Julie Chipchase has left a lasting legacy to women’s game - Sue Smith

Women’s football lost a pioneer this week with the death of former Doncaster Belles player, manager and director of football and Leeds United manager Julie Chipchase.

Chippy was such a big part of people’s lives in women’s football in Yorkshire, including mine when she was my manager at Leeds.

She was a fantastic coach with a brilliant football brain but on top of that, you always felt like she really cared for you as a player. When you signed for her you knew she would help you off the pitch as well as on it.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The outpouring on social media when her death was announced this week showed what she meant to so many people.

BIG DAY: Leeds United Ladies manager Julie Chipchase watches on during the FA Cup Final at Millwall back in 2006.

Managers can be tactically very good and know the game inside out, as she did, but the other side of her was a determination to make us all better players.

In any workplace you can have a manager who will tell you what to do and what not to but it means more to have someone with a genuine interest in you as a person.

In my time at Leeds, I probably did not really think about that but when I look back now it was so important to me.

If I ever rang her with a problem at work or off the pitch she would do absolutely anything for me, which is why I and all my team-mates really wanted to win games for her.

DENIED: Leeds United manager Julie Chipchase hugs Nicole Emmanuel after defeat to Arsenal in the FA Women's Premier League Cup Final at Scunthorpe in March 2007.

When I was left out of England’s squad for the 2005 European Championships, a home tournament, one of the first people to ring me was Chippy. She rang to say I did not have to train that night, and to tell me she was there to get me back into the squad because she knew how much playing for England meant to me.

That actually made me want to train and when I did she was there for me straight away.

This week there have been so many people saying playing for her at Doncaster or Leeds was their best time in football. That was down to the really strong team spirit she created.

She would always come on our end-of-season dos and although she would be the first home because she had that professional element, she was always happy to have half-a-lager with the girls and always up for a joke.

Julie Chipchase: Passed away this week.

She was not very loud and there was no effing and blinding but when she spoke, you listened. I always responded well to her calm, to-the-point style. I never saw Chippy play apart from when she joined in training but I spoke to her former team-mate and best friend Sheila Edmunds, who was Belles general manager when I played for them, and she called her a tenacious full-back who liked a tackle.

She moved into management after playing for the Belles and managed them when they were flying. She also worked across the England youth set-up.

Chippy was one of the first three women in England to get her Uefa Pro licence, along with Mo Marley and Hope Powell, but she was so humble we would never have known if the FA had not announced it.

She also did not want people to know she was ill, so I was shocked when I heard the news.

I sent her a video message to wish her a happy 60th birthday at the start of the year and followed it up with a message to say we should meet up as soon as things got back to normal and she was straight back to say yes.

She had a really positive attitude and probably expected to come through her breast cancer.

So it was a shock when I got a message on Monday to say she was gravely ill, and when she passed away the next day. I presume she did not want anyone to see her like that, just to remember her as she was when she was our manager, full of life.

We created a WhatsApp group of ex-Leeds players and while it’s horrible we are coming together in such sad times it put me in touch with a lot of team-mates I had not spoken to for years.

Her legacy will live on through all the people she helped because as well as being a player and a manager, she also educated future coaches. The Wales women’s manager, Gemma Grainger, counts her as a mentor, as does Sally Needham, who works in Sheffield United’s boys academy, Liverpool women’s academy manager Julie Grundy and lots of other coaches and managers.

Chippy died too young but still achieved so much and her impact on women’s football has not ended yet.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.