Suzy Shepherd: Spartans aren’t lambs to slaughter

Suzy Shepherd wants a cup medal with Spartans. Picture: Carson Ralton
Suzy Shepherd wants a cup medal with Spartans. Picture: Carson Ralton
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SUZY Shepherd doesn’t mind admitting she is avaricious. She already had an impressive medal collection from a long and successful career in the game but she wants more.

“Yeah, I’ve done OK,” she says of her haul of league, League Cup and Scottish Cup baubles which extends into double figures, “but I’m always looking to add to it. I’m greedy that way!”

The 39-year-old defender has the chance to do that at Broadwood this afternoon as she and her fellow Spartans underdogs attempt to defeat the dominant force in Scottish women’s football, Glasgow City, in the Edinburgh club’s first Scottish Cup final appearance.

City have won the last 10 trophies up for grabs at the top end of the women’s game in this country and last week secured a place in the last eight of the Champions League for the first time ever.

Fitness instructor Shepherd, though, is undaunted. She knows that odds can be upset and says everyone at the club is feeling confident. “When I won my first Scottish Cup [she has won four of the seven finals she has contested thus far], with Hibs, in 2003, it was against Kilmarnock and we were the underdogs. We took it to extra time and thought that was pretty good. But we held on and won on penalties. So the favourites can be beaten.”

Spartans underlined that earlier this season, when they inflicted Glasgow City’s first domestic defeat in six years, with a 1-0 win.

“That was the first time they had lost to another Scottish team in the league since 2008 when Celtic beat them and I played for Celtic that day. I was also in the Hibs team that inflicted their last Scottish Cup defeat, when we put them out in the semi-finals in 2010, so they are probably sick of me!”

A lucky talisman who has helped coach Debbi McCulloch’s side to their first Scottish Cup final in her first cup campaign, Shepherd says that 
Spartans win over Eddie Wolecki-Black’s side prompted a shift in mindset at the Ainslie Park club.

“It was massive. The club have been to League Cup finals but this is the first in this competition and this is the one everyone wants so we can finish the season on a high. There’s now more belief there and, although it is Glasgow City we are playing, the attitude is that we have done it before so we can do it again. The girls always said they believed but in the back of their minds I think there were some doubts. But now I think everyone really does believe we can do it. We have proved that we can keep a clean sheet and score against City and, while we will show them the utmost respect, we won’t go into the game fearing them.”

A lifetime in the sport, playing for the likes of Tynecastle Ladies, Celtic and Hibs has taught Shepherd to be wary. She knows that there could be a backlash from a side so used to winning.

“Eddie won’t need to give a team talk. We need to remember that. If I was a Glasgow City player I would be going into this game determined to prove that the result in the league game was a one-off and I would be wanting to turn us over.”

With a fourth place finish in the league this season, Shepherd, who joined the club midway through last season, says Spartans are ready for a trophy, but they will have to earn it.

“Glasgow City are so professional and, although the have a Champions League quarter-final to look forward to, they won’t be thinking about that. They focus on one game at a time and they want to hold on to the Scottish Cup. They are obviously still the best team in Scotland but I think there’s a group of four or five teams who are getting closer to them and in one-off games we have shown they can be beaten.

“Let’s hope we can do it again, at Broadwood on Sunday. I’d quite like another medal,” she laughs.