Aberdeen Women may have suffered their biggest defeat in SWPL1 at Rangers, but the Dons first season back in the top flight is about more than just results.
Of course, football is about winning and picking up points and the Dons have done just that going three games unbeaten with three clean sheets after their opening match against Celtic.
Aberdeen have proved the pre-season naysayers wrong by putting in gritty performances to win an impressive amount of points so early in the season, especially considering this is their first season back in SWPL1 after two consecutive relegations a few years ago.
However, the naysayers had ammunition once again after the 8-0 defeat to Rangers.
The defeat to Rangers will hurt for the young Aberdeen side, but, as somebody who actually understands the structure of women’s football in Scotland, the score was not the ‘walloping’ that some people tried to suggest.
A league within a league
SWPL1 has four sides who can be considered full-time, professional squads.
Glasgow City, Rangers, Celtic and Hibernian will undoubtedly finish in the top four in some order this season and beyond.
However, the immediate reality for teams like Aberdeen is they cannot match their full-time opposition.
The scoreline against Rangers proved that, and I don’t say this to discredit Aberdeen, nor to be bitter towards the full-time sides.
I say it to remind people women’s football in Scotland is in transition. It’s improving, but people need to understand there is still a huge gap between the sides.
There is always going to be gulfs between teams in every league.
In men’s football, competition at the top of the ‘best’ league tables is not exactly diverse.
🔴 Match report from this afternoon's game with Rangers.
— Aberdeen FC Women (@AberdeenWomen) October 10, 2021
But SWPL1 highlights the disparities within the women’s game in Scotland as four teams are progressing faster than the rest due to being full-time, professional squads.
The likes of Aberdeen just don’t have the same luxuries the professional sides have in training or resources. It is near impossible for them to be able to get up to the same level of athleticism and match sharpness and that’s why we see such big scorelines.
A professional status attracts better players and you only have to look at Rangers new signing Jane Ross to see that the proof is in the pudding. Ross made the decision to return to SWPL 1 after six successful years in England, having played at WSL clubs West Ham, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Ross isn’t the only marquee player at Rangers. The team that played against Aberdeen featured five Scotland internationals with more than 200 caps between them.
Experience will lead to improvement
The result was not a ‘walloping’, nor was it embarrassing. It was a learning experience, one of many the Dons will face this season.
Irrespective of the result, the experience Aberdeen will have gained against Rangers is invaluable.
How better for these players to learn than to come up against the best players in the country?
Aberdeen’s squad is full of young players who have never played at this level before. The young side will come up against some of their heroes this season and they will become better players because of it.
The Dons will now be able to identify areas of their game that can be improved upon against the top sides, which will undoubtedly improve how they play against any team in SWPL1.
Progress will be made and, who knows, maybe in a few years time Aberdeen will join the professional ranks in SWPL1. You just have to look at the WSL to see the progress that can be made in such a short space of time, and even then things can still get better.
A fifth or sixth place finish for the Dons would be reason to celebrate as leaders of the pack outside of the top four, but for now Aberdeen must focus on the must-win games and use matches against the top four sides as an opportunity to learn and improve.