It’s been an unforgettable 12 months for Scotland Women’s World Cup star Kirsty Smith.
Not only did the 25-year-old make history by earning her place in the first Scottish squad to reach a major finals this summer, the former Hibs Ladies defender had just brought down the curtain on a title-winning FA Women’s Championship campaign with Manchester United.
Her first year as a professional footballer with Casey Stoney’s side couldn’t have prepared Smith any better for group matches against England, Japan and Argentina.
And although the football festival in France didn’t reap the rewards Shelley Kerr’s squad had hoped for, the Scots just falling short in their quest to reach the knockout stages following narrow defeats by England and Japan and a 3-3 draw with Argentina, Smith, from Dalkeith, is eternally grateful for the opportunities that she admits have changed her life.
“Qualifying for the World Cup and to get there was unbelievable,” said Smith, who has just returned from a pre-season trip to Norway with United. “It’s the highlight of any player’s career. The experience was great, although it wasn’t the results we were looking for. But, at the same time, it was our first time there so it’s something to build on. I think we can take a lot of positives.
“The support we had both at home and in France was incredible. It was a great feeling. All the places we visited were really nice to experience as a team because we don’t get too much time together. I think this will do a lot for Scottish women’s football.
“My biggest dream was to turn professional. I also set myself a goal last year of going to the World Cup with Scotland so in the space of a year it’s just been unreal how much has happened. I miss my family and friends but Manchester is a really nice place to live. With the support we get from the club it’s made it a lot easier.”
Smith and her United team-mates are preparing for a baptism of fire when their maiden Women’s Super League season gets underway next month against none other than neighbours Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. And, with fixtures to follow against big clubs in the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, Smith can’t wait to get the new campaign up and running.
“Obviously, we’re a new team coming into the league so it will be a big challenge for us this year,” she said. “But we want to be in and around the top. The first game is going to be a big one so we want to have a good pre-season. Norway was a great experience and we came up against two really good teams (Valerenga and Sandefjord). It’s great to have both Manchester clubs in the top flight so there will be a lot of interest around that one.”
As for former club Hibs where she made 176 appearances in a green-and-white jersey, Smith is now very much a fan. “I still speak to some of the girls and I try to watch the games when I can. I’ve watched their Champions League matches this past week so it’s good to see them doing well.”