Micky McAlonie big interview: Joining Hibs, her route into football, playing for Hearts and Spartans, and the rise of the women's game
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Now fully fit and holding down a starting role in Dean Gibson’s side, McAlonie played the full 90 minutes as the Capital club recorded a hard-fought 1-0 win against Partick Thistle at Easter Road on Wednesday night.
"It’s a completely different mindset,” she says, when asked about playing in a big stadium. “We try to treat every game the same but when you’re playing at Easter Road and bigger stadiums it always feels like a cup final, and it gives you a wee bit more nerves than usual.
"We try to treat every game the same way but it is very, very hard because we play for Hibs and you’re playing at Easter Road so it’s more of a challenge, and you’ve got a lot more on your shoulders. But I think we dealt with it really well.”
Women’s game getting ‘bigger and better’
McAlonie was a stand-out in midfield for Dean Gibson’s side against a well-organised Jags team. Having already played at Tynecastle and Easter Road, and with Celtic Park on the list today, the 19-year-old is excited by the direction the women’s game is taking.
"It’s only getting bigger and better,” she continues. “We’re playing in bigger stadiums, we’re getting more opportunities to do so, and it’s incredible.
"It’s getting more professional and we’re all very excited and grateful for that. We’re focused and so excited for today’s game.”
Bigger pitches and stadiums can take a toll, of course, as McAlonie explains.
"It’s challenging when you’re so used to playing on astro for weeks and then going straight onto the grass. We don’t have the opportunity to train at Easter Road to get used to it, so we’re training on astro and then playing on grass.
"Sometimes it can be a bit harder on the legs because they’re not used to it and they feel heavier but we’re getting there. We know what’s expected and how to deal with it, and I think we prepare really well.”
Settling into Hibs
McAlonie has been at Hibs for around eight months, joining last summer after three years with Spartans, but hasn’t played as much as she would have liked due to that injury.
"It was a rough start to the season getting injured so early on – it wasn’t an easy one to take but I feel I’ve bounced back, thanks to the staff at Hibs because I couldn’t have done it without them. But I feel like I’ve settled in really well and not only improved as a player but as a person as well.
"For example, I was scoring two goals a season at Spartans, now I’m scoring every so often and my attacking play is improving… I’m learning something new every day, on and off the pitch. My knowledge of the game is only getting better so I’m really enjoying it.
"All the girls and staff at Hibs are amazing. It’s just a much more professional environment – the tempo and the intensity at training. The standards are very high because you’re playing with women who represent Scotland so you’re learning from the best.”
Hutchie, Hearts, Spartans, Hibs
McAlonie’s route into the game was somewhat different to others, the midfielder not really starting to play football properly until the end of primary school.
"I was always quite a sporty person and wanted to join in activities at school but I didn’t start playing football until I was in about primary six, or seven and it was just at lunchtime playing on the astroturf with the boys,” she recalls.
“We started a school team that was mixed boys and girls and I went along to that and everything happened from there – Hutchie Girls came along so I went to Hutchie, was doing well there and I think I was 14 or 15 when Hearts Women took me up and that’s when I started playing in the SWPL2.
"I think I was the youngest one to start playing there, alongside girls in their mid-twenties. It was tough, but I feel like it’s really benefited me in the long run – I’m still quite young but I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience in the league because I’ve played there since I was young.
"From then I went to Spartans – I felt I needed to, because I was playing for Scotland Under-19s and I wanted to be in a more professional league, because Hearts weren’t in the top flight then. So I wanted to move up to the top league and Spartans was my best bet and a really good decision to go there.”
McAlonie spent three seasons at Ainslie Park and came on leaps and bounds as a player, but felt she had to move on for her own career last summer.
"I’m very grateful to Spartans for everything, but I just felt it was time to move on. They’re a really good team to play with and they are very aggressive and have experienced players and coaches but I just felt like I’d hit that spot where I wasn’t getting any better staying at the same level.
"I felt like I needed to take on a challenge.”
Capped by Scotland at Under-17 and Under-19 level, and having seen Hibs team-mates Rachael Boyle, Leah Eddie, and Amy Muir called into the senior set-up, McAlonie has designs on getting there herself.
"The girls from Hibs who have been in the squad have done really to get in but that has to be my aim as well.
"It’s obviously been a hard year for me getting injured for the first time, but my goal was to bounce back, keep doing what I’m doing, work hard, improve, and hopefully I get pulled into a camp and catch the eye.”