We caught up with the Rangers defender before the turn of the year to get her own take on a career which has sandwiched Glasgow City success in between two stints with Rangers. That same success led Docherty to European tours - both domestically and internationally - and we get the lowdown on both. But it’s at home where we began our conversation with Nicola, so let’s head there first.
You were born and raised in Falkirk, but who was it who got you in to football in your early years? It was my dad. I have vivid memories of kicking the ball about my back garden from the age of six, so my dad decided to put me into a mini-kickers camp in Falkirk - so it would have to be him!
How about footballing inspirations - did you have a footballing idol growing up? Within the women’s game it was Julie Fleeting; as a young girl growing up wanting to play football, Julie Fleeting was a massive role model for me. In the men’s game, however, it was Michael Mols. I used to go to Ibrox with my dad as a kid and he would be the one scoring all the goals, so naturally, I loved him!
So was it always defence for you? Well, when I was younger I played on the wing - so I was slightly further forward back then!
You mentioned Julie Fleeting there, but do you think that your generation of female footballers had a limited number of role models to attach themselves to and so had to look to the men’s game to initially kickstart their love for the game? Definitely. There absolutely wasn’t enough role models in the women’s game growing up. There are a lot more games on the television now, but that wasn’t always the case. Without being able to see a player it is difficult to know of them and want to follow in their footsteps. So I would agree with you.
Do you think that the progression in the Women’s game over the last 10-15 years, culminating in your inclusion in the World Cup squad last year, means that young girls can now look up to someone more relatable when starting out as a footballer? 100%. Social media has really allowed women’s football to progress in putting content out there and giving it the recognition we deserve. Seeing more and more players appear on the social media channels and watching their status and reputation grow really allows for more role models to come forward for young girls just starting out now.
Just on the Women’s World Cup in France, how was that experience? It was just… unbelievable. It gave me an incredible sense of pride being able to represent my country at a World Cup. It’ll probably go down as the highlight of my career. I think my overriding memory would be walking out against England to thousands of fans and hearing ‘No Scotland, no party!’ (Laughs)
It must have been rewarding for you having represented Scotland from Under-15 level. You also came through at Falkirk Girls and graduated to the Ladies team before moving on to Rangers after eight years with your hometown club. Yet Falkirk, as a town has quite a strong Rangers following. So, despite going along to watch Rangers with your dad, were you moving from or moving to the team you supported as a kid? Oooh, that’s a good one. I would definitely say I was joining the club that I supported. But I will always be thankful for what Falkirk did for me and the education they gave me. Alison Mackie is someone who I always give credit to when I mention Falkirk as she just believed in me when I came into the club. Falkirk were amazing for me, but it was just the right time to move on.
Just on Falkirk, how would you describe culture in the town itself as one of the largest in Scotland? That is a difficult one! But I actually don’t see too many differences from place to place when it comes to Scottish people! I think we are all pretty friendly no matter where we are and I would say that Falkirk falls into that category. I would hope so anyway! (Laughs)
Was there no chat about you getting a World Cup mural on an FK building back in 2019? I don’t think so! I’m not one of the big times in the squad so I didn’t quite make the cut! (Laughs)
"I went to see Whitney Houston live in concert at the SECC with my mum and I started crying when she came on stage… I think my mum got a bit embarrassed at that point!"
You then only spent a year with Rangers before moving on to Glasgow City who have dominated the SWPL for years - what do you think sets them apart from the other clubs? I think the players within our team had that winning mentality. The people behind the scenes contribute to that mindset as well which really allowed us to be successful.
How do you think being a stand-alone entity as a Women’s club has benefited Glasgow City over the likes of Celtic, Rangers or Aberdeen in the past? It definitely has its perks. Yet, at the same time, being part of Rangers gives us that foundation and a platform to build from. It is also a lot more stable financially, whereas Glasgow City may suffer from being stand-alone in that regard, and that was maybe the case after COVID-19 struck. So, overall, I would say that it definitely has its perks, but there are drawbacks involved as well.
The winners of the SWPL also qualify for Europe - what are your fondest memories from playing in the Champions League? We qualified for the quarter-finals one year against PSG which was a great achievement. For a club from Scotland to make it that far was amazing. The way we did it as well was amazing - comebacks, me getting sent off and whatnot! But the PSG game was amazing and their fans were crazy, which really added to the atmosphere.
And is playing in Europe just as glamorous as it sounds from a footballers perspective? It is more-or-less blinkers on, but you do often get a day off to explore the city that you are in. Although it depends on your result whether or not you take that day to explore or spend it sitting in a dark room! (Laughs)
With all that travelling time, you must have had a lot of time to fine-tune your playlist. Tell us about your taste in music. I would say it’s a pretty laid back taste! I love Fleetwood Mac and, another one that is totally off the cuff, I am a huge Whitney Houston fan!
