Unsung: Eilidh Reid — The Driving Force Behind Montrose Women

Chris Marshall
7 min readMay 14, 2024

This piece was first commisioned and published for Issue 31 of Nutmeg: The Scottish Football Periodical which you can purchase here.

It’s the 18th February 2018 and a convoy of three cars, transporting just twelve Montrose players, is winding its way north, through torrential rain to one of Scotland’s most remote sporting outposts, Caithness for a contest between two sides competing in a first ever match in the Scottish Women’s Second Division.

Leaving home at six in the morning the players who made up the starting eleven and one sub of the travelling side knew that their return home would come as the clock struck midnight. A trip into the unknown, that would be the start of a journey that would lead one of the players that day, who was manager and founder of Montrose FC Women, to the very top of the Scottish women’s game.

“The final score was 19–0 so it was well worth it but it was stressful, one of the cars got lost up in the Cairngorms and to this day I still don’t know how they managed it.”

“Going from there to looking at where the club is now, it’s crazy.”

I’m speaking to Eilidh Reid, who as well as being player, coach and founder was one of the drivers that day and a couple of weeks removed from her decision to retire from playing for the club that she was asked to begin seven years ago as they now compete in the top tier of the Scottish women’s game with Montrose rubbing shoulders with international footballers and clubs whose name’s are recognised across the globe.

“I had been thinking about it for a while to be honest. I had only played maybe 45 minutes across the season and then having a break over Christmas and New Year, away from it all, I realised I liked having a bit more freedom”, reflects the 32-year-old.

“This season I wanted to give playing in the top flight one last shot but my job is pretty full on and with the women’s team always playing on a Sunday I wasn’t getting time off. I was turning up not to play so after seven years and with where the club has got to now it felt like a good time to hang up the boots.”

Born in Stonehaven, and having followed the familiar path of playing with family in back gardens before her talents eventually took her to boy’s teams, Reid now views Links Park as a second home, spending “more hours than I can count” at a club she has become synonymous with in the women’s game, partnering her role as Project Officer at Montrose’s Community Trust with a plethora of jobs as the Angus side navigated through the ever shifting sands of the Scottish women’s football pyramid.

Having been part of a Scotland U19 set up that included SWNT centurions Caroline Weir and Lisa Evans, she can still be caught wondering what could have been, “Looking back I wish I had gone to those camps with a bit more focus. I turned up and thought it was never going to happen but when you see what the likes of Caroline and Lisa have gone on to achieve that’s something that has helped motivate me to push Montrose forward.”

Reid would still have success earning one cap for that U19 side, a late substitute during a 2–2 draw against Norway where current Scotland international Nicola Docherty opened the scoring, and she would play in the top flight for Forfar Farmington before moving closer to the north east coast.

The genesis of a team that in the summer of 2023 became the first side, be it men’s or women’s, to bring top flight football to Montrose can can be traced back to Reid’s successful application to join the Community Trust in 2016 where it soon became apparent that there was a massive gap for to address for young girls playing football in the town.

“Once players got to 16,17 they had nowhere to go. They would come through the academy and then move on to the likes of Aberdeen, Dundee United and Forfar Farmington. We were spending time developing local talent but because there was nothing for them they would be lost, so somebody asked if I wanted to start a team. I had no idea what I was doing but I wanted to give it a shot and take it from there.”

“We just held trials one day, did the usual, spread the word across the community and social media. We got a lot of interest, some of the girls that turned up hadn’t been involved in football before while some were coming back from extended breaks.”

“I knew a lot of them so that was difficult to manage but it was all the rules and admin work which was most daunting. fortunately one of the guys from the Trust was able to help break that down but at the start it was just about having fun.”

One thing that most competitive athletes will agree on is that winning can sometimes be the most fun thing of all, and in their second year as a club Montrose’s ascension to the top flight of the women’s game would gather pace as they claimed the fourth-tier SWFL North title courtesy of a 2–1 victory over title rivals Stonehaven on the final day of the season.

