Scottish Daily Mail
Stars are now living our dream
Lappin is proud but envious of the progress in women’s game
WHEN she watches the Glasgow City and Rangers players run out at Ibrox for Sunday’s title decider, Suzanne Lappin admits she will do so with a sense of satisfaction mixed with envy.
The former City midfielder retired at the age of 28 when the pressure of trying to balance playing for a Champions League club with her career as an accountant became too much.
The boom in women’s football and the age of professional contracts came just too late for her.
Lappin will be part of the BBC ALBA team covering the showdown at Ibrox, where City need a win to clinch the title, while defending champions Rangers can pip them to the flag with victory.
However, a Rangers win would also open the door to Celtic, who play Hearts at Parkhead at the same time. Rangers’ goal difference is currently one better than their Old Firm rivals but, with Celtic having thrashed the Edinburgh side 6-0 last time they met, Fran Alonso’s side remain firmly in the mix.
With the potential for a Helicopter Sunday-style finish to the season, the matches have attracted unprecedented interest. Both games could break the record attendance set only last week at Celtic’s home match with City, when 9,553 fans watched Celtic win 3-1.
Lappin is delighted by the way the dramatic conclusion to the season has brought new fans to the game.
She says: ‘When I played for Glasgow City it was always between us and Hibs in terms of competing for the league, but I can’t remember a title decider like this.
‘There was one game at Glasgow Green when pretty much whoever won was going to go on and win the league. But it wasn’t the last game of the season and it certainly wasn’t in one of the main stadiums in front of a huge crowd. There were about 50 people there, mostly family and friends around the side of the pitch, so it’s definitely changed times. It’s amazing to see.’
Lappin (right) scored 231 goals for City in 259 appearances, while also winning 11 caps for Scotland and enjoying short spells at Liverpool and Chelsea when the English Women’s Super League was in its infancy.
She walked away from the game while still in her prime with an emotional send-off following a 12-0 win over Inverness in 2015. ‘I retired at 28 and, in hindsight, that was far, far too young,’ she admits. ‘But I was living in Glasgow, working in Dumbarton, training in Airdrie, Glasgow Green, here there and everywhere, playing games... you are meeting yourself coming back, almost. ‘That was just the norm. I didn’t look at it at the time and think: “This is crazy”. ‘But when I turn up to commentate for games, particularly evening games, I have a wry smile to myself. ‘The majority of those players have been sitting resting, chilling out, listening to music, whereas we were literally running in the door, trying to get ready in time and throwing food down our throats that we had made in the morning and brought in a plastic tub.
‘I was working as an accountant. You’re taking annual leave to go and represent your country, taking annual leave to go and play in the Champions League.
‘You are training in the morning and at night and it’s hard enough to sustain one career. Accountancy is my living, I was saving for a flat and building a life, whereas football is what I love and where my passion is, where I’m most talented, but it wasn’t giving me the same opportunities.
‘I see my friend Leanne Ross now, who is Glasgow City manager.
She is experiencing it (the boom in women’s football) from the management side at least, but she was that player not so long ago as well.
‘Any former player would be lying if they said they didn’t wish they had those opportunities when they were playing, but ultimately we’ve been pioneers in helping the game get to where it is, the same as the players before us. We were just as talented and worked just as hard, we were just a few years too late.
‘None of us former players would change where things are now because this has always been the dream. It’s just other people are living our dream.’
Now 36, Lappin is actually a year younger than Jo Love, who could take the field for City at Ibrox this weekend.
Lappin admits she has been contemplating a comeback in recent years, either as a player or coach.
‘I am one of those people that is 100-per-cent into something,’ she says. ‘That’s why I gave up at 28... I could have continued with a team that didn’t demand me to train five days a week because Glasgow City were one of the few clubs demanding that of you at the time.
‘So I could have gone to a team who train twice a week and made it a bit easier but I’m an all or nothing type of person. Over the last three or four years I’ve contemplated whether I should go back, give it another go and experience playing with things as they are now.
‘Coaching is definitely something that appeals and something I could go back to.’
Lappin admits the large crowds expected on Sunday could be a big factor on who takes home the championship trophy.
She said: ‘Glasgow City is where my heart is, given they have led the way in women’s football for so long, and it’s great to Celtic and Rangers on board now too.
‘Rangers are maybe favourites against City given they are at home and with the backing they are going to have.
‘But I think that game is going to be so tight, I’m leaning towards Celtic coming out on top.
‘You would expect Celtic to win — and win quite comfortably — and anything other than a City victory will result in them being champions. Celtic have beaten Hearts in various encounters and they will go with the mentality to go to the end and score goals.
‘There will be added pressure but, as a player, you thrive on situations like this, playing in front of a big crowd with the title at stake.’ lSuzanne Lappin was speaking ahead of Rangers v Glasgow City, which will be shown live on BBC aLBa from 4pm on Sunday.