With just days to go until Motherwell play their first ever fixture in SWPL1, the excitement within Donald Jennow’s newly-assembled squad is building.
Last season, the women of steel enjoyed a remarkable campaign, setting a record points tally on the way to the SWPL2 title and reaching the Scottish Cup final.
The heavy defeat in the cup final to Hibernian was the only disappointment in a season in which Motherwell regularly demonstrated their superiority, with empathic victories and highly impressive performances.
Progression to the top level of Scottish women’s football will provide a huge challenge for Jennow’s side. But it is one he is relishing.
Only five players of last season’s squad remain at the club ahead of the step up, with the ‘Well boss bringing in no fewer than 13 new faces to Fir Park during the close season.
“We are looking forward to it and I’m happy with how we are progressing,” Jennow said.
“Making the changes hasn’t been difficult because of the support I’ve had.
“The coaching team have been a great help with recruitment.
“Part of the reason that I’m so happy with the players we brought in is that it wasn’t a hard sell, they all want to be here and that’s half the battle.”
Jennow’s squad have prepared for the new season with friendly encounters against Newcastle and St Johnstone as well as an intense training schedule.
‘Well were denied victory over Newcastle by a stoppage time equaliser, before coming back from a goal down to defeat St Johnstone 3-1.
Next up is the season opener against Stirling University at Fir Park on 10 February, with the women of steel determined to get off to a winning start.
“Both pre-season games have been very competitive,” he added.
“I think St Johnstone will do well this year and I want to thank them for their hospitality on the day.
“We know step up in quality of opposition means that we will have to improve as well.
“Targets are something that any squad will have, but I think they are best kept in house.
“What I will say is that the first job for any newly promoted side is survival – so that’s where we’ll start.
“This next week is the best of pre-season, as soon as the next game is a competitive one then the dynamic changes a bit.”
While many Motherwell fans would have followed the successes of the team last season via the club website channels and through social media, it was unfortunate that their only live televised fixture resulted in a heavy defeat.
Hibs, who have now recorded back-to-back cup doubles swept Motherwell aside at Firhill, in what was a bitterly disappointing day for the team.
Jennow admits he’s still not fully over the pain of suffering such a heavy defeat on the big stage, but believes the turnover in personnel at the club means that there will be no negative effects on his players.
“Personally the Scottish Cup final stung and I won’t forget it easily,” he confessed.
“It’s important to remember though that this is a new squad, most of them weren’t there so we won’t be dwelling on it.”
2019 is set to be a huge year for women’s football in Scotland and the undoubted highlight will come when Shelly Kerr leads Scotland into their first ever World Cup in June.
Domestic football is set for heightened exposure too, with BBC Alba showing an increased number of games during the season ahead.
The Motherwell gaffer is pleased that the women’s game is enjoying increased coverage and insists it is just reward for the abilities and dedication of the players involved.
As well as increased media coverage of the game, Jennow also hopes to see more supporters getting along to back his team during their first season in the top flight.
“Exposure is for the players,” said the former Glasgow City assistant.
“They deserve recognition and promotion for their talent and commitment.
“Hopefully the players will also feel a bit more valued due to the heightened interest.
“A positive from the cup final in how many supporters turned out and it would be great if a few could come along to the league games this year.”