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EXCLUSIVE: How Hearts and Scotland star John Souttar brewed up Brechin business plan with ex-Dundee United team-mate after fearing career was OVER

Hard at work: Souttar
Hard at work: Souttar

For John Souttar, it was a bright idea that emerged from a moment of immense darkness.

It was February 2020 and the Hearts defender had just suffered a devastating ruptured achilles tendon for the second time in his career.

Having endured the physical and mental torture associated with recovering from the same injury once before, the challenge of doing it all over again was mountainous.

Moreover, was there a more serious reason for the recurrence? Something that might make a full rehabilitation impossible?

While those fears were evidently unfounded — Souttar is in sparkling form and coveted by myriad clubs in Scotland and England — the Luthermuir lad was pragmatic enough to consider ‘what if?’

He and close pal Euan Spark, a former Dundee United team-mate and now captain of Elgin City, brewed up a business plan for a coffee roasters and café in Brechin.

And last month, a year behind schedule due to Covid, ‘Maison Dieu’ opened its doors.

(L-R) Souttar, Myla, Kayley and Spark

“The idea came after my second achilles injury,” Souttar told Courier Sport.

“It was a time when I was saying to myself: ‘I might need to do something else.’

“So, it became a case of thinking about what my interests were and what I enjoyed — coffee.

“I also knew that, even in the best-case scenario, I was going to be out for a long time.

“If I was going to launch a business while still playing, it was the perfect opportunity to do that.

“I spoke to [partner] Kayley and Sparky [Euan Spark] and it snowballed from there.”

As well as providing a potential ‘Plan B’, the idea — from inception to creation — was a welcome distraction from talk of surgeries and rehabilitation.

Souttar also became father for the first time during that roller-coaster period in his life, with the arrival of daughter Myla.

Indeed, those welcome diversions from football remain invaluable to this day.

Aside from the odd grateful patron congratulating him on those Hampden heroics against Denmark last month, Souttar’s place in Angus is a million miles away from from the pressures and intensity of Premiership and international football.

Souttar’s repeated recoveries from serious injury have been remarkable

“The distraction was important,” recalled Souttar. “I was focusing on the business and the wee one, Myla, arrived around the same time.

“It takes you away from football and focuses your mind on what’s important. It made that period a lot easier to deal with.

“It’s still good for that now, honestly. I still get that chance to get away from football, which everyone needs.

“I love football but if everything you do is wrapped up in that, then it’s not the best. A lot of the boys have different ways to switch off and this is mine.”


Souttar is no mere angel investor.

He provides plenty of graft to go with the capital.

As Courier Sport arrives in the unit on the outskirts of Brechin town centre, he is toiling behind the bar.

Souttar and Spark underwent intensive training courses to learn about roasting beans, how to become a proficient barista and the moral imperatives within the industry.

Going over and above Fair Trade standards, Maison Dieu deals directly with specific farms to ensure growers get the right price.

Spark, left, and Souttar with their roasting machinery

“We work with a guy who is originally from Guatemala but lives in Glasgow,” continued Souttar. “He’s been on FaceTime with the farmers over there, saying, ‘we’ve got footballers over in Scotland using your coffee’ and they’re buzzing with that.”

Meanwhile, Spark is sweeping up coffee grounds as Souttar’s partner, Kayley, cradles Myla and chats to customers.

“I’ve known Sparky since we were five or six,” smiled Souttar. “We went to the same primary school. It’s fair to say we never imagined we’d be doing this when we were at Dundee United!

A place to call home

Souttar shows off his wares

The suggestion that this could be the start of a coffee empire is met with a laugh and a shrug.

One step at a time.

For the moment, Souttar is content serving the community he calls home.

“Kayley is able to spend time here and, because it’s in Brechin, our families can come along,” he added. “It just brings everyone together — and that’s something we want to do.

“My dad [Jack] is still involved with Brechin City and I go along to a few of the games whenever I can.

“This is my home and I always wanted to give something back.”

Aidan Connolly reveals John Souttar message as Raith Rovers ace reflects on parallel with old Dundee United flatmate