Katie McCabe: ‘It’s important to have male allies’

Katie McCabe: ‘It’s important to have male allies’

by Emily Smith
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Katie McCabe’s all-action displays and long-range goals have caught the eye this seasonAston Villa, Everton and Liverpool have all been on the end of one of Arsenal star Katie McCabe’s long-range screamers from her deadly left foot this season.

Those stunning goals from the Republic of Ireland captain, 26, along with her overall performances, have won her plaudits across the game, including from Arsenal legend Ian Wright.

The versatile winger tells BBC Sport how important it is to have male allies within football – and how they have helped shape her career.

Earlier this season, Wright – a regular watcher of Arsenal women at their stadium – described McCabe as his favourite Gunners player.

“Having a legend like Wrighty coming to games, coming to Boreham Wood and cheering us on – it’s really important to have allies like that within the game,” she says.

“Obviously it’s fantastic what Wrighty does for women’s football off the pitch.”

As well as offering his support to her team, Wright has also worked as a TV pundit for England women’s matches, and used his social media to raise awareness of the women’s game.

She adds: “It’s pretty cool when he says I’m his favourite player. It’s great for the game and it gives us all a lift.”

Former Arsenal star Ian Wright is a big supporter of the women’s gameIt was her brother Gary McCabe – a former Shamrock Rovers midfielder – who first gave her the football bug when she was growing up in Ireland.

“He pushed me to join a boys’ team when I was eight or nine,” she says. “He was like ‘come on, you’re going’, he came down with me to my first session.

“He’s been there (for me) ever since. He still is to this day, he’s always watching the games.

“The level he played at over in Ireland was great, and I used to go every Friday night to see him play for Shamrock Rovers. I really looked up to him – I still do.”

He’s also her toughest critic. Having scored a stunning long-range effort in Arsenal’s 4-0 FA Cup win over Liverpool last month, she jokes that he told her “it should have been more in the top corner”.

“There’s always that bit of criticism now and again but we’ve got a great relationship, which I love.”

McCabe started her career at Irish side Shelbourne, before joining Arsenal in 2015 aged 20.

Prior to the move, another star of the game – Republic of Ireland’s all-time leading scorer Robbie Keane – met up with her to offer some words of advice having followed a similar path 19 years earlier.

She says: “Me and Robbie, we grew up in the same area, Tallaght. He’s an Irish legend and someone I’ve looked up to all my life.

“Very early on, I think it was two months prior to me coming to Arsenal, we met up for a coffee.

“He told me about him going away, how difficult it would be and how you need to dig in and keep working and hopefully then things will pick up. I always kept that close to me.

“Robbie’s fantastic. He’s been really important to me and he still supports me to this day, which is great.”

McCabe has played under three managers during her time at Arsenal – Pedro Martinez Losa, Joe Montemurro and now Jonas Eidevall, who was appointed in the summer.

She believes the Swedish coach has helped her progress to new heights on the pitch, with five goals and five assists in the Women’s Super League so far this season.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working under him,” she says. “He’s helped me bring my game up another level.

“I’m enjoying learning off him from a tactical point of view and technical point of view.”

It’s not just tips she’s looking for to help her game, McCabe is also dipping her toe into coaching having started her Uefa B coaching licence.

She says she is really enjoying that side of the game, while it has also given her a new perspective on what it’s like to be a coach, admitting that it has taught her “to lay off the coaches a little bit because it’s a tough job”.

Can she see herself becoming a coach when she retires?

She replies: “As I become older, it’s important to have a succession plan because obviously you can’t play football forever. There will come a point when I will have to retire and I just want to prepare myself as best as possible.”

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