, providing a positive presence both on the pitch and in the dressing room.
She was the player who served up a hat-trick against City, the third goal coming with the final kick of the ball, in 2015, her first season with the Leith club. That allowed them to push the Glasgow side all the way in that league chase, although they ultimately lost out. She was also the person who popped up with a last-gasp extra-time winner when they ousted Glasgow City from the League Cup in April’s head to head.
“Obviously it is good to score any goal but when it means to much – and that one was to get us into a final – to be honest I can’t remember what my emotions were after it, it is a bit of a blur. But you have to treat every game the same. It doesn’t matter who it is against or what is at stake. You can’t drop standards.
“As a team, the league and hopefully the treble is the least we deserve for our efforts over the past few years because everyone at the club has worked hard to get ourselves into a position where that is possible. And, as individuals, we all have goals. I want to play full-time. Ideally that would be at Hibs but the opportunities aren’t there for us in Scotland so that might be in England or elsewhere in Europe or it maybe further afield, maybe in America – it will depend what opportunities come along – but I am ambitious and I am ready to take things to the next level.”