Preview | AFC Women | Natasha Bruce Feature
Competition: SWFL Division 1 – North
Fixture: AFC Women v Kelty Hearts
Venue: Aberdeen Sports Village
Natasha Bruce Interview
By Mark Gordon
Aberdeen FC Women’s positive inaugural season continues with the team at the top of SWFL1 North as the season heads towards its latter stages. On Sunday they are home to Kelty Hearts.
They have also advanced to the Quarter Final stage of the SSE Women’s Scottish Cup where they will play Rangers, after two stunning victories. Firstly they defeated Spartans, two divisions above Aberdeen and semi-finalists last season, and then two weeks ago, despite being without a number of first team regulars, the girls produced another perfect performance in Cove to defeat SWPL2 side FC Kilmarnock 3-1.
At the heart of the recent successes and a player who has been a driving force throughout the season is Natasha Bruce.
Midfielder Natasha has been a regular in the side this term and has spent a decade with Aberdeen Ladies and now AFC Women.
“I’m one of the more experienced players so I was involved a bit in the introductory stages when we met with the club and saw their vision and philosophy, which matched our aspirations. I’ve been at the club for a long time and it’s the most professional it’s ever been, especially with the backroom support like sport science and strength and conditioning and the access we have to the facilities”.
It’s a sign of how youthful the Dons team is that Bruce can call herself one of the most experienced at the age of just 25. That experience began before joining Aberdeen Ladies ten years ago. “I started off playing with the boys in the school team. I then went to East End who had a really good girls set up. I was there when they became affiliated with Aberdeen Ladies and I transitioned to the first team at around fifteen or sixteen”.
“I’ve been in and out between first team and reserve teams since then, depending on commitments and the squads they’ve had. Now I’m just delighted to be with the first team under Emma and Harley”.
The commitments that Natasha mentions include her work as a nurse, which has made finding time for football difficult in the past. “I’m a nurse so previously I used to work shifts at the hospital.
It was quite challenging squeezing in playing football around night-shifts and day-shifts. Sometimes if I was working on a training day, I just couldn’t make it, which made it difficult to commit.
The commitment was obviously there to play but having a full-time job, that takes ultimate priority”.
A change in role to Monday to Friday working meant that Bruce could commit fully when the club launched it’s first senior women’s team earlier this year. The dynamic-midfielder has seen the value of the club’s involvement.
“It’s been really positive and the fact we’ve had a positive season so far is credit to the girls, the coaching staff but also the club for having the belief in us and supporting us. I think it’s come at the right time. Women’s football is a hot topic at the moment and rightly so. I think it’s really inspirational for young girls in the area for Aberdeen to have a senior women’s team”.
Bruce and her team-mates will look finish the season as positively as they have begun it, with promotion still being the target. “We’ve said from the off that the team aspiration is to be promoted and I think that if we continue playing the way we are and stick together as one team, then I don’t see why that wouldn’t be the case. We’ve played the majority of the teams in the league now and I think if we can believe in our own ability as a team, then we can go up”.
Aberdeen’s main challengers for top spot still looks like being Dunfermline and although the Dons are leading the way, they still have to play the Pars in a game that Bruce is looking forward to.
“I think it’s good for us that Dunfermline are up there as it’s good to be pushed. The games we’ve won in the cup against Kilmarnock and Spartans show how well we can play against more challenging opposition. It’s good to have someone pushing and we’ve not played them yet, so when the date comes out for that fixture it will be a big one for us to go and show we deserve to be going up”.
Natasha feels that the changes behind the scenes since the women’s team were launched, have made for improvements on the pitch. “We’ve always trained a good few times a week but with the strength and conditioning side being consistent and getting a structured, individualised plan in place has really helped. It also motivates you as you get pointers to go away and work on in your spare time”.
“The general professionalism and access to things like a physio if and when you need it has been a really big help too. We’ve had a playing philosophy that we’ve aimed for right from the start and it maybe didn’t quite start off as we planned but we can use the video analysis, which is another big plus of the club being involved, that meant we could look at those early games and improve”.
In addition to the facilities, Natasha was keen to praise the coaching of management team Harley Hamdani and Emma Hunter. “I had played for Harley previously at reserve level a couple of seasons ago and the partnership he has with Emma is really good. They just bounce off each other and I think they’re a really great team and they want to get the best out of the players. They’re both just genuine people and they take an interest in us and what’s going on in our lives and everyone’s wellbeing”.
Bruce feels that the players and staff are all on the same page when it comes to achieving their goals. “We’ve got really strong group of girls and everyone gets on really well on and off the park.
We’re definitely using that ‘one team’ philosophy where everyone works hard for each other and we all stick together. That’s now become habit and we don’t even have to think about it, it’s becoming natural and we’re all playing in that style which is great”.