Hibernian Women The Story of Hibernian Women's Football Club For around a quarter-of-a-century Hibernian Women have been at the forefront of women’s football in Scotland. Our origins can be traced back to U16 football with Arniston Rangers before entering the senior game in 1997 as Preston Athletic. In 1999 managers Paul and Iain Johnston approached Hibernian Football Club and spoke with the then managing director, Rod Petrie, about moving under the auspices of the Easter Road side. A deal was quickly concluded, and Hibernian Ladies were born. On the field our reputation quickly grew, and we attracted some of the best young players in Midlothian with the likes of Debbie McWhinnie, Julia Ralph, Kirsty McBride and Laura Kennedy joining in our maiden years. Laura Kennedy pictured above, the first Hibernian WFC player to be inducted into the Hibernian Football Club Hall of Fame. At that time in Scotland, Ayrshire enjoyed a stranglehold on the game with Kilmarnock and Ayr United dominating the competitions and consequently, the silverware. That was to change when we defeated Kilmarnock in the 2003 Scottish Cup final at Almondvale Stadium. Our first cup final and first piece of silverware proved to be a watershed moment in women’s football in Scotland. On the back of that success, we were able to tempt Scottish internationalists Stacey Cook, Mandy Burns and Julie Ferguson to move east and they would provide the spine to the successful Hibs teams to come. Twelve months on from our first trophy win and captain Claire Smith was to lift the Scottish Women’s Premier League title to celebrate our meteoric rise to the top of the women’s game. That victory would see us enter European competition for the first time – becoming the third club to represent Scotland. We would win two of the three group stage matches in the U.E.F.A. Women’s Cup (forerunner for the U.E.F.A. Women’s Champions League) before bowing out with our heads held high. Season 2004/05 would see Hibs win their first cup double – defeating Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers in the finals of the SWPL and Scottish Cup finals, respectively. We would win the Scottish Women’s Premier League title the following season with an unbeaten league campaign, dropping only four points all season and setting a club record victory in the Scottish Cup by thumping Shetland 21-0. Season 2006/07 would see the emergence of youngster Kim Little. Little has gone on to become one of Scotland’s greatest ever players and she owes much to her development at Easter Road. She was a key component in a Hibs side that once more went an entire league campaign without defeat – this time winning every match – before adding the Scottish Cup to complete a league and cup double, At the end of the season, bosses Paul and Iain, decided to move on with the former joining Mixu Paatelainen’s coaching staff at Cowdenbeath. We appointed former Heart of Midlothian and Guillianos head coach, Maggie Wilson, as her replacement and she quickly added further silverware for the club by winning the SWPL Cup. Wilson’s reign would be short lived and within months she moved on with club captain, Shelley Kerr, taking over until the end of the season. Although we would only just lose out on the league title, Kerr guided us to winning the Scottish Cup with victory over Celtic in the final at McDiarmid Park in Perth. Yet, despite the on-field success, the club’s finances were in dire straits and the very real possibility of folding was presented in the summer of 2008. Then came agreement to merge Hibernian Ladies and Hibs Girls into the Hibernian Community Foundation and completely restructure the club. Unfortunately, several the club’s top players moved to the then recently formed Celtic Women and Kerr joined Spartans so, rather than replace them with experience, we opted to change our strategy. The emphasis would from then on be to develop and empower promising young players, mostly through our academy, and it would begin the start of a conveyor belt of promising talent to represent us. Those initial seasons following the restructure were often difficult with Jimmy Burns doing his best to guide his young starlets through challenging times as we finished fourth in the Scottish Women’s Premier League for three season’s-in-a-row. The appointment of Willie Kirk as manager signalled a return to better times for the club as we flourished under his stewardship. We defeated Rangers in the Scottish Cup final before thrashing city rivals Spartans in the SWPL Cup final, both at Recreation Park in Alloa. We developed a strong rivalry with Glasgow City over the years and it was around this time that our rivals really began to dominate the Scottish scene. We lost five cup finals to City between 2011 and 2015, whilst finishing runner-up to them in the league on several occasions also. Despite this, Kirk had worked wonders and we were once more challenging for honours at the top of the Scottish game, so it was little surprise when he was approached and moved south to take on a full-time role with Bristol City. His assistant at Hibs – Chris Roberts – took over the reigns and it proved to be a seamless transition as we won several cup competitions as well as finishing runners-up in the league during each season. It was through our league position that we qualified for the 2016 UEFA Women’s Champions League and were drawn against the mighty Bayern Munich in the last 16, drawing a then record attendance for a Scottish game (2,551) to Easter Road. Roberts would enjoy another shot at Europe the following season before joining Kirk at Bristol City. Again, we appointed from within, as assistant coach Kevin Milne was named his successor. Milne’s tenure lasted merely months before he stepped aside for personal reasons, however he did add to our growing trophy haul when we defeated Glasgow City 3-0 in the 2017 Scottish Cup final. We appointed former Hutchison Vale and Heart of Midlothian boss Grant Scott as our new manager in May 2018 and within weeks he delivered yet more silverware when we defeated Celtic 9-0 in the final of the SWPL Cup at Falkirk. Scott would add the Scottish Cup and another SWPL Cup win to our honours list during his 19 months in charge as his young side came within a whisker of a domestic treble and ending Glasgow City’s dominance of the league. Between 2016 and 2019 we won seven consecutive cup competitions before losing out to the odd goal in seven against our old rivals, Glasgow City, in the Scottish Cup at Tynecastle before yet another record crowd (3,123). Our success came at a cost and we lost many of our top players to professional football in England during that short time period. The likes of Kirsty Smith, Lizzie Arnot, Lucy Graham, Emma Brownlie, Abi Harrison, Calin Michie, Hannah Reid, Lisa Robertson, Rachel McLauchlan and Jamie-Lee Napier all moving south to sign professional contracts. The loss of such talent proved too frustrating for Scott and he resigned just days after the end of the 2019 campaign. His replacement was Dean Gibson. A highly successful youth coach within the Hibs academy. Recognising the need for Scottish football to be progressive and close the gap on other European nations, we took our first steps towards being full-time when semi-pro contracts were offered to the squad ahead of the 2020 season. Captain and club legend, Joelle Murray, was the first player to put pen to paper on the historic contract and it was at this time that we rebranded from Hibernian Ladies to Hibernian Women. The global coronavirus pandemic hindered Gibson’s attempts to rebuild our squad and after a trying couple of seasons in Scottish football we are now getting back to our feet. In September 2021 we hosted our first Edinburgh derby at Easter Road Stadium against rivals Heart of Midlothian and defeated them 3-0 before a record-breaking crowd of 5,512.