CELTIC Women, under the management of Fran Alonso, are undefeated in the opening five matches of their Scottish Women’s Premier League 1 season and in fact, yesterday’s 6-0 win against Partick Thistle saw the side’s streak of domestic games in all competitions without a less stretch to twenty.

The Hoops are tied on points at the top of the table as it stands and Scottish women’s football expert Chris Marshall, of website and podcast Leading The Line, assisted The Celtic Way in assessing the players, tactics and collective behaviours such as togetherness and resilience which may help the Ghirls improve on last season’s second-place showing. 

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Celtic Women coasted through their SWPL Cup group stage and performed admirably, if ultimately fruitlessly, in a Champions League qualification mini-tournament before commencing the SWPL1 league season with a 4-2 win away at Aberdeen. This was followed up by a resolute showing against title holders Glasgow City in which Celtic came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw. On the last Sunday of September the side demonstrated their perseverance, and the benefits of their increasing professionalism, as they ground out an injury-time 2-1 victory over Hibs and in mid-week the club’s depth of squad quality was on display as seven starters were rotated out and their replacements helped to deliver a 4-0 rout of Motherwell.

Yesterday’s emphatic triumph against Thistle was notable for captain Kelly Clark’s 200th appearance for the club as well as the first-ever Celtic goals for two newer players, María Ólafsdottir Grós and Shen Mengyu, which again underlines the high quantity of good personnel.

Marshall notes that Celtic have two key players, Lisa Robertson and Sarah Ewens to replace and, despite a relatively tricky opening schedule of fixtures, will feel that they are on target with their results and performances so far. In a season with more eyes on the Scottish women’s league than ever, including regularly televised matches, a weekly highlights show and a record attendance of 5,512 for a club fixture at the Edinburgh derby, here are four Celtic players to watch and the tactics that they help to execute on the pitch. 

Sarah Harkes

Joining Celtic as Sarah Teegarden from Lille in Northern France back in January 2020 allowed the American to play football in the same country as her fiancee, and now husband, Ian Harkes of Dundee United. 

However, in her appearances for the Hoops, the combative midfielder has shown that her relationship with the club is no marriage of convenience. The 26-year-old played almost every minute of Celtic’s first three matches of the SWPL1 season, before missing the fixtures against Motherwell and Partick Thistle due to a slight injury concern, and has shown herself to be something of a Swiss Army knife of a player with a wide range of attributes suitable for a multi-faceted middle third role. 

Harkes is tall and athletic and has the capability of covering passing lanes in different postcodes from each other. She is also mobile which aids her aggressive attempts at closing down opponents and, in addition to this, she has the composure to put her foot on the ball and spread play for teammates advancing into wide areas. Finally, Harkes has the technique and desire to score from distance. 

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These different elements to her game have been on show in each of her league appearances this season so far; from pressing against Aberdeen (as shown above) in the opening match, to a tackle on the edge of her own box in the derby against Glasgow City which led to a vital Celtic goal and her stunning shot from outside the penalty area which opened the scoring in the victory over Hibs.  

In a unique and special moment for their household, if bittersweet for Celtic fans, Harkes’ husband Ian netted for Dundee United against the Bhoys on the same day she scored that goal against Hibs. The hooped half of the partnership’s ability to contribute for the Ghirls in so many different ways should make her an important player to watch throughout this season. 

Charlie Wellings

23-year-old striker Charlie Wellings joined Celtic in July 2021 with a promising pedigree and already has eight SWPL1 goals, including a hat-trick yesterday, after five starts this season. 

The Birmingham City youth product scored for the West Midlands club at Wembley Stadium in their 2017 FA Women’s Cup Final loss to Manchester City, featured for England as they got to the semi-final of the 2018 u20 World Cup in France and scored four times in six appearances for her country at under 21 level. 

She moved to Celtic after a spell at Bristol City and, although not a prolific goal scorer in the English domestic top flight for either of her previous clubs, has a lot of potential as she enters the prime of her playing career. 

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On her arrival at Celtic Park Wellings said; “I’d say I’m very energetic - I love a good high press which Fran (Alonso) has said is a main part of his ambitions here so I think I fit into that quite well, and I like to run in behind as well.”

