Two of the Scotland Women’s squad that made history by qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup say that Scottish Government funding will make all the difference to the team, as they prepare to travel to France for their inaugural appearance on the game’s biggest stage.

Leanne Crichton and Jenna Fife were part of head coach Shelley Kerr’s 23-strong squad for the crucial qualifying victory over Albania earlier this month, with that result securing the team’s passage to France next summer.

First Minister and SWNT patron Nicola Sturgeon announced the £80,000 bursary at Hampden Park, which will allow the squad’s non-professional players to train full-time in preparation for the tournament as of January 2019.

“It’s fantastic for the team,” said Crichton.

“We can’t thank the Scottish Government enough for all their support. The support they gave us in the lead-up to UEFA Euro 2017 certainly helped us in our preparations, and a lot of the girls benefitted from that.

“It’s not easy at times to balance work and football, and the support will certainly help us out once again.”

Having made her international debut back in 2006, Crichton is one of the more experienced heads in Kerr’s squad. The Glasgow City midfielder – who owns and runs her own personal training business alongside her footballing commitments – is confident that the funding boost announced at Hampden can only benefit the national side.

“It puts everybody on a level pegging,” she said.

“It’s obviously difficult to balance your day job and football, so it’s fantastic for the home-based players to train and play at the highest level without having to worry about any other factors going on.

“I sometimes have to pinch myself to think that, 12 years on, I’m still fortunate enough to be playing at the highest level. It’s so good to be a part of it, and we’re finally reaping the rewards of the work put in at the grassroots level over the past decade.”

At the other end of the experience spectrum lies Fife, who made her Scotland debut back in January in a friendly against Norway. Having first been called into a senior national squad following UEFA Euro 2017, the Hibernian goalkeeper is determined that qualifying for major tournaments will continue to be a feature for the SWNT. 

“Qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup is a massive thing for us as a squad, and we want to be qualifying for major tournaments every two years now,” said Fife.

“We definitely want that to be the norm from now on.”

Fife, like Crichton, is in line to be one of the players to benefit from the Scottish Government bursary as she stakes her claim to be a part of Kerr’s squad for France 2019. She also paid tribute to the support the team has received, and – like all associated with the SWNT – her excitement is already building ahead of the team’s first-ever World Cup campaign.

“It still hasn’t all sunk in really – I’m still on cloud nine about it,” she said.

“The excitement’s always building. Come the start of next year we’re really going to be looking ahead to the World Cup, training as hard as we can to be in the best shape possible.

“It’s a fantastic achievement to qualify for the World Cup, and I think this funding is going to be instrumental for us.”