THERE was another first for women's football in Scotland on Tuesday when Rangers announced the signings of Glasgow City's Sam Kerr and Kirsty Howat on pre-contract agreements.

The midfielder and striker are set to join their new club in December, just two months into a revamped 2020-21 winter season. Although it has yet to be formally ratified, the Scottish Building Society SWPL clubs, and those in the Championship, have now agreed it will start in October – which means all earlier games this year have been voided.

These unprecedented events mean that Rangers' failure to land Kerr and Howat last winter has made remarkably little material difference. At the time they also unsuccessfully tried to sign Rachel McLauchlan, but did get their fourth target – Scotland left back Nicola Docherty, who joined after an undisclosed transfer fee was agreed by the clubs.

Kerr – who went on to win her first first full Scotland cap in March – and McLauchlan accepted the situation, but Howat didn't. An impasse which wasn't in the best interests of a very good young player or her club has now, thankfully, been resolved.

Last year's top SWPL1 scorer is now back with City for the first time since the signing wrangle. She, and her team-mates, were able to restart training eight days ago thanks to the extraordinary generosity of James Anderson.

The Edinburgh philanthropist is paying for all the club's training protocol costs, as well as funding chartered flights to Spain to ensure next month's Champions League quarter final against Wolfsburg goes ahead.

City head coach Scott Booth says Howat and Kerr will be treated the same as every other player, regardless of the fact their moves to Rangers will now materialise.

“Pre-contract signings are not something the women's game in Scotland has seen before,” he confirmed. “So it's new in that sense, but it's not new to me and is a recognised part of football.

“It might look a bit awkward for people looking in from the outside, but my job is to coach the players at the club – and while they are in our environment I'll coach them to the best of my ability.

“I really enjoy trying to make players better and I'm not interested in harbouring a grudge, so it's quite easy in that respect.

“What is really important is that players who are training with Glasgow City are totally committed to this club. I am, so they have to be as well.

“It's of no interest to me who they are entitled to join at the end of their contracts – all I need to know is that at training and in games they're 100 per cent committed – and I mean 100 per cent.”


TRAINING, admits Booth, has been a surreal experience. It will move up to a different level in the next couple days when testing begins.

The club's players from outwith Scotland are returning and there will also be new faces. American full back Zaneta Wyne arrived from Norwegian club Klepp yesterday (sat) and further signings are imminent.

Wyne is a 29-year-old full back or midfielder who has played in several countries, including England, where Sunderland supporters speak highly of her performances. City also parted company with central defender Eilish McSorley during the week.

“It doesn't feel like real training,” Booth said of the first eight days back. “I'm masked up and have to be a long way from the five groups of three. They and their equipment can't come in contact with any other group.

“All the equipment we use has been sprayed down. I go into our lock-up, take it all out, and lay it out. Then the players come in. They can't touch anything.

“At the end somebody else collects it and then the equipment is sprayed down down again before being put back in the lock-up.

“I'm hoping we'll be back in full contact in the next few days. The club has put in a hell of a lot of work ensuring the guidelines and protocols have been met – it's a whole new experience.

“There's a weirdness about everything which is quite spectacular, but James Anderson's amazing help has ensured we can do this the right way. He's a remarkable man. I've never known anything like this in all my days in football.

“It's a life-saver for us in being able to fulfil what we want to do in the Champions League. Now we want to do the country proud and make a real fist of this in Spain.”