When Fran Alonso was named as the new manager of Celtic’s women team in 2020, they had not won a major trophy for a decade.
Alonso arrived not only having to transform his squad from a tactical and personnel perspective, but also having to transform their mentality. Silverware was the club’s short and long-term ambition.
Three years later, those ambitions are now a reality – and with the biggest final in the history of the women’s game in Scotland beckoning on Sunday, Fran’s players will enter the fire knowing what winning looks like.
Last week’s sensational but ultimately heartbreaking title finale may have been an emotional low point for the squad, but thanks to the SWPL’s rapid rise in profile, they can now look forward to the ultimate shot at redemption.
Hampden Park could well play host to yet another record-breaking crowd as Celtic face Rangers in the Scottish Cup final. Malky Thomson’s side were the last to beat the Hoops, doing so in a crucial post-split six-pointer earlier this month.
Rangers assistant Craig McPherson’s bizarre headbutt on Alonso was the headline following this fixture in March, eventually being handed a six-match suspension for his actions.
With the focus now firmly on Sunday’s spectacle, the Celtic boss spoke this week about the aftermath of the weekend’s rollercoaster, as well as his optimism and confidence with his squad’s level of performance.
He said: “The experience, the connection with the fans who broke a record number of supporters attending and the performance were all good. These things are massive positives.
“This year, the girls have changed Scottish football forever. Along with the other two teams, we took the title race right down to the last game of the season.
“Now, we have another opportunity to lift silverware. I am delighted it is just one week later, because we get the chance to play in another final and bring a trophy back to paradise.”
The 46-year-old’s first trophy win in charge came in December 2021, as a Caitlin Hayes header sealed the SWPL Cup in an incredibly significant achievement at Firhill against Glasgow City.
Five months later at Tynecastle, a triumphant cup double was sealed in a tantalising 3-2 win, again over Glasgow, in which Izzy Atkinson’s extra-time winner stated that the Celts were intent on making a habit out of claiming Scotland’s major honours.
The significance of this weekend’s derby showdown in keeping Celtic’s trophy-hunt active cannot be understated. This final could be the game of many of the players’ lives.
And with Alonso’s stellar cup record so far, there is every reason to believe that the Spaniard can keep the good times rolling with a priceless victory.
Tune in to the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly as we discuss Final Day Focus, Defensive Drop-Off & Two Years of Ange Postecoglou!
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