The Phoenix Fury senior women’s soccer team got a big taste for the professional side of the game earlier this month.
The East Kildonan-based club was in Scotland from July 25 to Aug. 6 to play friendlies against three professional sides — Queen’s Park, Glasgow Celtic, and the Glasgow Rangers. As well, the Fury took in a pair of professional men’s games.
Club head coach and general manager Kenny Brannigan said it’s always been a dream for club organizers, some of whom hail from Scotland, to take the team over. He feels that playing against the country’s two largest clubs will be a major help for the team.
"There’s a higher standard of professionalism (in Scotland)," he said. "I think the girls will go into the games with a wee bit more intensity. In the three games that we played, we got a wee bit more aggressive in our style of play as we realized what the demand was."
Brannigan said the Fury were generally able to stay in the game in the first half, but usually lost a step or two on their opponents in the second half. He tipped his cap to the Scottish organizations, which he feels train the players to be fitter than in North America.
Westwood resident Megan Diamond, a guest player who also plays in the Portage Trail FC program, said the trip was a true eye-opener for the team.
"They play a lot differently than we do here," said the 16-year-old, noting the Scottish sides’ intensity was apparent from the get-go. "It was a really neat experience to go over there."
Charleswood resident Mackenzie Jamieson felt the Fury played fairly well over the course of the team’s three games, but the third and final game against Celtic stood out, as the team got a sense of what they were up against.
"We played up to their level. We played really well," the 17-year-old said. "We learned tons. I think when we start playing games back here again that it will show."
Over the course of the trip, the team was based out of Glasgow, though it took trips to places like St. Andrews, Loch Lomond, and Edinburgh on days off.
Brannigan hopes the trip helps the team, which has a 1-7-1 record in Winnipeg Women’s Soccer League championship division play, get on track in preparation for a second-half surge leading into the playoffs, which start in September.
"The girls are doing OK. We just need to tighten up a little bit," said Brannigan, a River Heights resident. "We’re leaking goals."