Leading the Line Meets: Boroughmuir Thistle Head Coach Suzy Shepherd

Suzy Shepherd has fitted a lot into her career. Having played in Scotland for some of the country’s biggest sides she enjoyed spells in the USA and Iceland, representing her country along the way, before going on to a coaching career within the national set up and domestically.

Editor Chris Marshall (@MFPTasty) caught up with the current Head Coach at SWPL2 side Boroughmuir Thistle to reflect upon her jaunty to date and her role at the Edinburgh side.

(Chris Marshall) CM: Suzy thank you very much for joining us here on Leading the Line. Before we get into the football it would be remiss of us not to reference these unique times we are currently living through, how has life in lockdown been for you?

(Suzy Shepherd) SS: Life in lockdown for me has so far been extremely busy. As a self-employed personal trainer outside of football I was busy during the first week transferring all my clients and fitness classes onto online or live video. I have now got all my 1-2-1s and classes up and running. 

CM: We of course wish you all the best in keeping that going. Before we get on to your current role at Boroughmuir, I wanted to take you back to your playing career. As well as featuring for some of Scotland’s biggest sides (including the likes of Celtic and Hibernian) you also had the opportunity to play abroad, what were those experiences like?

SS: I was so lucky to be given these opportunities. In the off season from Scottish football in 2000 & 2001 I played for New Jersey Wildcats in the W-League in the US and in 2005 I played for IBV Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland. I met so many amazing people and played against some of the best players in the world. Going from training twice a week to full time training and playing two games per week most weeks was amazing and something I really enjoyed.

CM: Club success also brought you international recognition. How did it feel to have the honour of representing your country?

SS: As a latecomer to the game and having not signed or trained with a team until I was 19 I never thought for one minute I would ever get capped for Scotland. I got my first cap at the age of 26 against Wales at Almondvale (home of Livingston FC) and it’s a day I am very proud of and will always remember.

CM: I can only imagine how awesome that would be! Since then Scotland have qualified for a European Championships and a World Cup, as a former player do you feel any increased level of pride by those achievements?

SS: As a former player I am so happy to see Scotland now make major tournaments, with the amount of work players and staff have put in over the years it’s very well deserved.

CM: After you retired you moved into coaching, taking up the Head Coach role at Spartans, was that something you thought you would always do?

SS: To be honest I was never interested in coaching I just loved playing and always thought when I stopped that would be me. That all changed when I got injured and was told by a surgeon I would never play again. Fortunately I did eventually get back playing but it made me realise how much I would miss football and so I decided to start doing my coaching badges.

CM: Those badges led you to a role as an assistant to Pauline Hamill at U19 level with Scotland, how did it feel being back in the international fold and do you think your experiences as a player helped in that role?

SS: I really enjoyed my time working with the U19s and feel I learned a lot along the way. I think my experience of being a player helped as you know what standards are expected and what it means to the players who are there.

CM:You’re currently in charge at Boroughmuir Thistle, how did that move come about?

SS: I had stepped down as Spartans Head Coach and was planning to have a wee break from the game when I got a call from Boroughmuir Thistle’s chairman Gavin asking for a chat. I was quite curious to see what he wanted so I went along where he asked me to come in and be head coach of the first team. I was impressed with the club’s pathway system and how ambitious they are and so decided to take on the challenge of getting them promoted into SWPL2. 

CM: Boroughmuir are the largest girls and women’s football club in Scotland, do you think that acts as a unique selling point to young players and does it feel different than if you were affiliated to a mens side?

SS: I think it’s unique and seeing the amount of youth players we have, the environment we create, and the development of players is an attraction for any young player.

CM: At the start of 2020 you received a late promotion call to SWPL2 as a result of Hutchison Vale’s withdrawal, how quickly did you have to move when you knew the move was happening?

SS: After finding out late about our promotion we had three weeks to prepare. We had already been back in training for a few weeks and the players had looked after themselves in the break so fitness levels weren’t a concern. There were a few changes we had to put in place to meet the criteria of SWPL2, so it was all go leading into the first game.

CM: Getting back to the here and now. We are currently working in uncertain times with the league season just one week old, how has it been managing the squad during this time?

SS: With no football we have been trying to keep all the players and coaches active and interacting with each other, so we have been doing things like yoga, fitness classes and team building activities on a weekly basis.

CM: There is bound to be some debate around what happens next. What would you like to see happen once everyone’s health and safety has been secured?

SS: Once everyone’s health and safety has been secured and we are out of lockdown we just want to get back on the pitch as a squad and get a ball at our feet.

Hopefully once football is back we are still going to have some sort of season/mini-season. It’s hard to say as you just don’t know what’s going to happen but if things were normal our aim for this season remains purely to still be playing SWPL2 football next season.

Remember you can follow Leading the Line on Twitter, @LeadingtheLine. Here there will be live insight from the games, comments on the breaking stories from the world of women’s football news as well as early sight of what will be coming via the podcast (available on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud and all good podcast outlets) and on the website. It’s right good!

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