Natasha Bruce knows more than most about what it means to play for Aberdeen Women – and the journey it took to get them where they are.
The 28-year-old is one of only three players left – the other two being captain Loren Campbell and Chloe Gover – who played for the team when they were Aberdeen Ladies.
Bruce has donned a Reds’ shirt for more than a decade, first with the reserves and then the first team, having moved to AFC Ladies when they merged with East End Girls.
She’s seen it all throughout her career: suffering back-to-back relegations, becoming part of Aberdeen FC in 2018, winning successive titles and playing at Pittodrie.
And she’s not done yet, as the midfielder still wants to help out any way she can – whether that’s influencing things on the pitch or giving advice to her team-mates off it.
Reflecting on success to guide team through challenging times
“We have a really talented squad, so there’s competition for every position,” Bruce said. “You have to take that opportunity for minutes when the coaches give it to you.
“If that’s starting or coming on from the bench – then I’m happy with that. This league is so competitive and each team is different to play against, so you do get your chance.
“I’ve got a good relationship with all the girls in the team, but I do find with the younger players that I try to help integrate them into the team as much as I can.
“I want to build their knowledge of the team and where we’ve come from. We were relegated, but then bounced back and won the league twice.
“A lot of players have come here after playing at a really high level, so they aren’t used to more challenging times, so it’s just giving them advice from our own experiences.
“We’ve reflected a lot on the last two years and how that success can help us through the tough times. We just have to stick together and buy into what we’re trying to do here.”
Important games coming up for the Dons
Bruce has found game time difficult to come by this season, only making three substitute appearances in SWPL 1 so far, but she reckons she still has plenty to offer.
“On the pitch – from what other people have said – I’m an effective communicator,” Bruce said. “I want to bring some motivation to the team when I’m playing.
“We know we’ve got a quality squad when we’re on the ball, so my strengths would be helping win back possession and then bringing some calmness to the play.
“We’re quite an infectious team – if one person wins back the ball then we all go up the gears, so it’s just trying to work well as part of the team.”
The Dons return to top-flight action this weekend off the back of securing their first win of the season against Glasgow Women at Pittodrie on October 30.
They travel to Motherwell on Sunday, where Bruce says they will be looking to start a winning run ahead of crunch games against Dundee United and Spartans.
“The next few games are going to be massive,” she said. “We’ve had good performances this season, but not got the points, so hopefully that first win can help us kick on.
“We’re confident that if we apply ourselves with our work rate and the quality that we’ve got in the squad, then we can get the nine points in those three games.”