THERE can be few top-level footballers who have had such an immediate impact in their first year as a coach.
Pauline MacDonald, though, has proven that the transition from pitch to touchline does not always require too much time.
MacDonald, pictured below, in her first season as coach of Dalkeith Ladies, has guided her team to the Premier Division of the national women's game, securing an impressive third consecutive promotion in the process.
The former Scotland captain won 65 caps and, during a glittering playing career, starred in the all-conquering Arsenal Ladies team as well as in the W-League in the US before embarking on her current coaching role.
"I had some time out from the game," she says, "and came into coaching last year with Dalkeith. I had some friends who played for the club and offered my services.
"After the previous coach left, I took over, and next season we're looking forward to top-flight football." But MacDonald's side will not pit their wits against the best in Scotland as Dalkeith Ladies next season, as the club will instead assume the monicker of the recently-formed Boroughmuir Thistle and will contest home fixtures at Meggetland in the Craiglockhart area of Edinburgh.
This is a move that should benefit both parties, allowing Boroughmuir to provide young players from the under-nine age group with an unbroken path to top-level senior football. It will also ensure MacDonald can readily involve the young female football stars of the future in first-team action.
MacDonald's trophy cabinet as a player includes three league winner's medals, five Scottish Cup winner's medals, four League Cup winner's medals, a FA Cup winner's medal and MVP (Most Valuable Player) in the US Umbro W-League, but next season is all about hanging on.
"It's all about survival for us next season. We'll be looking to consolidate in the Premier, and then hopefully progress more the season after. As Boroughmuir, we'll be looking to increase the number of practises the girls can take part in. The club is not necessarily looking to expand any more, though, we've already got ten teams and more than 100 players, so we're maxed out at the moment."
While it is the club's popularity that renders taking on yet more players impossible, Boroughmuir's policy is all about inclusion and carefully nurturing their players. It is this approach that has meant the club has a real chance of gaining elite status from the Scottish Football Association – which would, in turn, offer further grant and sponsorship opportunities – and also makes Boroughmuir an attractive proposition to signing targets, as MacDonald has found as she prepares for the new campaign.
"Our players are all local, bar two who travel from Fife, but we'll compete as Boroughmuir with largely the same players from last season. At Meggetland, we'll have a good structure to our training, which is good because we're all about looking after our players.
"I've already recruited a girl, Alana Marshall, from Falkirk as well as another player from Edinburgh Ladies, who are a Premier League team, so that proves that people want to join us."
MacDonald, from the Fife town of Markinch, turned 33 earlier this year and hopes to go from strength to strength with her "new" club, while she continues to represent Scotland in a different capacity.
"I'm really enjoying the coaching side of the game," she says.
"I'm assistant coach to the under-19s national squad and have loved working with the group at Dalkeith."
And MacDonald is so content with her lot on these shores that she appears indifferent about the chance to return to the hotbed of female football that is the United States, where she played for Atlanta Classic and Miami Gliders in two successful seasons.
"I'd really like to continue working in Scotland and with the national squad," she says. "If the opportunity of working in America is not available, then I'm perfectly happy here."