Pauline MacDonald has named her Scotland Women’s Under-17 squad for a friendly double-header against Wales next month.
The Scots will travel south for two games as they look to shake off a COVID-19-disrupted year and make up for lost time.
They’re building towards the 2021-22 UEFA Women’s Under-17s EURO Round Two, League B Group 2 campaign in March, which will see Scotland take on hosts Albania, Azerbaijan and North Macedonia.
“It’s been a very challenging time”
Back in September, MacDonald’s side were forced to withdraw from the Qualification Round of the UEFA Women’s Under-17s Championships following a number of positive COVID-19 tests within the squad.
They were due to take on host nation Netherlands, Slovenia and Czech Republic until the cruel twist of fate.
Fresh from a productive training camp on Scottish soil, MacDonald and the players alike are determined to bounce back from a reluctant period in cold storage.
She said: “It’s been a very, very challenging time for this group of players after working so hard across the summer months.
“We played two very competitive games against Hearts because we couldn’t get an international challenge match, as a result of travel restrictions.
“We were in camp for two days, had the outbreak and that ruled us out of the qualification phase.
“That was the first UEFA tournament in 18 months, so it was a real blow to the players and staff. To have to explain to them that so much had changed within the space of 12 hours was tough.
“Now we’re really excited by the prospect of being able to play the two games in Wales.
“They’ll represent a real challenge for the players, as the Welsh squad have played seven games – four friendlies and three qualification games – against some top sides.
“It’s a first real test for this group.”
Like so many people in different walks of life, MacDonald missed the simple things when restrictions ruled out football. Not least being out on the training pitch.
She added: “It was the lowest I’ve felt in my four years at the Scottish FA.
“Going into the games that were called off, we’d prepared well, made progress and we wanted to see how the players would compete.
“It was a mentally exhausting period as much as anything else, and I thought it was important to contact the players individually, to stress to them that every negative has to become a positive.
“They made the squad, had that high and then the low. They owed it to themselves to make sure they were in the next squad.
“We had 25 players at the recent training camp and it was a competitive group.
“We lost a few players to the SWPL fixtures and that left us with quite a small group for the first session, but even that had some advantages.
“We got some quality coaching time with those who were left and, personally speaking, I loved being back on the training pitch. To drive and support the players.
“It felt great to be back to some sort of normality.”
Wales v Scotland – Tuesday 8 February, Central Park (6pm).
Wales v Scotland – Friday 11 February, Colliers Park (12pm).
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