With the realisation that she could be onto something Reid would reach out for help, knowing that if progress was to be continued new ideas would need to be found.

A conversation with current Montrose striker Aimee Ridgeway led to the appointment of Craig Feroz as Head Coach’s and the following season saw Montrose go invincible as they won the third tier SWF Championship title. Promotion to the SWPL would be secured the following season, the moment sealed thanks to a 6–1 victory over East Fife with weeks to spare, the title presented on the final day of the 2022/23 campaign.

“I think Ron the groundsman is still raging because the confetti was there for weeks but to be able to lift the trophy at home, in front of hundreds, was amazing. All around the world women’s football is on the up and now we’ve got fans who come along specifically to see the women’s team because they love how we play.”

On the walls of the 1879 Lounge inside Links Park main stand photos document her side’s rise, with a beaming Reid featured in everyone. A star-jump across the official SWPL2 title photo comes across as particularly joyous, the aforementioned blue and white confetti the foundation for the scene.

“When I take a step back and think of some of the situations I was in. That trip to Caithness, not knowing if we would get through covid, games where we would have eleven players and eleven players only, being player, coach, manager, first aider, kit women and knowing that the club would be going head to head with Glasgow City, Rangers, Celtic, Hibernian…and all that comes with that, it was unreal.”

Montrose’s ascent may have been rapid but the size of the task at hand was brought into stark focus on the opening day of the 2023/24 season as watching from the substitutes bench Reid would see her side lose 9–0 to Celtic at Links Park. Heavy defeats to Rangers and Hibernian, further thumping realities to the dream have followed, but Montrose have been able to adjust and claimed a first ever top-flight victory; courtesy of a 3–0 midweek win against local rivals, Dundee United A run to the Sky Sports Cup Quarter-Finals which included a 3–0 victory over Motherwell in the Second Round, a result of particular pride for Reid.

“You’re mixing with full time teams and because we’ve come up so quickly it’s taken a lot of adjustment. We’ve now got things like data analysts and sports scientists. Once upon a time it was me doing everything and now we have this whole team, hopefully it shows anything is possible with the right support.”

Reid’s decision to retire may have in-part been informed by the club’s success but she hopes to remain involved helping it grow, even if a definitive role from the stands may take a bit of getting used to.

“Barry O’Neill, who’s the Director of Women’s Football at the club and a huge supporter, gave me a wee heads up that one of the new arrivals in January was going to need my kit.”

“We’re still a small club in the grand scheme of things, so I just had to go with it, but it was still really strange seeing somebody else wearing the number seven after such a long time, and then they signed a new Eilidh as well!”

“For so long it was just football, football, football and so whenever something went wrong there was no escape from it. I’m hoping this step back will help with that balance a bit.”

“I love what I do with the Community Trust, we run sessions for 18 month old’s right up to walking football for over 65’s. There’s programmes to help improve people’s employability, dementia care, school programmes that harness football’s ability to break down barriers and build confidence and we’re always getting new things off the ground.”

Reid admits that she’s still learning everyday but is confident that come Sunday afternoon she will still have a hand in how a matchday is run and is determined that the opportunities that come with having top flight representation for women’s football in an unfashionable town doesn’t go to waste.

“The town didn’t really know that there was a women’s side when I first started. We didn’t have things that people can take for granted; sponsorship, fans, media…the amount of effort that has gone on behind the scenes from everyone over these last seven years, it’s exhausting when I think about it. “There’s been a few struggles along the way but I need to keep focused and think about what we have achieved and can achieve.”

“When I was younger I never thought I would get the opportunity to play at the top level so I want girls to be able to follow their dreams on their doorstep not just in Montrose but everywhere. That’s what drives me.”

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Chris Marshall

Writer | Piehopper | Scottish Women’s Football Hype Man.