Cliftonville Ladies defender Billie SImpson (c) Presseye


Cliftonville Ladies start their Danske Bank Women’s Premiership campaign on Wednesday and defender Billie Simpson insists the team are targeting the title.

The Reds were the odd team out in the first round of fixtures last week but host newly-promoted Comber Rec Ladies, with the Northern Ireland international confident of a strong season.

Last season, the North Belfast side won the County Antrim Cup against Linfield and were finalists in the League Cup to the same opponents.

“The aim for this season is to keep improving and to win the league title,” Simpson explained.

“We want to be league champions and to play in the Champions League, and we are confident in what we can do.

“We have already made a strong start by defeating Linfield, last season’s finalists, in the County Antrim Cup and getting off to winning ways is really important.

“It was frustrating from our point of view to be the one side who missed out on the opening round of fixtures, because we’re all really enthusiastic to get our league campaign underway.

“Everyone is still on a high from that victory over Linfield last Monday night, so we want to keep that momentum going into the first league game and the sooner the games come the better for us.”

The 26-year-old rose to fame last season by scoring from her own half against Sion Swifts, leading to her crown of the Women’s Premiership Player of the Year.

“It was a huge honour for me to be recognised in that way,” continued the defender.

“Winning those sorts of trophies is a massive dream of mine, and when you look back at your career, that is the type of recognition which is particularly special and so far, this is a particular highlight.

“I scored six league goals last season, the numbers are not something I think about too much but I’m happy to have them under my belt and its important to have a goal threat too.

“That goal from my own half? It did not feel weird or unusual at all until it went viral, then things became a bit crazy.

“Those efforts were something that I had tried quite a few times before, so I was mainly just pleased that I can pull it off….and yes, I still hear about it quite a lot!”

Simpson’s remarkable goal went viral due to recorded video footage of the game and she believes this is significant in increasing the professionalism of the women’s game in Northern Ireland.

“I’m delighted that it was recorded, it means I will have the footage forever and will always be able to look back on it,” added Simpson.

“This shows how fantastic the exposure the women’s league has been receiving and it shows the potential that we have.

“Women’s football has become a lot more professional in recent seasons but it’s important that it keeps aiming to improve.

“We want that one day this will be a full-time job and its important that we keep going forward to be comparable to clubs across the water.”

Tags:  Cliftonville Ladies