Exclusive: Club legend Jack Beesley talks all things Spartans after taking up head coach role

Head coach Jack Beesley on “easy decision” to return to Spartans, relegation battles and the club's long-term ambitions. 
Spartans are aiming to pull themselves out of the relegation play-off zone. Credit: Spartans WomenSpartans are aiming to pull themselves out of the relegation play-off zone. Credit: Spartans Women
Spartans are aiming to pull themselves out of the relegation play-off zone. Credit: Spartans Women

Spartans confirmed earlier this month that legend Beesley was set to return to the club as the women's head coach. Taking over from Debbi McCulloch, the new boss has now been in his role for almost a week as he looks to oversee a new era at the north Edinburgh side. 

In his playing career, Beesley made over 200 appearances for Spartans as he won multiple cups and a league title. Since leaving the club, he went to establish himself in the women’s game as coach of Hearts’ Under 18 NAP side. Now, after rejoining the club he loves, Beesley admits the decision was one that he “couldn’t turn down”.

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“I've known the guys at Spartans for quite a long time,” he told the Edinburgh Evening News. “I was previously working at Hearts, got made aware of the opportunity and then kind of welcomed the chance to speak to Craig [Douglas], to Dougie [Samuel], to Debbie [McCulloch] and to John [Mitchell], the secretary. It happened quite fast after that. Not fast enough, unfortunately, to be in the dugout for the Glasgow City game.  

“Once that kind of opportunity arose and obviously my affection and history in the club, it was a relatively easy decision to make. As much as I really liked my time at Hearts, I was honestly sad to leave that behind. It was an opportunity that I couldn't really turn down.”

Jack Beesley playing for Spartans back in 2015. Credit:  SNS GroupJack Beesley playing for Spartans back in 2015. Credit:  SNS Group
Jack Beesley playing for Spartans back in 2015. Credit: SNS Group

Beesley comes into a club performing far below expectations this season. The capital side was aiming to finish in the top six this season. However, at the halfway point, they find themselves 11th in the SWPL1 and in the relegation play-off zone. Spartans’ form has been particularly poor. The club are without a win in the league in their last 10 matches and are yet to collect a victory at home. 

“The girls have underperformed and they're fully aware of that and they've taken responsibility for that,” Beesley explained. “There have also to be fair been a lot of games where they've dropped points that they could have picked up. Looking at the results, I think there's maybe only one game where they've kind of taken a heavy defeat. In a lot of games, it's been the odd goal or a couple of goals and maybe individual mistakes.

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“The points don't always reflect perhaps what could have been but equally, I think there's a lot of potential in the squad to do better than what we're doing in terms of the personnel and the qualities we have. I said to the girls there's only so long you can say we should be doing better. Ultimately, they need to start picking up points and we need to start doing better and winning matches to hopefully reflect where we see ourselves being in terms of the personnel we have. 

“Nobody's naive enough to think that we're not in a precarious position in the sense that we're currently obviously sitting in the relegation playoff place and not massively far away from Hamilton. It's important that we need to pick up points, but I'm confident that the girls are able to do that. 

“We've got some really tough fixtures and then when we move into the split. You'll be playing lots of teams round about you who have similar aims and everyone will be aware of how precious and vital a point or three points here or there could be. The girls are under no illusions, they've underperformed so far, but only we can improve on that and they seem very determined to do that.”

Spartans have every chance of getting out of their current predicament. The side oversaw their first victory in almost four months in January as they overcame Glasgow Women in the Scottish Cup. Many of the club’s defeats this campaign have also been unfortunate. Multiple controversial decisions have gone against Spartans which has ultimately led to more points dropped. 

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Top six has been the aim since the split was reintroduced. Despite many teams having much higher budgets, Spartans were one game off achieving this last season before winning nine of their last ten games. While fortunes clearly haven’t gone their way this campaign, Beesley insists their ultimate aim is to establish themselves in the top half of the division. 

“[Top six] should still absolutely be the club's aspirations and the girls are fully aware of that,” Beesley added. “We've got a really talented squad, a couple of obviously more experienced players with a lot of ability but then a lot of good young players too. In terms of the playing perspective, there are definitely opportunities there to improve on where we are and really towards that top six, hopefully, over the next years or two. But also behind the scenes, the club are putting a lot of work into the infrastructure and the support. 

“If we can start performing a little bit better on the pitch, then I think everything's set up there for us to try and improve. It's obviously difficult in terms of competing a lot against professional clubs and the level of investment and support that's there. Despite us being 11th at the moment, the short term is to try and stay in the division and improve in that position. But ultimately, the goal hasn't changed. We want to become an established top-six team. I don't see any reason why we can't be that.”

Beesley will begin his new era at Spartans this Sunday with an away trip to Hearts. It will no doubt be an incredibly tough game for the visitors with the Jambos sitting fifth in the SWPL1. Kick-off for the tie is at 15:00.

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