Let's raise our game - and help players like Hearts' Holly Aitchison go for gold - Hayley Matthews

Women’s football is a hot topic with the recent success of the Lionesses. But, if you rewind back to 1998 (which is really not that long ago), a young Ellen White spoke out about her ban from playing in a boy’s football league - sad times indeed.

By Hayley Matthews
Saturday, 6th August 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Saturday, 6th August 2022, 11:46 am

Thankfully, this didn't deter her and fast forward 24 years and boom - she has 113 England caps, the record for most goals scored and a European Championship winner’s medal. Imagine how different her life could have been had she listened to the "no girls allowed" chat and ignored her dream of a career in football.

There has been a shift in women’s football since the 1990s but sadly, we still have a very long track to run because women’s football is still not on an equal par to men’s - and here's why.

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Many talented female footballers are not getting opportunities or a full-time contract, mainly due to lack of funding, facilities and support in the women’s field. Many female footballers are doing this full time but don't get paid like their male counterparts are. Sounds familiar doesn't it?

One example of a talented youngster who many would love to see on a paid contract for her talents is Holly Aitchison who plays for the first team at Hearts Women. I've known her mum a long time and have watched numerous proud wonderful Facebook posts and pictures detailing Holly's journey to the amazing young footballer that she is.

But it's not been easy for girls like Holly which shows just how strong the female footballers wills are to defeat the archaic rules and regulations.

We need to do more for players like Holly Aitchison, a midfielder for Hearts Women, writes Hayley Matthews. PIC: Contributed.

Holly, a full-time Royal Mail worker, starts at 6am, goes to training at the Oriam after work (without being paid like the boys do), trains five days- a-week and also plays on Sundays. She deserves so much credit for such commitment at such a young age.

Holly’s highlights include playing in the Edinburgh Primary Schools Association cup final for her school team, when she helped them secure the cup after scoring twice. Then, she was offered a place at the Hearts Girls’ Academy.

With the encouragement and forward thinking of Andy Kirk, a former Jam Tarts striker and currently Hearts Women’s First Team Manager and Girls' Academy Manager, the team is a being lead with a vision for equality in football.

And now with the club recruiting their first female head coach from Spain, who is bringing in better facilities, kit and management, Hearts Women are paving the way for the future.

Young women like Holly show everyone just how determined young women are when it comes to football and we really need to give them equal access, equal paid opportunities and equal respect. Denying them this would only result in robbing them of their dreams.

Clubs like Hearts offer full-time football opportunities to women but it only happens to a few in the team. The ones with no contract need to hold down a full-time job as well as a place at a football club - let's change this. If we want to see more triumphs like the Lionesses recent win, we need more money and opportunities for female footballers - then we'll be bringing it home up here in Scotland!