Experienced St Mirren midfielder Jennifer Caldwell is better equipped than most to impart some wisdom to her teammates.
As well as playing for a host of top flight teams in her playing career, including Celtic and Rangers, the 34-year-old is also a principal teacher at Mary Russell School in Paisley.
Her work off the pitch has helped her make a smooth transition from a determined youngster battling for a first team spot to a calm head in the dressing room who can help guide her younger teammates.
Now in her second spell with her hometown team after rejoining the Buddies last month, Caldwell believes the club is in a brilliant position to push on after noticing a massive improvement since she was last with the Saints in 2018.
Caldwell told Renfrewshire Live Sport: “I was captain of the club when Kate had just started the team up. I’d been playing at a higher level before that point and eventually moved on to a higher league.
“I owed the club a lot because they helped me get my fitness back up after having my son. After nine months out it was tough getting my body back in playing condition.
“I feel like the club’s motivation is at a stage now that is similar to mine. I’m absolutely delighted to be back, especially as St Mirren is my hometown team.
“Me and my dad are season ticket holders. It’s a cliché but we bleed black and white.
“I’ve played with a lot of different clubs. In the top flight I played with Celtic, Rangers, Kilmarnock, Kilwinning and Raith Rovers.
“The professionalism here with St Mirren now is superb. It’s honestly night and day to my first spell here and the skill levels of the entire squad have improved massively.
“I know I’m coming to the end of my career, but I know I can help the other girls in the squad, especially the younger members.
“I enjoy that role and hopefully they can learn from me. I know how difficult it is to juggle your career off the pitch along with training and matches, eating right and everything else.
“Ten years ago my mindset was different because it was dog eat dog at the likes of Rangers and Celtic. You were battling for your place in the team every single day.
“I’m in a totally different place now. I want to be a positive influence on my teammates and I’ll do everything I can to help them.”
The Buddies face a long trip north tomorrow to take on Grampian Ladies, a side who sit level with them on points in the SWF League One table.
Next weekend her side will enjoy a memorable match at the SMiSA Stadium, when they step out to take on Westdyke in only their second ever game at the home of the men’s team.
While Caldwell admits she can’t wait for that moment to play on the hallowed Paisley turf, she believes the team must stay focused on their clash with Grampian first as they look to move further up the division.
Caldwell said: “The Grampian game is very important. We’ve got the winter break coming up and this match will have a big impact on where we’re sitting in the league.
“It could be pivotal for our season and we’ve got a very strong squad heading up. If we perform as we can I’m confident we can come back with a win.
“Having strikers like Ceara Macintyre and Kelly Ross on form definitely helps. We’ve got goals coming from midfield as well which is important too.
“I can’t pretend I’m not looking forward to playing at the SMiSA the weekend after. I’ve played at Ibrox and Parkhead before, but this just feels different.
“Because it’s my club it feels like a bigger occasion. I’ll have my dad, husband and two children there watching and it’s definitely going to be a special moment.”
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