Nathan Soulby: ‘Success breeds further success – that has to be the aim going forward’ – West Didsbury & Chorlton AFC

Nathan Soulby: ‘Success breeds further success – that has to be the aim going forward’

New season, new manager. West Women’s pre-season is underway and they’ve been put through their paces by gaffer Nathan Soulby, who took over from Paul Caddick during lockdown. Now in his third season at West, Nathan has stepped up from a similar role in the Development Squad to lead the Women’s First Team into the new NWWRFL Premier Division season. We caught up with Nathan to discuss lockdown, his new role and the footballing year ahead…

Hi Nathan, and welcome back from the lockdown break! What have you been getting up to during that time to keep you busy while there’s been no football?

Hi Neil, thank you – it’s great to be back! Lockdown has been a strange one to say the least as I coach for a living, so it’s been a lot of planning and reflecting on my work and with West also. Zoom quizzes seemed to be the ‘new normal’ for a while and I’ve gone back to live with family 100 miles away from Manchester, so I’ve been enjoying the country life a bit more with plenty of long walks. That aside, I’ve dabbled in learning a bit of Spanish and sign language when time has allowed!

Of course during that time you’ve been appointed West Women’s manager, stepping up from a similar role in the Development Squad. Tell us what it means to take on the role.

Yes, it’s a massive honour to take on the managers’ position with West to be honest. I’ve been at the club pretty much since I moved to Manchester just over two years ago now, and I have to thank the now departed Rob McKay for taking a gamble on me in women’s football initially. I’ve put my heart and soul into my work with West, and follow the men’s team when I have my Saturdays and Tuesday evenings free, so to extend my time at the club further was an easy decision.

As someone who has been involved at West now for a few seasons, do you feel you’re going into the role prepared for what you will face on and off the pitch?

I’m in a very fortunate position that every player at the club knows what I’m about and what I will expect in return; it’s a real bonus that nobody is going into the new season blindly and existing relationships with players are already in place.

Likewise, with coaching staff, Rory Drysdale has moved up to the First Team with me and we have retained previous first team manager Paul Caddick, who’s insight into the team and other teams in the league is absolutely pivotal to our plans. Matt Phillips, Ryan Heywood and Jordan Rodwell will be heading up the reserve team for the coming season also – all people that I’ve had the privilege of working with previously, so I have every faith that they will carry out our vision in the GMWFL also. Finally, Eddy Bannon has also very recently joined us from Mossley Hill Ladies FC as the women’s goalkeeping coach and we are delighted to have him on board.

Our work with the development team maybe went under the radar as a league with less pressure, which was an ideal place to learn and improve as a manager. That being said we put the pressure on ourselves and the players to succeed and developed a winning mentality – winning a league title in 2018/19 in our first season. This will stand us in good stead for the challenges in the NWWRFL.

West Women has been on a great run of success in recent years. How important is it to try and maintain that level ahead of the new season?

Success breeds further success, and that has to be the aim going forward. Last season the First Team didn’t quite get the results they wanted, for various reasons, and the season was so stop/start with postponements and ultimately curtailed by COVID-19. That lack of momentum didn’t do either team any favours at all!

Technically both teams are still reigning league champions now, and that’s what we have to tap in to. As I mentioned previously, we thrived on pushing ourselves to get a winning result, and that’s the mentality we need to build momentum and hopefully deliver further silverware for West.

How has pre-season been going? As someone who has been involved in the game for a number of years, it must be an incredibly strange situation to be in right now?

Although we’ve only been back on the training ground since July 1st, I genuinely feel that pre-season for me started in April! This is the most difficult period I’ve experienced as a coach or a manager, planning and preparation is meticulous at the best of times but this has been on a whole new level. Fortunately, we’ve had July as a start date for a number of weeks now and the guidelines have allowed us to kick on, albeit in small groups and non-contact.

With lockdown keeping us inside for so long, I genuinely feel that myself and the coaches couldn’t be any further prepared if we tried. They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure training is as safe as possible for our players, and I couldn’t ask for more on that front.

What are you looking forward to most about football returning?

I miss the buzz of a match day badly! Home games in particular; Brookburn Road is our own little bit of paradise and I can’t wait to be back in the dugout to be honest. Some of my best memories in football have come in the last few years at the club, and I’m itching to be a part of some more now.

It’s been class seeing the players back at the club over the last few weeks as well; I think it worked out at roughly 17-weeks between the last game in March and our first training session. The turnout to training has been incredible, so I think they’ve missed us as much as we’ve missed them!

For those that are maybe new to the West Women set-up, what can they look forward to next season at The Step Places Stadium from your team? 

We like to play fast-paced, entertaining football and create plenty of opportunities at goal. One thing I can promise is that we will always play to win the game, we aren’t there to make up the numbers at any point. Some of the best technical players I have come across in my eight-plus years as a coach belong in this team, there is some incredible talent who quite frankly deserve your support.

In a league with the likes of Tranmere Rovers, Fleetwood Town and Crewe Alexandra, we are never too far away from a big game and we are looking to develop further on previous Women’s FA Cup runs this season. The fan base is absolutely sensational within the men’s section, and we would love for them to be a part of what we are trying to achieve also.