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LONG READ: Could Aberdeen Women’s Jess Broadrick be the eventual replacement for retired Scotland centre-back Jen Beattie?

Could Aberdeen defender Jess Broadrick step into Jen Beattie's shoes for Scotland? Images: Shutterstock.
Could Aberdeen defender Jess Broadrick step into Jen Beattie's shoes for Scotland? Images: Shutterstock.

“She’s certainly one to watch” was how former Scotland international Emma Black described Aberdeen Women defender Jess Broadrick.

Black, who won 42 caps for Scotland between 2009 and 2014, was commentating on the Dons’ SWPL 1 clash against Celtic for BBC Alba and was full of praise for the 18-year-old defender.

Describing her as a “top player” who is “aggressive and has the stature needed for a centre-back” – Black suggested Broadrick could be an option to eventually replace Jen Beattie, who retired from international duty in January.

Beattie called time on her 14-year Scotland senior career, after making 143 appearances – including three games at the World Cup in 2019 – and scoring 24 goals.

So, is it a reasonable comparison? Does Broadrick have the potential to follow in her north compatriot Rachel Corsie’s footsteps and command Scotland’s backline one day?

The Press and Journal analysed Broadrick’s time at Aberdeen so far, and also spoke to Scotland U19s manager Pauline Hamill, who has worked with the defender for several years and named her captain of the youth national team.

SWPL 1 stats show defensive qualities

As of February 7 – which only excludes Aberdeen’s most recent SWPL 1 match against Dundee United, the defensive stats for Broadrick make for some interesting reading and interpretation.

Of those 17 games, all of which she started in and played the entire match, Broadrick won 61% of duels, 59% of aerial duels, made 123 interceptions and 181 recoveries.

With Aberdeen struggling at the bottom end of the top-flight table, Broadrick has been called upon more than some of her counterparts, but the stats suggest she’s a strong presence in the Dons defence.

Beattie is probably best described as a dominating physical defender and those are the attributes which Broadrick boasts at this early stage in her career.

“Her stats are brilliant for a young player and especially playing at the club she’s playing at – things are tough and she’ll get more opportunities to do those things,” Hamill said.

Scotland U19 manager Pauline Hamill, right. Image: Shutterstock.

“Her timing, reading of the game and how she covers players are probably her biggest assets, and that’s probably reflected in those stats.

“I think on the ball is where Jess needs to continue to improve, but certainly in how she leads, how she inspires other people around about her and her reading of the game to make those interceptions and defensive 1-v-1 situations are her most important qualities.”

Broadrick has strong leadership qualities

Broadrick made her Scotland U19s debut in October 2021 and has captained the side in every game since. Her leadership is clear at Aberdeen, too, with the defender often one of the most vocal players on the pitch.

The Scotland U19s coach reckons Broadrick’s mentality and character, alongside her football ability, is what makes her one of  Scotland’s most promising talents.

“She’s a great girl to work with,” Hamill said. “How she is as a leader is what stands out, she’s down to earth but does have demands.

“You can see in that Celtic game, she places demands on players and expects more – but always in a positive way, never to be negative or detrimental.

“She’s got some really good leadership qualities, but what I will keep saying is is that she’s a young player who is just learning the game.”

Beattie is also a player whose personality has shone through during her football career, with the Arsenal defender’s leadership and support of her team-mates clear at club and country.

The Press and Journal spoke to Rachael Johnstone in March 2022, after the Western Isles teenager had been called up to her first senior Scotland camp, and she spoke about how Beattie took her under her wing.

The defender’s differing career trajectories

Those who have followed Beattie’s career would know she had already established herself within the senior Scotland team by the time she was Broadrick’s age, having made her debut against the USA at just 17.

However, the two defenders started their careers in completely different landscapes.

By the time Beattie turned 18, she already had six Scotland caps to her name but although she was a talented prospect – which she has lived up to – it’s not unfair to say the international standard was not as strong as it is now.

A young Jen Beattie alongside former Scotland teammate Kim Little and former manager Anna Signeul in 2009.

It’s why you would routinely see teenagers appear for the senior team, which isn’t so much the case these days as managers like Pedro Martinez Losa have a bigger pool of elite players to choose from.

Like a young Beattie, who turned out for Queen’s Park and Celtic before making the move to Arsenal as a youngster, the Aberdeen defender is gaining valuable SWPL experience.

It’s odd to call an 18-year-old an experienced senior player but that’s exactly what she is at Aberdeen now. It’s a youthful side but her number of SWPL 1 appearances over the last two seasons, 44 (and all starts) to be exact, speak for themselves.

As evidenced by Black’s comments, Broadrick is making a name for herself and is no doubt gaining the attention of other clubs – and if she is going to be the next Beattie, a move away from Aberdeen would probably have to be sometime in the near future.

During his 18-month tenure thusfar, Martinez Losa has shown he’s happy to call up young players and expose them to the levels required to star in Scotland’s senior team, but they haven’t been regularly named in squads.

Jess Broadrick after scoring for Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Image: Shutterstock.

The Scotland manager has previously said the day-to-day environment players work in plays an important role in selection, which suggests Broadrick might have to make some big decisions to make in the next few years – with Aberdeen not yet fully semi-pro.

‘The next Jess’ not the next Beattie

Broadrick’s Scotland U19 coach believes a professional football career could be in the defender’s future, and Hamill admits it could be away from Aberdeen.

“As a young player, she’s had a chance to play more SWPL football than a lot of players her age,” Hamill explained.

“But I think ultimately and knowing how ambitious Jess is, she wants to see how good she can be and wants to be in a full-time professional environment where she can absolutely challenge herself.

“I would fully expect her to keep challenging herself and I think there will ultimately come a time where she will want to go and explore what her options are.

“It’s always about timing with young players and ensuring that they’re going to be comfortable with that next step and deciding the right one for her.

“It’s not about getting there as quickly as possible.”

Aberdeen’s Jess Broadrick, first from right, in action as Scotland U19’s captain. Image: Shutterstock

There is certainly potential for Broadrick to fulfil aspirations of being a professional player, but Hamill stressed the need for the 18-year-old to develop without external pressures.

“There are possibilities there for centre-backs with the national team,” Hamill said.

“We would hope that Jess keeps continuing to improve and develop, and in the future can be considered for that.

“But for now, you just have to let her play and enjoy her football. She’ll be the next Jess – she’ll not want to be like anybody else.”