Wellings demonstrated her ability to be a threat running in behind with immediate effect, scoring just 14 minutes into her league debut against Aberdeen after latching onto a high through ball originating from Celtic’s own half. Her runs into the right-hand channel are likely to be a feature of the Hoops’ play throughout this season but she has scored a variety of goals including an emphatic penalty box strike for her second against the Dons and the injury-time winner versus Hibs which started with Wellings winning the opposition’s goal kick in the air and ended with an incredible shot into the far top corner. 


Although Wellings is primarily expected to lead the press from the front and fill the goalscoring void left by the departure, ironically to Birmingham City, of Ewens she has also contributed creatively. The clip above, from Celtic’s Champions League loss to Levante, shows Wellings dropping deep into her own half to receive a clearance before turning, evading her marker and driving forward before playing a perfectly placed and weighted through ball to fashion a clear opportunity at goal for teammate Ólafsdottir Grós. 

Caitlin Hayes

Commanding centre back Caitlin Hayes followed Fran Alonso, her manager at Lewes FC, to Glasgow in September 2020 but can lay claim to having been a lifelong Celtic fan.


Hayes is clear that Alonso was a big factor in the move, stating; “It's important for me to play for a coach and feel valued and seen as a person before a player, and everything Fran does demonstrates that he sees the person first. That is why he gets the reaction he gets, that wanting to run through a brick wall for him and the belief and trust in what he puts in place."

The well-travelled 26-year-old played in the USA for Mississippi College, then for Barcelona FA in Cyprus before her spell in East Sussex and became Celtic Women’s first-ever goalscorer in a European tie with a free-kick from her own half against Levante.


In Celtic’s three at the back set-up under Alonso the vast majority of progressive passing comes via the right-sided central defender, which has often been Hayes this season. Jodie Bartle, as the left-sided centre back generally, is more limited in her distribution with a tendency to shuffle the ball out to the wingback and a propensity to be dispossessed under pressure. 

Hayes contrasts significantly with this as she has the ability to either play long balls beyond the opposition defence for Wellings or medium range forward passes between the lines for teammates in midfield.   

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This ability to build from the back will be vital for Celtic throughout the season due to an improved level of coaching throughout the league and the implementation of well-drilled mid-block structures such as that displayed by Hibs in Celtic’s narrow, late win. 

Hayes is no slouch in terms of the defensive fundamentals either, with fine ability in the air and good balance in the tackle, but it is noteworthy that Celtic’s first clean sheet of the SWPL1 campaign came last week against Motherwell in a game she didn’t start. One important task for her will be to marshall the defensive line - too high and exposed repeatedly by Levante but too conservative meaning the Hoops couldn’t squeeze the game against Hibs - as goal difference could be a deciding factor between the title challengers. 

Tegan Bowie

Born in 2003, with her 18th birthday only last month, Tegan Bowie is a player Marshall highlighted as; “a young Scottish talent playing week in, week out for one of the top sides” and stated that in Alonso’s wingback dependent system she should always be a starter on the left flank. 

Bowie has played further forward, as a winger at club youth level, and indeed further back, as a full back, for Scotland under 17s but her non-stop engine and long limbs which appear to whir like a machine and propel her skinny frame forward make her well suited to this role in the 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 used by Celtic. 

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Bowie started the first three SWPL1 matches of the season before being rested for the majority of the Motherwell game and has been a vital cog in dynamic chance creation as shown in the sequence against Hibs above. However, the youngster isn’t just energy and dynamism as she has the composure and technique to move infield and play link up passes, even finding Shen with a delicate through ball into the box in the build-up to Liv Chance’s equaliser against Glasgow City. 

Bowie is an exciting prospect for Celtic Women and has a chance to be the break-out homegrown star of Scottish women’s football this season. 

Alonso’s high pressing and attacking 3 at the back system should pose serious problems for the next couple of opponents that the team are due to face. A serious test of their credentials will come in November when the Hoops have fixtures against both local rivals, and fellow title contenders, Rangers and Glasgow City. If these four stars continue to perform as they have then the Ghirls could be in pole position at the midway point of the season.