HEARTS, like Rangers, will have a very different look to their squad when the new season gets underway in February. Some 12 players have moved on, with the newly-promoted SWPL1 club due to start naming the replacements soon.

The club's girls' academy and women's manager, Kevin Murphy, concedes that changes were inevitable. These include players training three evenings a week and again on Saturday mornings. The overall vision was presented to the existing squad – and decisions then made by individuals and the club about their futures.

“There is always a degree of flexibility. What we do ask is the players commit as much as possible,” said Murphy, who added the seasonal turnover when he was manager at Hamilton Accies and Rangers was four or five players.

“What I loved at my previous clubs, and still love today, is the level of work and dedication the players put in for very little financial reward. But we want to be the best we can be and to do that you have to train more.”

Having also worked at Manchester City, where he was technical director, before joining Hearts, Murphy is qualified to have a view on Rangers, and almost certainly Celtic, embracing full-time football next season. The Ibrox club have re-emphasised their commitment by advertising a number of permanent full-time support staff positions for the women's team.

“I'm surprised they've gone to the extent they have,” Murphy admitted. “It's a hard thing to do, going from amateur to professional in one fell swoop. But it's something that should be applauded. I do think there are probably only a couple of clubs in Scotland that could sustain it.”

Hearts are expected go into the new season with tweaks to their coaching set-up as well as a substantially new squad. But Murphy says targets have deliberately not been set.

“I'm under no illusions it's going to be difficult in the top league because as well as Glasgow City you've got Rangers and Celtic going professional,” he said. “Hibs will still be strong, and you've got established sides like Spartans.

“I think this year is going to be even more difficult than usual. However, I would rather that then still be in SWPL2.”

THE year 2019 was a momentous one for the sport, bringing as it did a first World Cup for the Scotland women's team and a first of any kind for the nation since 1998. It would also have been a ground-breaking year had the side succeeded, as they certainly should have, in becoming the first from this country to qualify for the knock-out stages of a major tournament.

Big scorelines against Cyprus and Albania have got the Euro campaign off to a positive start and reaching a third successive championship is the realistic aim for the national side in 2020. The key Group E games are against Portugal (April 14, September 18) and Finland (June 9, September 22).

There is also much to look forward to for domestic football. The SWPL1 title race will take on a new dimension with Rangers and Celtic putting players on full professional terms.

In the second tier Aberdeen will be hoping to make the reverse bounce and return to the top flight in just two seasons – but that, too, is going to be a very competitive environment.

Finally there is the hugely divisive issue of a GB women's team at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer. In the spirit of this being a time of goodwill, the less said (for now) about the Football Association's vanity project the better.