Leanne Ross took the difficult decision to hang up the boots in the summer, comforted by the thought that she’d put everything into her playing career.
The success speaks for itself. Ross retired as Scotland’s most decorated footballer – a Glasgow City icon who can point to 14 SWPL titles, six SWPL Cups and seven Scottish Cups, alongside 133 caps for her country.
The former midfielder has launched herself into coaching with the same level of commitment, and is a key component in the new-look national team coaching staff as one of Pedro Martinez Losa’s two trusted lieutenants. While the training kit is a different colour and the choice of football boots a little more reserved than she was used to, Ross feels like it’s been a natural transition.
She said: “Honestly? I’ve loved every minute of it. Everyone keeps asking me if I’ve missed playing but it’s felt like a smooth process. I couldn’t really have asked for any more from it.
“I thought long and hard about finishing my playing career at the start of last season and decided to play one more year. Then I picked up an injury towards the end of that season and it made my mind up. It was time.
“There will always be a part of you that still wants to play, but I love football and it’s great to be on the other side of things now.
“There are still a couple of wee things to get used to. The girls laugh because, when I was playing, I’d always match my boots to the colour of strip that I was wearing. Whereas, now I’m on the coaching staff, it’s a very straightforward pair of black boots for me now!
“The girls have been great, both for Scotland and at club level with Glasgow City. They’ve been my team-mates for years, so it must have been strange for them to see me change roles like that.
“I did wonder how that side of things would go but they’ve been very supportive.”
Ross was delighted when the call came to say that Scotland’s new Head Coach wanted her to be part of his team – not least to help the Spaniard get to grips with a new culture and set of players.
She added: “It was a pleasure being involved in a couple of the camps with Stuart McLaren. I thought that might have been it for me with Scotland and, even if it was, I’d have still been grateful for that opportunity to have worked with the national team again.
“Then Fiona McIntyre contacted me to say that Pedro was interested in having a chat to see about getting me on board and that was really exciting because I’ve had no experience of working with him before.
“We had a meeting and chatted through his vision. He spoke about where he wanted to take the team and I thought it would be a good fit.
“I am very much at the start of my coaching journey. I’m keen to learn as much as I can, while contributing as much as I can.
“I feel totally involved in everything that’s been going on and I have a lot of knowledge of the Scottish game and players that I can assist with to supplement Pedro’s tactical work. I’ve learned a lot from him already, especially on that side of things.”
While the team’s enjoyed a strong start to World Cup qualifying, it’s very much still a work in progress for a staff and squad still getting to know each other.
That’s exciting in itself for Ross, who clearly enjoys the coaching process. She said: “There’s always that pressure to go and win games, but it’s also about learning as we go, being adaptable and trying to find the best way of working with this team.
“We’re still fine-tuning that but, as a group, the second camp’s felt more comfortable than the first. It’s a gradual improvement and you can see things are evolving, which is all you can ask for.
“It’s an exciting time for the players. Pedro’s made it clear to them that there’s an open door as far as he’s concerned. If you’re playing well for your club and you have something to contribute to this team, then you’ll get your opportunity.
“Players across the Scottish game, I think, can see that now and the competition will be no bad thing for the existing group.
“Pedro wants to play inspiring, attractive football, while being a successful team. We’re at the start of that journey.
“Formations and style of play will develop. Training’s been fantastic and you can tell the players are loving it. It’s attack-minded. He wants us to go out and win games, which is refreshing.”
Ross always had one eye on eventually trying her hand at coaching, making mental notes along the way as a player and learning from each manager she came across.
In general, there are encouraging signs from the Scottish FA’s Coach Education programme – with female participation in their courses for the period from May 2020 to April 2021 up by 40 per cent on the annual average.
Some 660 female coaches engaged with the online coaching education programmes, while the average for the three previous years was 471.
The likes of Ross – in a prominent new coaching role for club and country – are leading the way.
She said: “It’s certainly different. When the week’s over I’ve done the majority of my work. The responsibility then falls to the players but it is rewarding to see them carry out the game-plan.
“I’ve always looked quite deeply at the game and tried to analyse my own and the team’s performance as I’ve gone along as a player.
“Players have their own style in terms of the things they like and dislike, and ideas around philosophies and the design of training weeks did stick in my head.
“I was always ambitious as a player and wanted to do better. I’m at the start of my coaching journey but who knows what’s out there for me in the future?
“At the moment I’m fortunate to coach at one of the top clubs in the country and with the national team. It doesn’t get much better than that.
“I’ve applied for the A Licence and I’m excited about what comes next.”