A Scottish footballer has just begun a fourth successive campaign in Italy’s Serie A and is competing in this season’s Champions League. The same player has already been top scorer in the Italian top flight. But despite her story being the stuff of dreams, Lana Clelland’s achievements are not widely known in her home country.
Now aged 25, Lana moved to Italy in 2014, signing for southern club Bari. She had played for Rangers and Spartans in Scotland, but when alerted to Bari’s interest, the opportunity was too good to turn down, as she explained to TGU’s Martin Dunlop.
“I was intrigued by the idea of it,” she said. “I’d never heard anything about women’s football in Italy but I was at a place in my career where I needed to be playing games, so I took the jump. At first it was only supposed to be a five-month move for an experience but I enjoyed it that much I had to stay!”
Recalling her first memories of training on the Peninsula, Lana described the heat of winter in the mezzogiorno. “It was late December and I was running around in shorts and t-shirt while the girls were wrapped up in jackets as it was winter!” she said. “On the football front, the first thing I realised was how technically great all the girls were with a ball at their feet.”
A new style of football and warm winter training sessions weren’t all that the stiker had to get used to. To ensure she was performing at the highest level on the park, she learnt Italian to communicate with her new teammates. “It was hard at first,” she recalled. “I never knew a word of Italian and no one spoke English, but the people were so nice and helpful at every opportunity so they got me through until I started to understand and speak the language.”
Lana now speaks Italian fluently and has enjoyed great success on the pitch, too. Five months after signing for Bari, the Scotland international striker moved to UPC Tavagnacco, a Serie A club from the Province of Udine in the northeast of Italy. In her second season with the club, she was top scorer in the league.
Remarkably, in a story that wouldn’t be out of place in a Roy of the Rovers comic book strip, she scored a hat-trick in each of the final three league matches of the season to end the campaign with 23 goals in 22 matches.
Despite spending a large chunk of last season injured, Lana’s form prompted summer interest from Fiorentina and a deal was agreed.
Lana receiving her top-scorer award whilst playing for UPC Tavagnacco
“I had been waiting for the right moment to move and I was delighted when they [Fiorentina] came back in for me at the end of the season,” Lana said. “I knew in my head there was only one team I was going to!”
The move to the Viola means the player will test herself against the finest opponenets in the world in this season’s women’s Champions League, which she described as “a dream come true.” She added: “Playing in the Champions League is something I’ve always wanted to do, so it’s amazing to finally get the chance.”
Fiorentina hold a 2-0 lead going in to the second leg of their round of 32 tie against Fortuna Hjørring of Denmark, so hopes are high for a place in the last 16 of European football’s premier tournament. Lana and her teammates also got their Serie A campaign off to a flying start with a 6-1 win at home to Mozzanica last Friday. The striker also bagged her first goal of the campaign, rounding off the victory in style with a right-footed shot smashed high into the roof of the net.
Of course, Lana isn’t the first Scottish woman to make a big impression in Italian football. Four decades have passed since Rose Reilly first arrived in Italy to begin an incredible, trophy-laden career that reached its zenith when the Ayrshire woman lifted the World Cup with her adopted nation.
“When I heard about Rose’s story I was amazed!” Lana said. “Honestly I didn’t know anything about her until I went to Bari. The journalist there who interviewed me, his father had interviewed Rose Reilly and there’s a photo of them. He was the baby in his dad’s arms while he was speaking to Rose. From there I wanted to know more, as it’s not often a Scottish person goes to play in Italy. Ever since then, comparisons have been made as there’s only been four foreigners who have won the Golden Boot – two Danes and two Scots – and I’m one of them, so I’m absolutely proud.”
Rose’s story is one I feel everyone should know – I feel proud to be following in her footsteps.
Unlike Rose, who became an adopted Italian citizen to compete at international level, Lana will have the chance to represent the country of her birth at the World Cup. In a thrilling conclusion to their qualifying campaign, Scotland beat Albania 2-1 in their final group match to secure a place at France 2019 – the first time the Scotland women’s team has qualified for the showpiece event.
Lana said the opportunity of representing Scotland at the World Cup next summer means the world to her. “It’s a dream come true,” she said. “The hard work put in over the last year has shown in these performances and we just can’t wait to get to France and hopefully inspire the nation!”
Before next summer, however, there’s work to be done in Florence, and Lana can’t wait to get going again in Serie A and Europe. “I’m hoping for success this season,” she said. “I hope this group can take the club back to challenge for the league. I also hope we can go far in the Champions League.”
The forward believes her game has improved immeasurably since moving to Italy, and has urged more Scottish players to make the move to the Peninsula. “I would say you would become a better all-round player and person, adding aspects to your game that you might not get in Scotland, but also there’s the experience of living another culture and getting to know amazing people from around the world,” she said. “It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I love the people, the food and the lifestyle in general is very relaxed.”
The past few years have been a whirlwind for Lana Clelland, and she’s not ready for it to stop any time soon.
Words by Martin Dunlop
Grazie to Lana for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to The Gentleman Ultra and in bocca al lupo for the rest of the season! You can follow her on Twitter here.