Scotland camp has been an eye-opener for Rachael

She is the pride of the Western Isles but Rachael Johnstone has revealed she almost didn’t answer the call that gave her her first call-up to the Scotland senior women’s squad.

By Alex O' Henley
Thursday, 24th February 2022, 5:22 pm
Rachael in action at the Scotland camp with Abi Harrison
Rachael in action at the Scotland camp with Abi Harrison

Speaking from Scotland’s base at the La Finca golf resort in Murcia where Scotland were based for the Pinatar Cup, the 17-year-old from Balallan told me she was out shopping with her mother Rhona when the call came from Scotland coach, Pedro Martínez Losa.

“Pedro phoned me and I initially wasn’t going to pick up because it was an unrecognised number," she said.

"I’m glad that I did! He just told me that he’d been looking to bring me in for a while, that he didn’t want to rush it but that now was the right time.

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"I was obviously delighted. When I told my Mum what the call was about, she burst into tears and gave me a big hug in the middle of Costco.’’

It’s the culmination of a remarkable rise for the young goalkeeper who won her first national cup medal last December when Celtic beat Glasgow City in the Scottish Women’s League Cup Final.

At the time I said that achievement would put her on the radar of the national manager especially as the current Scotland Number One, Lee Alexander had earmarked Rachael as ‘one for the future.’

An unfortunate injury for her club mate and glove rival, Chloe Logan handed Rachael the opportunity to be part of the squad and now she finds herself training with her role model while rubbing shoulders with the likes of Caroline Weir who scored one of her trademark specials to win the Manchester derby just before the international break.

“I’ve taken stuff from all of the goalkeepers and our coach, Damien Lopez,” said Rachael.

“I was nervous coming into the sessions but they’ve made me feel at home. Lee’s my role model. I grew up watching her in a World Cup. To be able to share the same training pitch is a big thing for me.”

The ten-day camp has also given Rachael an insight as to what’s required to take the next step in her career citing Arsenal defender Jen Beattie, who has bravely battled back to fitness after breast cancer, as an example of the dedication that’s required to reach the highest level in sport.

“Now I’ve been here, I know what it takes and I really want to push on to make sure I get back in the squad,” she continued “I’ve looked at someone like Jen Beattie – to see the athlete she is and how hard she works is a real eye-opener. It’s like ‘this is what it takes’ to play for someone like Arsenal. I’ve played for Scotland at youth level, but when you get this senior call-up you want to push on for that first cap and the next landmark.”

Her selection has already guaranteed one significant landmark for Rachael as the first woman from the Western Isles to be called up for a national squad, but having had a taste of it she’s already aiming to remain in the national coach’s thoughts while continuing to be an inspiration for the next generation of island girls.

“I am delighted to be the first and I know there will be many more to come. There’s a lot of talented girls on the islands. They just need an opportunity. Seeing me getting this opportunity will hopefully spur a few of them on and show that it can be done. You can dream to be in the Scotland national squad and it can come true.

“I just want to be a sponge and make the most of the resources around me. What I’ve learned from the other players is priceless. I’ll take that back to Celtic and work as hard as I can to stay in Pedro’s thoughts. Even if I’m not in the next squad, I want to at least stay in contention.”