It was the tap on the shoulder that changed Nicola Docherty’s standing and stature at Rangers. It didn’t, though, alter her personality or her professionalism.

Those traits got Docherty to where she is today for club and for country. The red, white and blue armband, complete with the iconic club crest, is worn with pride, but Docherty is no lone leader or solo voice within the Rangers Women’s side.

Her appointment as captain ahead of the new SWPL campaign was the realisation of a childhood dream, an honour that Docherty is fully cognisant of the significance of. She says with a smile that it ‘means the world’ as she recalls the days when she used to attend Ibrox with her father, Nicky, and reflects on a life as a supporter as well as a career as an accomplished defender.

It was a summer of change at so many levels and in so many ways for Rangers. In the Women’s wing of Auchenhowie, a new manager now leads a side that is desperate to regain the league title after missing out on the silverware in such agonising circumstances last season.

Docherty had no inclination that one of Jo Potter’s first major decisions upon her appointment as manager would be to hand her the armband. She cites the woman she succeeded, Kathryn Hill, as one of the inspiring figures in the dressing room, alongside the likes of Chelsea Cornet, new signing Rachel Rowe and Jane Ross, and her job will be made easier as a result of those experiences voices.

“Jo pulled me aside before one of the training sessions and told me that she had decided to make me captain,” Docherty said. “She gave her reasons in terms of the leadership qualities that I bring.

“It was obviously nice to hear that she had seen that in me, but like I have always said, it takes more than one person to lead a team. There are so many other leaders within the team.

“It was a honour. But I have come into this season and just been myself. I like to think I am an older, experienced player but one who has always demanded high standards as a player.

“Some people like to think that I am a bit moany, but it is just a winning mentality that I have always had. I want to win games. I have just been myself and it has been a huge honour.”

That mindset is a prerequisite of all successful Rangers players, regardless of the level. For Docherty, it is offset in a sense as she describes herself as ‘a little bit of the class clown in the dressing room’ that other players ‘come hard against in terms of having banter.’

She leaves those around her in no doubt about what is required when it is time to work and to win, though. That desire for success has been with her since her formative years, the days when she saw Barry Ferguson hold trophies above his head on a regular basis and when she marvelled at Michael Mols and serenaded him from the Ibrox stands.

“For me, I always demand high standards in training,” Docherty said. “If I feel like if there is something that needs to change I am not afraid to say it. I think that is something that I have tried to bring to the team and to make sure that there is a standard at this club. That is something we need to strive for.

“I would still say that it is quite surreal. It is an amazing honour and an amazing feeling being able to lead the team out, a team that I have supported since I was a kid. I am definitely one that likes to put plaudits on others before myself and there are so many leaders in the dressing room. Yes, I get to wear the captain’s armband, but I see so many other leaders within the team.”

The dominant figure at Auchenhowie is now Potter after she chose Rangers as the club where she would embark on her managerial career after starring for England and a host of sides south of the border and spending several years earning her stripes in various coaching capacities.

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It is Potter who has the final word before the team takes to the field. Come the moment that it is time for action, the messages relaid throughout the week have already shaped Potter’s side and Docherty gives her team-mates their own space in the final minutes of preparation.

The attention to detail and search for marginal gains from Potter has already paid off. Docherty pinpoints simple things – such as playing to the right side of someone’s foot – and has been encouraged with the manner the former Three Lions midfielder has made her mark north of the border.

“It has been a breath of fresh air to be honest,” Docherty said. “She has been excellent in the way she has come in and demanded high standards from everyone, making sure that we are doing everything the best that we can.

“For me that was key for us having someone like that come in, especially with her experience at international level and with big teams down south. It has been excellent so far and we are excited to keep going.”

Docherty returned to Rangers three seasons ago after a period at Glasgow City where the league was dominated. Today, it is a three-way fight for the silverware as the likes of Hearts and Hibernian seek to close the gap on those with the pedigree and investment at the other end of the M8.

At 31, Docherty still has plenty of trophies to compete for and goals to target and she speaks enthusiastically about leaving the game in a better place once her career comes to an end. Female role models were in short supply in her childhood, but Rangers’ maiden title win last year could act as the spark for a generation of loyal supporters or aspirational players.

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Docherty recalls the times, during her first spell at Auchenhowie as a teenager, when the doors were, quite literally, not as open as they are now at a time of significant investment – in terms of finance, infrastructure and personnel – from the Ibrox board. As she sits in the reception at the youth academy, she points to the spot where she used to wait for the dressing rooms to become available after kids had been through their respective sessions.

It is still a surreal experience when she is asked for a signature or a photograph by a young fan. Yet it speaks to the growing popularity of the game and the stature that women who are stars in their own right have.

“I think it is the players like us today and the ones who have been here before us, you have got to push boundaries sometimes,” Docherty said. “It is important that players do that. Of course, there is a respect there as well.

“I feel that Rangers have completely set the standard throughout the whole of Scotland. You drive in and look at our facilities, it is the best in the game by a country mile.

“For us pushing that, it has made the league stronger as well because other teams are trying to push and catch us. The fact that Rangers are doing this, the league is only going to get better as well and that is going to be so important for the game progressing in the next few years.”

As part of that blueprint, Rangers will continue to invest in the future as well as the here and now. League and cup wins – such as their success in the SWPL Cup – will always be the main driver at Auchenhowie but producing the players of tomorrow has become increasingly important.

When the Women’s side met at Ibrox ahead of a trip to Hampden last season, Docherty took the chance to cast her eye over the talents that were out playing on the park. The future is, she believes, bright for club and country.

“If I compare myself as a young player to the kids and the coaching and the level, it is phenomenal,” Docherty said as she namechecks Mia McAulay, Laura Berry, Jodie McLeary and Kirsty McLean after seeing them rise through the ranks in recent seasons. “What these players are going to be like in five, 10 years’ time is exceptional. The talent in the youth system is crazy.

“I am very excited to see who else is going to come through because they are a different level to what I saw when I was growing up. It is exciting for the club and the future of the game.”

The years to come will prove if the time, money and effort has all been worth it at Auchenhowie. Right now, the focus is on the first team and the SWPL fixture with Dundee United this afternoon.

The draw with Glasgow City still frustrates Docherty and it is Celtic that lead the standings with a perfect record from five fixtures. The skipper needs no reminding of what must be done this term.

“Look, you don’t play at Rangers if you don’t want to win,” Docherty said. “That is first and foremost for me and I think every player in the dressing room knows that for themselves. As soon as you come to this club it is about winning and that is the mentality that you have to have here.

“There is pressure on you to win all the time, no matter who you are playing against. There is pressure because you are playing for a club like Rangers.

“We are here to win league titles and cups. We were disappointed last season but hopefully, we can go and change that this season.”