I don’t have words to describe how the Celtic family makes us feel: Fran Alonso speaks to ACSOM

In an exclusive interview with ACSOM, Fran Alonso reflected on yesterday’s game and the late drama: “We were 2 minutes away from having something we have never done before. We could almost touch it and they deserved it, the fans and the players, so I was absolutely gutted it was taken away from us. But we have to congratulate Glasgow City. They did something I didn’t expect them to do, which is win away at Ibrox, with 8000 people, but they did it and by doing that they deserve to be champions, and I congratulate them. But in saying that, for me, my team deserved it too, and our fans definitely deserved it.”

While the title race didn’t end the way Celtic wanted it to, it did wonders for women’s football in Scotland. The season as a whole has seen the women’s game grow at an exciting rate, which we all want to see continue. Fran said: “It was an incredible season. It has been very important for the women’s game, there has been a massive change. Firstly, with the SPFL taking charge, and the broadcasting and media rights, then the amazing season that the top three especially have had has made this the most exciting league campaign ever. I also think the spectators have enjoyed it, regardless of what club they support. It has been life-changing.”

 Over 23,000 people attended the two ties on Sunday, with an estimated 100,000 watching on television or streaming services. No one can be in any doubt of the rise in the women’s game in Scotland. Fran recognised the benefits of this growth, and the way the league unfolded saying:  “For the league to be decided on the last day in two of the biggest stadiums in Scotland, with a combined 23k people watching both games is incredible. So it is very positive for the league and very exciting, and I think that out will help attract better players to the league.”

In terms of fan support, Celtic are leading the way, breaking the record they set only last week. Fran is proud of this, saying:  “It has been 2 weeks and 2 records. Firstly, with over 9,000 against Glasgow City, and then yesterday with 15,822. It is incredible. I put a video on social media this morning, when I saw that video I was emotional, I got goosebumps. I don’t have words to describe how proud the Celtic family make us feel.”

 The Celtic End was again packed, with a vocal and unwavering support, with the Green Brigade, Bhoys and North Curve again turning up in their numbers to back the Ghirls. To see scenes like this at a women’s match in Scotland was a moving experience, the magnitude of which will last longer than the pain of the end result. Fran used this to help the team this morning following the disappointment, saying “This morning I posted in our group chat [with the Celtic squad] a couple of pictures of the fans and the flags and the incredible visual effects at the beginning of the game, and I sent a picture of the attendance on the big screen and I told them how proud I am of them. I told them they have changed the Scottish women’s game. I give credit to all three teams but I give more to Celtic and the Celtic fans because of the two record attendances at those two epic games.”

 Anyone who saw the celebrations against Glasgow City (and throughout the season) can be left in no doubt of Fran’s passion for Celtic, and the Celtic fans. He truly gets the Club, is aligned with its values, and shares the determination to succeed. The support the fans show in return is incredibly appreciated, with Fran opening up on just how much it means to him: “I came here on my own, I live alone, I have my parents in Spain, but I feel I have a family here in the Celtic support. I feel supported and loved, it is incredible the way the Celtic fans have welcomed me. So I am still proud of what happened yesterday, I can’t describe it.”

With the fans leading the way off the pitch, the Club need to ensure that we are also leading the way on the pitch, by ensuring that Fran can retain his best players, and attract the highest possible quality of recruits. While it’s fantastic to have secured Caitlin Hayes on a long-term deal, given the short-term nature of most women’s contracts, there are fans’ favourites, such as Jacynta and Chance, who are out of contract at the end of the season, while other loanees, such as Tasha Flint, would require a bumper contract to stay on.

The fans want to see the top players stay on, as does Fran: “It is for me to talk to the Board and tell them how I think they could support the team further, which I think is needed. We have developed so many players that have come from other clubs, we have brought them in and developed them to a stage they are recognised in Europe [for their national sides]. It is important we keep them”.

Given the budget this season, you could argue that Celtic have over-achieved by finishing in second place. Rangers have a budget double that of the Celtic set-up, while Glasgow City’s is even higher. Given equal backing, it would be an exciting prospect to see what Fran and his side could achieve.

Fran recognised the fine margins and is already looking towards how we can make sure these operate in Celtic’s favour next season: “In the last three years, we have had the chance of winning the league in the last game twice and both times we have lost in the same manner with Glasgow City beating Rangers in the last league game. So we know we are not far away. Last year we were in terms of the league, but we won both cups, so I label the season as a success. But this year has been the closest. For 70 minutes or so on Sunday, we were top of the league and a last-minute goal denied us the title.  So next year we need to be better, find these fine margins. But I give credit to the girls, they have been fantastic, I am so proud of them and give them a 10/10.”

There is no time to dwell on the loss of the league title, with the Ghirls having a cup final at Hampden to look forward to on 28 May. Fran said: “Tomorrow (Tuesday) we are off too, but when we come back, we will be back to business. The best teams are not teams that never fail but teams that react and get back up and keep moving forward. And that is exactly what we have done in the past and will do this week we will try our very best to give our fans something to cheer because they deserve it more than anyone”.

Summarising the season, Fran said: “If we won yesterday it would be the perfect season, one we would never forget. We will still never forget this season, it has been an incredible journey. But today we all hurt. It is normal. We were so close. We were two minutes away from our dream and we felt we deserved it. But the girls will realise what they achieved. First, Champions League, which is not a small thing, last year we missed that and it hurt. So we will be back in the Champions League, where we should be every season. Secondly, we have a cup final. No matter what happens in the cup final, they have a manager who is extremely proud of them.”

Everyone here at ACSOM is equally proud of the team, and Fran Alonso, and are proud to have been patrons this season. We look forward to continuing our support both in the weekend’s cup final, and next season.  It will be vitally important that the Club continues to back Fran and the team, and ensures that the pain of this year is not experienced again. Everyone knows that the standards at Celtic are high, and this should be replicated across all areas of the Club – the women’s team at Celtic can, and should, be the dominant force in Scottish women’s football.  The support has turned out in their numbers and it’s imperative that the current enthusiasm and support is rewarded and built upon, and success realised as the women’s game in Scotland continues to grow and thrive.

Natasha Meikle

  1. Great article Fran gets the club big time him and ghirls have had a good season now let’s top it off and bring the Scottish Cup home

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