Paradise Awaits – Last year’s heartbreak driving Celtic to first ever title

Celtic midfielder Colette Cavanagh revealed that league leaders Celtic FC Women squad are using last season’s last-minute title loss as motivation to go all the way this time around.

Speaking to the media ahead of today’s massive match against Hearts at Celtic Park Cavanagh touched on how it feels to lead the league, rather than having to chase.

She said: “It’s different. The split has changed so much and if I’m being honest, I probably didn’t think we’d be in this position based on the results and results that didn’t go our way, like the Glasgow City game at Petershill. That was a tough loss and I thought that dented our chance of being at the top but with the split, like I said before, you lose, and you get so many points, so it’s worked in our favour. I’m raring to go and excited to keep the momentum going and to keep getting three points.

“When we put it in the sense of six games left, it’s not a lot, 18 points to pick up and that’s something we’re focused towards. It is in our hands and it’s ours to lose, we’ve got that pressure on us and the girls from last season, and myself, know the pressure that’s needed and how to deal with that, especially with the squad last season being so close to it. They’re using that as motivation and we’re going to hang on to that top spot as long as we can.”

The Celtic midfielder says that the season has been “crazy” with all of the change. With the results, the change of coach, and everything in between, Cavanagh says that the squad are “dying to win the league”.

“We’re in a perfect position to do it,” she said. “We’ve got an amazing support behind us, and we want to do it for the fans, our family, for the girls who missed out on it last season by 20 seconds, for the coaches who put in so much work and we want to do it for ourselves. We really want it.”

This will be Cavanagh’s first time at Celtic Park in the Hoops, although she has previously played there as a Hibs player.

Speaking to The Celtic Star about today’s the special occasion, Colette said: “This is a special situation for me and my family. They did come to that game when I was at Hibs, but we lost. The support that Celtic had back then was huge and the game’s grown even more now so I’m looking forward to being at Celtic Park as a Celtic player and hopefully winning at Celtic Park. That would mean so much to me and my family.”

And of course, her teammates are also looking forward to returning to Paradise, and with that brings a good dressing room atmosphere.

“There’s so many ups and downs in football,” she said. “That could be injury, getting a bad defeat, but recently, with the momentum going our way, the mood has been good. And like Elena said today, we had a laugh in training, it was competitive, but it was a healthy competition, we weren’t getting too annoyed at each other which was a first. We were having a joke, but the quality was still there, and I think that’s a credit to us that we can relax at times but also switch on the professionalism and make sure that the quality is there.”

Although it’s been another three-horse, at times appearing to only be a two-horse, race this season, it’s clear that the “best of the rest” teams are becoming more competitive.

“There’s so much funding within every team,” she stated. “That goes down to analysis, the amount of time that coaches and players are spending on our opponents, ourselves. It really makes a difference. Quality is being brought into the league, players are developing under certain coaches so it’s certainly getting more competitive and that’s what we want. We don’t want to cruise a league, we want to be challenged and I think that on Wednesday past, that was a good challenge for us.

“First half, we weren’t good enough but still managed to get a goal and then second half, I thought we played a bit better, but it just shows that we can grit out a win and get the three points even without our best performance. I think as well coming back from Partick Thistle, we played really well and then playing against Hibs, who are maybe more organised, kind of gave us a shock and a reality check that it’s not going to be this easy against other teams.

“I think we needed that. We don’t want to be too arrogant with our performances, we want to be humble. That was needed from Hibs. And Hibs have given us a challenge before at Meadowbank before a Champions League game and we needed that because we were playing Montrose and Dundee United before a Champions League game, but we played quality against Hibs. We didn’t play well, we got the three points, but we learned so much from that game that we took into the Champions League, so we’ll be doing the exact same for Hearts on Sunday.”

Speaking on the battle for places in the starting line-up, Cavanagh said that it is competitive but that it’s good to be competing against quality players.

She added: “If I’m not playing, I’m happy because I know that the other two midfielders will put on a show and get us the three points. We all have trust in each other to perform well and if we don’t perform well then there’s a chance to step up and give quality but like I say, we’re all here for each other, there’s a togetherness in the club and we’re happy for people to be starting and putting in a performance if it means we get the three points. If you don’t play, it needs to be that.

“We’re part of a team and it’s a long journey. If you don’t play, then you just have to get over it and work hard in training because those players who start would not be starting without training well and without you being at training, training alongside them. It means a lot to start, and I think every player doesn’t take that for granted.”

And of course, Cavanagh was brought back in the summer by Fran Alonso but had to adapt to a new life at Celtic under Elena Sadiku.

“It’s been good,” she said. “It was a bit of a change at the beginning, just with formation and all that, but she settled in, and we’ve adapted to her style of play and tactics and all that. We’ve seen changes in training, we had double sessions early this year and I think that’s made a difference in the intensity and the preparation for games. That was a big change for us, but I think the rewards are coming and hopefully they will continue to come.”

PARADISE AWAITS – League leaders Celtic FC Women take on Hearts in the vital SWPL1 match this afternoon as Elena Sadiku’s side looks to move a step closer to a first ever title for the Ghirls and also hopefully a first ever double title winning season in the history of Scottish football for both the men’s and the women’s team.

Get along to Celtic Park this afternoon and give the Ghirls a cheer. Kick-off is at 4.10pm and tickets available via the link below…

Jessica Elliott

About Author

I'm a student journalist and Celtic supporter. I'm delighted to have been recently appointed women's football writer for The Celtic Star, where the coverage of the Celtic FC Women's team has been incredible and unrivalled over the past three seasons.

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