Having signed for the Hoops back in 2008, few players understand the Celtic Women’s set-up as well as Chloe Craig. Yet, despite a decade of experience in Glasgow’s green and white, the centre-back stalwart said this season is the one she’s most excited about.
That’s in-part due to the fresh faces Celtic Women brought in recently under new manager Eddie Wolecki Black, such as new players Kirsty McLaughlin, Emma Black and Kodie Hay.
Speaking to the Celtic View, Chloe Craig said: “It’s really good working with Eddie. He’s got a lot of experience, he’s won a lot of trophies, he knows what he’s talking about and he know what we need to do in order to reach our best.”
“He tries to help us both as a team but also individually, by taking us aside and telling us what we’re doing well and what might be better. He’s always positive and he really wants the best for us all.”
At the beginning of the season, Craig sang the praises of her team’s pre-season venture to Berlin, where the Celtic Women’s side played two-time European champions, Turbine Postdam.
“This was our first time abroad as a team, and it really brought us all together,” she explained. “This is the first time we’ve spent time like that living so closely together, with our new players and also working with Eddie and the new management staff.
“It was good to get away with the girls, and it brought us a lot closer and helped us adopt a collective positive attitude – both for what we want as a team, and as individuals.
“The trip to Germany helped team camaraderie, 100 per cent, as it’s something we’ve never really had to do as a group.
“Being away, we got to work on stuff we wouldn’t have been able to work on back home because we don’t have the time together, that 24-hours-a-day with one another. It was good on the pitch, but also off the pitch as we got to know each other much better.”
New players, new management and new ambitions helped raise the profile of the Celtic Women’s set-up, and Craig reckons the side she is part of today is almost unrecognisable from what she joined back in 2008.
Despite some tough competition elsewhere in the league, Celtic’s winning start to the campaign sets them up nicely to push on and, ultimately, challenge for trophies at the business end of the year.
“When I joined Celtic in 2008, there really wasn’t anything there with the women’s team, we didn’t have the same kit at the first-team, for example,” said Craig.
“I came through the Academy and it’s since grown and grown, and you can see that Celtic is putting a lot of effort and time into wanting to be successful. We’re all appreciative of that, and we want to give back.
“There has been a lot of change, and that’s good for women’s football in general, because it helps grow its profile, and hopefully it keeps growing and going in that direction.
“We started the game against Forfar well, we played our way, and we didn’t give Falkirk much time to play their game.
“We were waiting for that game for many weeks, we were waiting for the season to start, and we just to want to show people and prove to ourselves that we’re up for the challenge, we’re at our best, and we’ll be competing for trophies this year. With that, hopefully we can win the league and then get into the Champions League.”
From here, the 26-year-old said the team will take the newfound confidence, compete for silverware and in turn target Champions League football.
Craig added: “This season, we want to work hard, play as best as we can, challenge for top spot in the league, and ultimately, win trophies. And if trophies come, that’ll give us a boost to push on for more.
“If we win the league, that’ll get us into the Champions League and we can test ourselves at the highest level. We know what it takes to get to that level, so we’ve all had a taste of that and are all raring to go.”
ROD’S A HAND-BREAKER
AT centre-half, Chloe Craig is no stranger to picking up knocks. Her most unusual injury, however, came off the pitch when a trip to a Rod Stewart concert led to a fractured finger.
“I was at the Rod Stewart concert with my family, and halfway through the show, he started kicking footballs into the crowd,” explained Craig.
“I spotted a big empty space, and noticed Rod looking over towards it. I thought to myself, right, I’m running over here. Rod booted a ball over, I jumped right up and caught it, but my finger bent right back.
“At the time, I was so surprised I’d caught the ball, I didn’t really notice how much pain I was in. Afterwards, I joked with my family about the fact I thought my finger might be broken, and the next day when I woke up, my finger was fat, blue and purple.
“I went to the hospital and they told me I’d fractured it! It was absolutely worth it, though, I’ve still got the ball here.”