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Womens Premiership


27 Apr 2021
© Kelvin Boyes/PressEye Glentoran Women celebrate lifting the league title
Opposition teams will have extra incentive to beat defending champions Glentoran this year, but boss Billy Clarke knows his players will use that as extra motivation.
The Glens won last season’s title - ending fierce rivals Linfield’s run of four successive crowns - and are most people’s favourites going into the current campaign.
That is largely because of the East Belfast club signing three Northern Ireland internationals this year - Lauren Wade, Casey Howe and Jennifer McDade - to add to a fearsome squad.
Boss Clarke revealed: “We have been in training since the start of February and they’re all raring to go.
“You can see it in the training sessions that the intensity is where you want to be at and they all want to be playing competitive games.
“Once you are the champions, you have that target on your back - Linfield had the title for four years and it will be no different for us now.
“But we have the players that know to expect that and we are used to winning trophies and challenging in every competition.
“We are expecting big things from this group of players and that situation will provide them with the hunger and motivation they need.”
The signings of Wade, Howe and McDade from Glasgow City, Linfield and Shelbourne respectively created headlines in the close-season and Clarke has revealed the thought process behind those signings.
“We wanted to have competition for every single spot in our squad, so that was what dictated our transfer policy this year,” he added.
“Every player knows that there is another player of quality in that position and fighting for that shirt, so the standards cannot drop.
“We have built the squad up and brought in quality players every year - both in terms of the signings we are making and the young girls coming up through the youth system.”
There is a fresh wave of positivity across Glentoran as a club in recent year but the women’s team have long provided a source of optimism and success.
“We have been told over the past few years that we have probably been the most positive aspect about the club,” continued Clarke.
“Over those years we had been winning league titles than in recent seasons we have multiple Irish Cups, League Cups and the County Antrim competition too - winning multiple trophies every year.
“Every year we have been trying to win more and more, and now our motivation is to keep that league title and if cups come along with that - that is an added bonus.
“This season will see us play in Europe too and that is another big adventure for us which we are all motivated for.”
Along with bolstering their playing squad, Stephen Murray and Lesley Winder have been added to the Glens backroom staff.
“We have brought in more fitness and conditioning coaches and we have a contract with the physio company Back on Track,” said Clarke.
“That means players are getting looked after and being monitored with treatments - all these things to help professionalise the settings and environment.
“Even if we do not have professional status that is how we are approaching the team and the surrounding - it is what we are offering to our own players and as an incentive for players joining the club.
“The number of coaches we have really helps me too - I don’t do much coaching these days and I’m more focused on managing and delegating, so we all have our own specific workloads and we can work to our strengths.”
“The way things are going, we are hopeful that players can be signing professional contracts here in the coming years. 
“We are hopeful that the league will be expanding by a couple of teams and that status will allow us to maintain more and more of our best players.
“We see the league not just as where the top players in Northern Ireland will play but others will look to come here too, so women’s football here at the moment is hugely exciting.”
The Glens kickstart their defence of the title at home to Crusaders Strikers on Wednesday evening.