Hearts 0 – 3 Celtic FC Women – Larisey double but worrying squad issues remain

Celtic FC Women headed to the capital to face Hearts at Oriam this evening in the Hoops penultimate pre-season match, and the starting line-up and substitute bench was still concerningly devoid of the talents of Sarah Harkes, Jodie Bartle, Liv Chance – and most worryingly 40 goal Charlie Wellings – prior to Celtic going on to record a 3-0 in Edinburgh, with an opener from the superb Lucy Ashworth-Clifford and a double from the side’s potent star Clarissa Larisey.

With all those talents yet to feature in either the pre-season Gran Canaria trip or any of the bounce games to date, it looks like Celtic may well start the season with more exits than the seven players who have already left Fran Alonso’s domestic cup double winning side. Meanwhile, with only two new faces through the door so far, there is little sign the professionalism being evidenced by the players and coaching staff at Celtic over the last two seasons being mirrored by those dealing with incomings and contractual negotiations in the Celtic boardroom.

Celtic began this game with an unnamed trialist starting the match and another on the bench, as Fran Alonso sent another side which mixed youth and experience.

By now the talented Spaniard would have expected have settled in the majority new faces and be navigating himself into a position to have his first team players peaking in time for the new season beginning in eleven days time when Hibs visit the Excelsior Stadium for the opening fixture of the SWPL season. Sadly, it appears Celtic and Alonso may well be starting the season behind the eight-ball from the outset, as even if a raft of new signings were to arrive, valuable bedding in time for new signings has been lost in a summer of transfer inactivity.

Trialist playing for CELTIC FC Women on Sunday in rhe Glasgow Cup defeat to theRangers

After a domestic cup double last season, it’s difficult not to feel sympathy for the manager and no little frustration for those he would have assumed would have had his back as he looked to build a side capable of challenging for this season’s league title.

Those who did take part this evening certainly set about their work with little thought to off-field matters, as both Clarissa Larisey and new signing Amy Gallacher both had early opportunities to score in the opening exchanges, meanwhile Catlin Hayes with a headed effort and Lucy Ashworth-Clifford lobbed effort that was cleared off the line both also came close to scoring.

And it was Ashworth-Clifford who did break the deadlock six minutes before half-time as she won possession in the Hearts box, rounded the ‘keeper and managed to force the ball over the line, for a goal that would put Celtic in front at the interval.

Ashworth-Clifford in action against theRangers on Sunday

Celtic continued to be the dominant side in the second half as a first-time Lisa Robertson strike at goal was well saved just prior to a Chloe Craig headed effort from an Ashworth-Clifford corner kick which blocked en-route to goal.

With no further scoring Fran Alonso rang the changes just after the hour mark with Shen, Gallacher and Craig making way for McAneny, Ferguson and the second trialist of the evening. And within six minutes of the changes the Hoops were two up, with the impressive Ashworth-Clifford supplying the ammunition following a speedy counter attacking break, before crossing for pre-season’s best performer Clarissa Larisey to score from close range.

Seven minutes later and Celtic ended this game as a contest, as after Ferguson menaced the Hearts defence, the ball broke to Larisey once again who thumped the ball home off the woodwork to put Celtic three goals to the good and leave Hearts with a mountain to climb to get back into this one.

And it appears Fran Alonso recognised just that as three minutes later Hayes, Ashworth, Larisey, Burchill and Robertson all left the field to be replaced by Dobbins, Goldie, Bowie, Cusack and Potter as more of Celtic’s youngsters got the opportunity a decimated first team squad offered to try and impress Fran Alonso ahead of the new season – and the final change in the 87th minute when Johnstone made way for Marwaha in goal ensured every player who started the game didn’t end it. And with no further scoring Celtic emerged victorious from their penultimate pre-season in Edinburgh with three goals scored and none conceded.

It was a good work-out for Celtic, and a confidence builder ahead of the new season, yet with a raft of young players and a couple of trialists making up the numbers, it is crystal clear Fran Alonso needs more incoming transfer activity and a halt to the haemorrhaging of first team talent that has continued to flow towards the exit over the course of pre-season.

Celtic have announced a superb season ticket initiative this season with the tag-line ‘inspiring a new generation’ attached. It’s a welcome move from the club, and with 11 million tuning in to BBC TV last night for England’s European Championship win over Sweden the timing is good with a continent captivated by the quality and competitiveness on show south of the border.

Yet inspiring a new generation means ensuring the best of players Celtic have can be persuaded to remain at the club, can become icons for those who follow Celtic FC Women from the stands and on TV at home, and it also means attracting the best talent the name of Celtic can attract. So far this summer Celtic are lacking the inspiration their advertising campaign promises on both fronts.

There is still time to remedy that, but not a lot. If Celtic truly intend to ‘inspire a new generation’ it will take more than up to now empty marketing gimmicks to show they mean what they say when they ask fans to part with their cash.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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