Fran Alonso spoke to The Celtic Star Editor on Friday afternoon ahead of the SWPL1 match against Partick Thistle on Sunday at the Penny Cars Arena in Airdrie. Kick-off is 2pm and if you aren’t heading up to Pittodrie why not get along and support this league leading, attack-minded, exciting to watch Celtic FC Women side?
Fran was as usual in high spirits and had plenty of reason to be pleased with his side who had beaten Hibs last Sunday courtesy of a dramatic and spectacular 91st minute winner from Charlie Wellings and that was followed up with a 4-0 win over Motherwell in midweek, with Welling getting another couple of goals and Clarissa Larisey – who also spoke to The Celtic Star on Friday – getting her first ever goal for the Hoops.
As always Fran is open, entertaining and informative in dealing with the Celtic Fan media and The Celtic Star appreciates the Celtic manager answering our questions. Here’s how the conversation went….
The Celtic Star: Two goals from Charlie Wellings, the first goal for the club from Clarissa Larisey (against Motherwell in midweek), you must be pleased about that?
Fran Alonso: “I am pleased because when we were doing the recruitment we were losing a lot of goals from the side, players like Sarah Ewens, Maria Lee and we needed to recruit ‘goals’. So I’m delighted that the players we’ve brought in Olivia Chance, Clarissa Larisey and Charlie Wellings. Everyone is making a great impact.
“And that’s the goals but the way we are playing, in assists Shen Mengyu has had a few assists already, so I think we are replacing the numbers we needed in order to be competitive. That was a difficult thing to do and I think so far it has worked very well. If you take (the)Rangers out we have played the top three teams, the three hardest games on paper apart from (the)Rangers so I’me quite pleased at the start of the league.”
The Celtic Star: And the importance of a clean sheet, the first one of the season…
Fran Alonso: “The quality of the opponents means it is more difficult to keep a clean sheet, playing Glasgow City, Aberdeen and Hibs, three very tough opponents, all very tough opponents but we managed to keep a clean sheet, our first clean sheet and that’s something for me that is important, for the girls as well. So not only was the 4-0 pleasing, to be able to score four goals, not easy this year but to keep a clean sheet is very important. Delighted, I thought that we could have played a little bit better at times but the result was fantastic.
The Celtic Star: The three teams that were promoted from the SWPL2 have all got points on the board, Aberdeen in particular are doing very well. So do you think that the league is stronger this year?
Fran Alonso: “100%, 100%. I think Hibs are much stronger than they were last year and I think that the three promoted teams especially Aberdeen who are a very good team, very well drilled, they are young but they have a lot of pace, a good team. Hamilton, Partick Thistle they know how to compete, they know how to increase or decrease the tempo, they are experienced, they are new in the first division this year but they are experienced at the highest level in the Women’s game so yes, I think it is a stronger league. I would like to think that we are also stronger so that will help.
The Celtic Star: You had a look at Partick Thistle in the League Cup so what are you expecting from them at the weekend?
Fran Alonso: I expect a very tough game. Yesterday Glasgow City experienced them themselves. They are well drilled. Very good defensively, they don’t leave gaps in between the lines, they know how to slow the tempo down, they know how to use tactical free-kicks, as I say they are experienced so we expect a very tough game. We will try to impose our tempo and to try to move the ball quickly and try to switch play when we can to find these gaps but it’s not going to be easy.
We saw, yesterday again they went 1-0 up, exactly the same thing that happened to us, and it half-time it was 1-1, so it’s a difficult team. It’s a challenge for us but we are in great form, it’s already 17 games unbeaten so for the morale of the team we are very happy. Hopefully we will have a vey good game.
The Celtic Star: You made seven changes against Motherwell from the team that beat Hibs last Sunday. Are you going to rotate the squad again on Sunday?
Fran Alonso: Yes, the Hibs game was very hard and we won – it was very nice by the way – but we won in the last minute. But that means you need to be fighting until the 91st minute, you need to be still doing the transitions 100%, so that is very hard on the legs. In a game when you are 3-0 up, you can just rest with the ball but we couldn’t do that because it was a draw until the 91st minute and it took a lot from our legs.
We knew Motherwell didn’t play win Sunday so they were fresh and we were tired so that was one of the reasons why we rotated the squad. But the most important reason is that I’ve got 23 players and I trust even single one of them. And when we can and when they are working hard in training they will be rewarded, regardless of the name on their back. The important thing is how they train and if I see a player who is training well, regardless of how many minutes she’s got, at that point she will be rewarded by starting.
“We’ve got an idea of the team but tomorrow (Saturday) is the last training day so tomorrow we will find out about the last positions we have doubts with.
The Celtic Star: Any injury worries at the moment?
Fran Alonso: Yes, we’ve got Izzy Atkinson, she got injured with Ireland in this International break and she’s completed a full session, we are precautious with Sarah Teegarden, Harkes now, she’s not really injured but she got some discomfort so we’ll try to protect her and then Natalie Ross who is still doing bits now but is still not ready to play. The rest are fine.
The Celtic Star: Can I ask you Fran about the game in Edinburgh in midweek between Hibs and Hearts when Hibs organised free entry for families and they got a crowd of 5512 which is a record for a Scottish women’s football match (SWPL). Do you think that the possibilities and the probabilities are there for Celtic to beat this record in the not too distance future?
Hibernian Women have now set the attendance record for Scottish women’s football on three straight occasions 😳
✅ 2,551 in 2016
✅ 3,123 in 2019
✅ 5,512 in 2021
— Hibernian Women (@HibernianWomen) September 30, 2021
Fran Alonso: I think we will do it.The plan is that we are going to play at Celtic Park, it has already been announced and our goal would be to beat not only the 5000 but also the 24,000, or 26,000 that the national team achieved for the Scottish Women’s National team and we will try to beat it. We will try to convince our fans to come and support us and hopefully we will give them a good show so that they can enjoy it. But it’s definitely great for the women’s game that they had over 5000 fans so I am delighted for the league in general so hopefully every team is going to try to beat that record. It just means growth for the women’s game which is what we all want.
The Celtic Star: We get on the site the odd person saying that ‘nobody is interested in the women’s game then we look at the stats for the people reading the article and there’s 5 or 6 thousand people reading them so there is definitely an appetite there. Do you think we could open up the Penny Car stadium so that we’ve got several thousand in there for every game?
Fran Alonso: For me the more fans we’ve got the better and the players really feel it. I think that there’s a constant – not just in Scotland but in the whole world – growth in interest in the women’s game, in England they are breaking records in terms of attendance, in terms of people watching on TV so I think that every day there’s more and more interest in the women’s game. So far maybe we don’t have big crowds in terms of several thousand people but the 300 hundred we have, they shout like they are thousands. They are good fans so more there are the better.”
You can watch Celtic Star asking Fran Alonso these questions below…
And while you’re at it why not watch The Celtic Star speaking to Clarissa Larisey ahead of tomorrow’s match against Partick Thistle…
🎥🎙️Celtic FC Women Media Conferences
Clarissa Larisey and Fran Alonso spoke to the media ahead of this Sunday’s @SWPL match against Partick Thistle
— Celtic TV (@CelticTV) October 1, 2021