in #KillieStories February 9, 2018
While Steve Clarke has led a resurgence in the fortunes of Killie's first team, a revolution has been taking place in the FC KIlmarnock Ladies ranks in recent years.
Scotland's oldest women's club are aiming to reclaim their former glory after winning promotion to SWPL2 last term.
Ahead of their season opener against Motherwell on Sunday, we sat down with manager Stewart Hall to talk about the team, the challenges they face and his own coaching story.
You can go and cheer on the team at Rugby Park this Sunday. Kick off is at 4pm, entry is free with donations appreciated for our youth system.
Q: Stewart, for fans who are maybe just starting to follow the team this season can you give us a quick recap of your time with FC Kilmarnock Ladies and how you first got involved?
SH: This is my third year with the club after originally joining as assistant to Mark Ritchie in 2016 before becoming head coach at the start of last season.
You and the team were incredibly successful last term, winning 19 of your 20 league matches on the way to the title and promotion. How proud were you of the team and what are the aims for this season?
SH: I was extremely proud of every member of the squad last season. To achieve what we did, winning the league title and promotion in such style was unbelievable. This season will obviously be tougher but we aim to compete in every game, retain our Premier League status and see where it takes us.
Everyone at the club is delighted to see FC Kilmarnock heading back towards the elite end of the Scottish game. What will be the main challenges for your players this season and for you as a coach?SH: We have to challenge ourselves. I believe our squad is very competitive and there's a lot of quality throughout. This league will demand that we perform consistently as a team and that's going to be a big thing for us.
In terms of me and my coaching staff, we have to have to try and get the best from the squad.
For fans coming along to games this season, can you tell us a little about some of your new recruits?SH: We've added four players in the close season, two defensive players - Lynn Jackson from Cumbernauld Colts and Amy Burrows, who has returned from a schloarship in America. We've also brought in two midfielders with Sarah Wardlaw coming in from Cumbernauld Colts and Sara Paterson, who returns to the club after one year with Partick Thistle.
Motherwell are first up at home, what are you expecting from their side?SH: The appointment of Eddie Wolecki Black as Motherwell manager has ensured there's been a lot of noise around them over the close season and he has added a wealth of experience to his team. We're expecting a big challenge from Eddie's team as they are a team who will look to try and dominate the league.
You’ve been drawn against Glasgow City in the SWPL Cup, how does it feel to test yourself against the dominant force in the game?
SH: It's a mixture of nerves and excitement to be honest. Obviously we want to challenge ourselves and we strive to be in the same division as Glasgow City soon. It will be a good test to see how far the club has come in recent times. They ran out comfortable winners when we last faced them in the Scottish Cup Quarter-Finals in 2015.
Can you talk to us about anyone who inspires you as a coach? Do you favour a particular style of play?
SH: There are a lot of people I look up to and I've been lucky enough to be taught by great coaches such as Craig Brown and Archie Knox. I'm a huge fan of the fantastic, free-flowing football Pep Guardiola plays at Manchester City while I've got so much respect for Kevin Murphy at Man City Ladies. Kevin is a young man who has created a career for himself in women's football after previously managing Hamilton Accies and Rangers.
In terms of style of play, I don't favour one particular style but I do enjoy seeing teams play at a high intensity.You are only in your early 20s, what are your coaching ambitions? How much potential do you believe Kilmarnock Ladies possess?
SH: I'm only 23 and I was honoured when Kilmarnock wanted me to take over as head coach at the age of 22. I hold ambitions of having a full-time career within football.
Kilmarnock Ladies has huge potential. The team was once the dominant force within the Scottish game and if the club keeps progressing on and off the field then there's no reason why we can't return to the top again.
What would your message be to the fans and what would you say to anyone thinking of coming to watch the team this season?
SH: I'd encourage as many people as possible to come down and support the team this year. They will be treated to entertaining football, played with passion and desire. Our home games are at Rugby Park this year so they'll get to watch the matches around our fantastic facilities.
Everyone at the club wishes Stewart and his team all the very best for the season ahead.