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ALISTAIR HEATHER: Dundee United WFC triumph is a new high for the women’s game

Fans rushed to congratulate the winning Dundee United WFC players.
Fans rushed to congratulate the winning Dundee United WFC players.

Wednesday night was a joy! Let me share it with you.

The women’s team of Dundee United have just won their league.

They only formed a few years ago and they’ll be competing in the top league from next season.

And on Wednesday, they played their penultimate league match against St Johnstone at Tannadice, and were able to lift the league trophy in front of the home support.

Much of this is remarkable, record breaking, exceptional.

And let’s start with the folk in the stands.

In the pie queue, there were far more women than men.

The usual background hum you get in the concourse is of older guys murmuring greetings to pals and slurping at Bovril.

This week it was laughing, skelloching bairns. Many were there for the first time.

Historic night for Dundee United WFC – and their fans

Lotte and Lucia had never been to Tannadice before.

Lucia, who is seven this year, had a tangerine-and-black scarf birled about her neck, and was shyly chatting to me at Lotte’s knee.

Lottie and Lucia were among the crowd.
Lottie and Lucia were among the crowd.

“Do you play football?” I asked Lucia.

“Yeah. I play in goal, just for my school team,” she said. “But I support United.”

I think that’s special.

The majority of United supporters have their early memories at Tannadice.

Some are jammy: they mind getting tane to a Roma, or a Monchengladbach.

Maist o us traipse up to a Kilmarnock or whatever.

Wee Lucia’s first game is a milestone: Dundee United women’s team’s first-ever match at Tannadice.

And she was part of a record-breaking crowd for women’s football in Dundee -726 people came out to watch it.

A record turnout on an unforgettable night for Dundee United WFC.
A record turnout on an unforgettable night for Dundee United WFC.

It’s a milestone.

But it is just that.

A marker on the path along which we have a long way to travel yet.

Women’s game has come a long way – but there’s lots still to do

On BBC the iPlayer just now is an excellent documentary about Julie Fleeting, a pioneering player.

She’s no old at all. Yet in her early career she had to play with boys’ teams as there were no organised girls’ squads.

She represented her nation. But the players wore jersies that didnae even fit: they were hand-me-downs fae men’s teams.

The players had to do a whip round to pay for the referees for each game.

And the games themselves could be brutally one-sided. Julie scored the winner when Scotland horsed Lithuania 17-0, for example.

The progress since then has been tremendous.

The United players are well-drilled, properly kitted out, confident in their game.

But even for them things are not as good as they could be.

Still their strips have no names on the back.

Still media coverage of their matches is slight.

A smaller crowd than the men’s game but none of the excitement was missing.

And still there was 10% of the crowd you might expect at a similar men’s fixture.

We’re not there yet.

The fact is, the women’s team is run as a charity.

Their stated purpose to attract funding is not to win leagues, but to provide role models for the next generation.

On Wednesday night, they did that.

Strong support for both sides

I spoke to Molly, Katie, Abigael and Zoe.

They all play for United’s girls Under-18s, they’re fae Dundee, and have season tickets for the men’s team.

United girls team members Molly, Katie, Abigael and Zoe.
United girls team members Molly, Katie, Abigael and Zoe.

“I think it’d be cool for us to play here one day,” one said. “It’d be cool to get high in the league [next season] and maybe fill two parts of the stadium.”

And what did they make of the role modelling?

“The younger girls around us were really excited when we scored. It’s good that they get to see older women achieving things in Dundee.” Her pal added.

“More girls that come and watch, more will play football.”

In the crowd were a trio of Perth fans, Julie, Niamh and Eilidh. Two of them play for Jeanfield Swifts, the famous Perth girls team.

St Johnstone supporters Julie, Niamh and Eilidh.
St Johnstone supporters Julie, Niamh and Eilidh.

“I think its really good that all the fans are here for a 2nd division women’s game,” one  told me.

And do they think they’ll come and play at Tannadice in the future?

Their answers were direct.

“Of course. A hunner percent.”

A last-minute winner and the crowd went wild

The game was a great watch.

St Johnstone turned up ready for the occasion, and scored early.

United fought back, battered at their backline and scored two goals to take the lead.

Fans of the future. Some of the crowd cheering on Dundee United WFC on Wednesday.
Fans of the future. Some of the crowd cheering on Dundee United WFC on Wednesday.

On 80 minutes, St Johnstone’s striker tore through and scored a really good goal, tying the game at 2-2.

The women in tangerine seemed set to prove that they are every bit the equals of their male counterparts by blowing it on the big occasion.

But with the clock on 89 minutes and 20 seconds, United scored a winner.

A beautiful curling ball direct fae a corner found the back of the net.

The crowd went wild.

Dundee United WFC have shown what can be achieved

Loads of young lassies waved flags.

All 700-odd of us stood and whooped and applauded.

The trophy presentation came next, with all of us staying in the stands to cheer as the players got their medals.

Dundee United WFC star Georgie Robb had her friends in the crowd.
Dundee United WFC star Georgie Robb had her friends in the crowd.

Douglas’ ain Georgie Robb had her pals there to cheers her on.

They were buzzing at her success.

Lines and lines of young women and girls queued up to get pictures with the league trophy and their favourite players.

This is not the high-water mark of the women’s game in Dundee.

But Wednesday gives us all reasons to get excited, and to start looking forward to our city’s first women’s team in the top-flight of football next season.


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