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Inverness Caley Thistle Women manager Karen Mason looking for academy graduates to stake their claim after senior debuts

By Andrew Henderson

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Caley Thistle Women manager Karen Mason says recent matches show that young players will get their opportunities in the Highland capital.

Over the last month or so, a handful of academy players have been given chances to play for the first team.

Sophie Bell and Lois Stewart are now too old to play for the under-18s, so have been given a chance to show what they can do in senior football.

A raft of player unavailability also saw Rose Fraser, Carys Hollands and Kyla McMurdo called into the first-team squad for last Sunday’s match against Ayr United, with all three coming on for their senior debuts.

The club’s under-18s train alongside the Caley Jags first team, so Mason was already fairly well acquainted with most of the breakthrough talents.

Caley Thistle boss Karen Mason has given a handful of players their senior debuts recently. Picture: Donald Cameron/Sportpix
Caley Thistle boss Karen Mason has given a handful of players their senior debuts recently. Picture: Donald Cameron/Sportpix

Still, going up against the top sides in the SWF Championship is a different level, so the Inverness manager says it is up to the players to impress and stake their claim for more regular action with the side next season.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to give them a chance and see what they can do,” Mason reasoned.

“Some of them will take it and adapt well, and others might not be as confidence. Given the opportunity is there for them though, it shows the quality that we now have with the pathway in place.

“Hopefully it inspires more of them to want to push on and get that chance in the first team – and take it when they get it.

“The opportunity is there, it’s up to them to push on. If they want to see themselves as a first team player, they have to take the chance when they get them and force themselves into my plan for next season.”

The big difference ICT’s latest teenagers will find in senior football is the level of physicality.

Against Ayr, a side still pushing for promotion to the SWPL Two, it was very much a case of being thrown in at the deep end.

That was perhaps telling, with the final score 6-2 to Ayr, although Mason believes it is a good test to see how the new group of players adapt.

“That was maybe a bit of an eye-opener for some of the girls,” she admitted.

“The physical side of women’s football isn’t something that they are necessarily used to. I don’t think you can teach a lot of it – sometimes it’s a bit of desire and heart, and determination as well that comes with not having fear.

“Confidence helps, and learning that tempo in training as well. There’s a difference between the under-18s tempo and the first team, so it will probably take a bit more time for them to get used to that and up to speed.

“For me, putting them up against the three best teams in the league gives me an idea of whether they have a future with the first team and whether they are able to step up. That’s the good thing about playing these teams.”

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