|Fantastic four Gunning for glory|
Anna Lisa Walseth reports...
Women’s football has been going from strength to strength in recent years in Scotland and equally so south of the border, with Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton in particular having incredibly successful ladies’ teams. However it is Arsenal who has dominated the women’s football scene, becoming the FA Women’s Premier League Champions last year for the twelfth time, adding to their other thirty three trophies acquired in the last fourteen years. Much of the team’s success has been down to the skill and tenacity of the players-yet for an English side, many of those considered the key players of the first team are, in fact, Scottish. Below, we take a look at the best Scottish exports.
There was much furore when the ‘star forward’ of Arsenal Ladies’ team, Kelly Smith, left for greener pastures (or, in this case, Boston to join the Boston Breakers). There is no doubt that the now M.B.E. recipient would be a big act to follow, but that is just what Kim Little (pictured above, celebrating with Julie Fleeting) has done-and with great ease. The twenty year old from Aberdeen certainly has packed a lot in to such a short, yet prolific football career. She began her career with the Buchan Ladies, but was quickly head-hunted by Hibernian Ladies in 2006 (her matches in the Under-17s 2006 Gothia Cup still ranking amongst her favourite football experiences). She went down south to Arsenal Ladies team in December 2007 and cannot have looked back since, finishing last season’s top goal scorer, with 58 goals overall in just two seasons. Kim is also a star of the international Scottish team where her appearances are usually equally successful. Winning her first cap aged just 16 against Japan in 2007, Kim has gone on to not only provide some of the most thrilling goals for Scotland (her double in the stunning 8-1 victory against Bulgaria in the 2010 World Cup qualifier being particularly memorable) but is equally at home setting them up for the rest of the team-a sign of a truly classy player.
Little’s teammate Jennifer Beattie’s (pictured left, on international duty) career seemed assured from the start-she has the love for sport in her blood. Daughter of former Scotland and British Lions rugby union player, John Beattie and the sister of current Scottish rugby union international Johnnie Beattie, Jennifer has achieved much for her sex in her nineteen years. Not only was she made captain of an all-boys team in school, Jennifer played for Hamilton Academicals’ boy’s team before being picked to play for Queen’s Park Ladies, aged just fifteen. It was about this time that Beattie played in the Scottish Women’s Premier League, reaching the final of the League Cup, and after a fifteen month stint with Celtic Ladies, she was snapped up by Arsenal in 2009. She has so far scored seven goals for the team, and eight for her home country in various qualifiers. Beattie and Little have both rightly been singled out by sports writer Graham Spiers in The Times sport supplement as ones to watch’.
Ex-Hibernian midfielder Natalie Ross’s ankle injury has meant that both her international and Arsenal appearances have been limited, but after some great displays of control, composure and pace, this twenty one year old looks set to have an awesome season for the Gunners.
However, it is Arsenal and Scotland’s pride and joy, striker Julie Fleeting, who seems to be the nation’s biggest success story. Awarded an M.B.E in the same year as ex-teammate Kelly Smith, Julie’s record of 114 goals for Scotland in 117 matches means that she is a world-famous success. Beginning her career for Ayr United, she was spotted by ladies team San Diego Spirit in an international match against the U.S.A. and subsequently played for them for nearly two years. She returned to Scotland in 2003 to play for Ross County, but quickly made the move south to Arsenal where she was an instant success, and has (to date) scored 79 goals for the team in 68 appearances. After taking time out to have her baby in 2009, she has recently returned to the team and is looking great for the next season.
The team have just returned from a group of friendly matches in the Stabaek cup in Norway, where they drew 1-1 with hosts Stabaek after a header from Jennifer Beattie, and won 4-2 on penalties. Going through to the final, they ultimately lost to German side Wolfsburg. However, with England’s new Women's Super League starting up shortly, the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter finals and another international year approaching, things are looking bright for these fantastic four.