I’m aware of that one! Oh really? You’ve got that? (Laughs)
Yeah, Whitney was your favourite live performance, right? She was! I went to see Whitney Houston live in concert at the SECC with my mum and I started crying when she came on stage… I think my mum got a bit embarrassed at that point!
Glasgow has a strong music scene, do you ever get the chance to take in any gigs or shows in the city? Do you know what I really miss? T in the Park. I loved it! I have been to TRNSMT but it’s not the same! I am quite into going to live gigs so I’ve really missed those. I have seen Mumford & Sons three times… pure super-fan! (Laughs)
Music is a way in which people can express themselves but there are other forms of art which allow people to do likewise. On that, tell us more about your tattoos. I have quite a few. If I were to tell you the exact number it would be a guess but the most meaningful one would be my leg sleeve. I have one on there which depicts mental health with a crying woman covered by a mask as I am really passionate about that. I could be sat here talking to you with a smile but, inside, I could be struggling; that is what that tattoo shows. I also have a lotus flower which represents nurturing and care to allow yourself to grow. So yeah, my leg sleeve is quite deep and meaningful to me. I love tattoos. My uncle is a tattoo artist and it’s him who does them for me, so it’s not too bad!
When did you first get inked up? 18. As soon as I was legal! My uncle wouldn’t give me one otherwise! (Laughs)
What about fashion, how would you describe your own style? Again, it’s quite laid back and simple. It’s jeans, hoodies and sportswear - the classic footballer! I like to shop in Urban Outfitters but I wouldn’t call myself fashionable!
I think you’re doing yourself a disservice there! Going back to football, you retuned to Rangers at the beginning of the 2020 season despite enjoying success with Glasgow City; what was it that inspired that move? I had been at City for eight years and felt that I had achieved almost all I could have. I’m heading towards the latter stages of my career so, when Rangers came in as a full-time club, I felt it was an opportunity for me to see how far I could get in football with the time I have left. So I quit my job that I had at City and signed for Rangers!
Was it ever a dilemma to risk giving up your job for the lure of full-time football? So I worked with people that had dementia through in Edinburgh and, as much as it was a rewarding job, it meant that I was having to go to the gym in the morning then rush through to Glasgow at night for training with City. So, when the opportunity to go full-time came up, it was a no-brainer. I had always harboured the ambition to became a professional footballer and I felt that it was the right time for me.
What about dog walking? I mean, I would love to do that…
But didn’t you do that back in the day? Oh, yeah when I was proper young! I walked this wee spaniel for £7 per week! (Laughs) Thankfully, my rates have gone up since!
How has the transition to being a full-time footballer been for you since you re-signed for the club then? The improvement has been night and day, to be honest. My recovery has improved vastly which has been great. I also now get time to eat! Beforehand I would be quickly eating in between clients and rushing my dinner before training which wasn’t giving me the nutrition I needed. Whereas now we have our meals prepared at the training centre. So that alone has really benefited me as a footballer.
"It gave me an incredible sense of pride being able to represent my country at a World Cup. It’ll probably go down as the highlight of my career. I think my overriding memory would be walking out against England to thousands of fans and hearing ‘No Scotland, no party!’"
Do you get tired of telling people you’re a professional footballer now? I actually don’t mention it that much! If someone asks me what I do for a living then I’ll say it but I’m not too bad. It’s just amazing to be given that opportunity in the first place as I never thought it would be possible when I first started out.
Going full-time is a big step in to taking the women’s game forward but what else would you like to see done to help bridge the gap between the men’s game both in Scotland and across the world? I just think the two shouldn’t be compared. The women’s game and the men’s game should be viewed separately as men, genetically, will always be quicker and stronger. So if someone wants to compare the women’s game to the men’s, then they will say we are not as capable. But if you compare women footballers to each other, we are all quick and strong. I would also like to see more TV coverage of games, as we’ve touched on. Social media is doing a great job but the more matches that are on TV the better.
Some of the Women’s clubs down south such as Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool have played games in their clubs official home stadium - do you think Scottish clubs should follow suit and have Rangers Women playing at Ibrox etc? I actually played at Ibrox during my first stint with the club - we were the first women’s team to play there. But I do believe that where a women’s team is affiliated with a mens team then the opportunity should be there to play in the official club stadium. We were actually told we would be playing six games of this season at Ibrox before COVID happened, but that put paid to that!
Last question, if you could choose between winning the league with Rangers or have the mens team stop ten-in-a-row, what would it be? (This question was asked slightly earlier on this season!) Oaaaft. That is a difficult question because I’m still a Rangers fan! I am going to say… no comment! (Laughs)
Location: Ashton Lane, West End, Glasgow
Photography: Connor Stewart
Styling: Nicola Docherty / Stonewaller Mag