Central Girls Football Academy have bid farewell to four star players as they jet off to America to continue their careers stateside.
Shaney McCabe, Kim McAlpine, Morgan Cross and Captain Ellie Kane have left Grangemouth to join U.S. clubs on scholarships.
Kane, 18, and Cross, 17, left for the University of South Alabama this past weekend; McCabe, 18, recently arrived at Laramie County Community College in Wyoming. McAlpine, 18, heads to Carson-Newman University in Tennessee next week.
For all four girls, the nerves have kicked in but they’re raring to get started:
“I’m extremely nervous as it is a bit of a step into the unknown but I’m also excited to meet the girls and start training,” said Kane.
McCabe said: “When moving day came that is when it hit me and it was really hard saying goodbye to loved ones but it’s been the best opportunity ever.”
Cross commented: “It still doesn’t feel real but I’m looking forward to a completely new challenge and experience.”
And McAlpine said: “I’m really excited but I’m a wee bit nervous as well. It was the offer of a lifetime and I couldn’t say no to it.
The girls leave Scotland having enjoyed lots of success with Central; they’ve all won every domestic cup and league title available, including a treble winning year in 2015 and the SWFL Division 1 title with the senior squad in 2017.
They’ve all represented Scotland at various levels as well, and on two occasions all four were on the pitch at the same time – a particularly proud moment for everyone involved at Central.
Cross said: “I’m gutted to be leaving Central as I’ve made so many memories and friendships over the last four years. It’s thanks to Central that I have the opportunity to go out to America in the first place.”
Kane said: “I’m very sad to be leaving as it is the only team I’ve played for since moving from my childhood boys team. I’ve had the opportunity to see different parts of the world with Central and met some great girls along the way.
“I will of course miss the coaches who have taught me everything I know and helped me achieve my dream.”
All four were part of the Central team that travelled to Florida for the Disney International Cup at Under-18 level last year. Up against teams from the USA, Central America and Brazil, the team won the competition and before long the offers were rolling in from the scouts in attendance:
“There were teams from Brazil who are really skilful and teams from Honduras who were big and strong, so there were some things that we found hard,” remembers McAlpine. “But to be honest we went over there and completely dominated which was excellent.”
Back home, Head of Football at Central, Ian Dibdin, admits that it will be tough to replace such key players, but is proud of the role his club played in their development:
“Would I rather have the girls part of the team? Yes, of course!” he said. “With them we would avoid the drop [from the SWPL2], but if that meant them losing the opportunity of a lifetime then they need to go and the club will just have to get on with it. We have a great philosophy at the club and the many players we have developed are testament to that.
“We look to have football all year round for the girls, with training continuing throughout the year and travelling for tournaments during the summer break. It has helped us evolve as coaches and allowed us as a club to widen our experience and knowledge of the game.
“The girls getting scholarships is the pinnacle of all these factors; we will wear that badge with pride.”
And now he’s looking forward to seeing the next generation of players step up and fill the void left by the American-bound foursome.
He said: “We enjoy a tremendous youth system and players will continue to come through, I’ve no doubt about it. We use the tag ‘This is the Way we Play’, this sums up our approach to the game and our totally player-focussed attitude.
“It’s ultimately up to the individuals themselves but maximising talent has been our forte - for those wanting to work hard, listen and have a good lifestyle.”
Whilst Dibdin is confident of the future, the four outgoing players are heading into the unknown. But, when the dust has settled on their courses in America, they’re all excited to be playing football at as high a level as possible.
McCabe said: “Hopefully when I finish I will be playing for a high-level team and enjoying life.”
Similarly, Kane said: “I’m not certain of where I’d hope to be in five years, I just want to be playing football wherever that may be.”
Cross said: “My ideal goal is to be playing professionally after my four years at South Alabama.”
“I’m hoping to get a degree in P.E teaching as I want to come back here and keep pursuing my football whilst also being a P.E. teacher. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” said McAlpine.
Whatever happens, the future looks bright for these four Scottish exports.