(from the Lewes v Crystal Palace matchday Progcast – a personal reflection by Ash Head)
samurai. 1727, from Japanese samurai “warrior, knight,” originally the military retainer of the daimio. “to be in attendance, to serve.”
This afternoon Lewes FC bids farewell to one of its finest players. A leader, a warrior, a woman who deals in deadly delivery and fearsome focus. Katie ‘Macca’ McIntyre is hanging up her boots.
Macca arrived not long after I started watching Lewes Ladies (as they were called then). The team had enjoyed increasing success in the South East Combination league, taking some notable scalps along the way. Manager Jacquie Agnew wanted to step things up. She wanted to win the league, to take her team to the next level; the FAWPL. To do that, Aggers needed to add quality. Enter Kate McIntyre. The partnership she forged with skipper Kelly Newton at the heart of that team would fulfil Agnew’s dreams and much more.
The following season Lewes won a famous double; the League Cup and the League title, scoring well over 100 goals, unbeaten in both competitions.
The team continued to thrive in the FA Women’s Premier League under new manager John Donoghue. In 2017 they delivered the club’s first National title after a commanding 4-0 win over Huddersfield in the FA Women’s Premier League Plate Final.
Macca hit the crossbar in that match. I remember once suggesting that she go for the crossbar on free kicks. She took my advice to heart. Macca hit the bar harder and more often than Baz the Haff after a Spurs loss.
If you met Macca off the pitch you’d find a funny, charming woman, happy to chat to fans young and old. On the coach to away games she’d be at the heart of the mischief. I recall a clip of her emerging on match day from digs at St George’s Park. She danced for the camera, sending her teammates into fits.
Watch her closely, though, and, as kick-off approaches, you’ll see the warrior emerge. The eyes sharpen, the ready smile draws tight, as does the hair and and with it, the resolve
Once the whistle goes, Macca grows; tall, commanding, encouraging. As Pompey Nev will tell you, there’s no finer deliverer of a dead-ball. Corners, free kicks, right on the money, as if guided by laser. I’d like to see her assist stats, or ‘goal interactions’ as I think Sky call them now.
Tackling, organising, breaking up play and launching counter-attacks. This is the McIntyre place of business and woe betide anyone not up to the task.
When her midfield partner and captain, the mighty Kelly Newton, retired in 2017, there was only one woman to take up the armband. She did so without blinking, leading her team into the FA Women’s Championship and a whole new level of combat.
Former Lewes captain, now U18s manager Kelly Newton
Kate forged partnerships in centre mid with some fine players. Newton, Rutherford, and Lane to name but three. Each one will tell you, she made them look good. Creating space, making herself available or putting in a challenge where one was needed. Latterly she moved to centre back. What the team lost in an attacking sense it gained in her calmness on the ball and ability to read the play and marshal her troops. Typical of the woman she adjusted to her new role without fuss, for the good of the team.
If you’re looking for legacy, look no further than the wide-eyed youngsters lining up to be a mascot or queueing for autographs. Macca is the number one prize. I’ve lost count of the parents who have told me their daughter wants to play like Macca. She’s won fan’s player of the year more than any other, including last season. She’s a player’s player, too. The tributes, some posted below, from team-mates, fans and coaches, are flooding in, filled with inspiration and admiration in equal measure.
We need to speak about the Macca Minute. It’s like the Golden Goal, only this is the time in a match where Macca, having put her body on the line yet again, looks like she might not get up. Jokes aside, whenever that happens you can hear a collective intake of breath. Katie is the last player you want to see out of a game.
No fan of media duties, Macca never shirked them. If you wanted a quote or a piece for an upcoming match, she’d groan and roll her eyes before dragging herself over. When the camera rolled, there was that focus. Sharp, insightful, clear about the challenge ahead and the objective. She never spoke about herself, always about the team. Passion blazed behind eyes that would burn holes in you if you doubted her for a moment.
In an era when the word ‘professional’ is spreading through the women’s game, with all the ramifications that come with it, we say farewell, and thank you, to one of the most professional players it’s been my privilege to watch.
So long, Macca, and thank you. Leader, Warrior, great servant to your team, your players, your fans and this club.
The Last Samurai.