Julie Chipchase tribute: 'She made people believe in themselves and she brought out the best in them'

“Tributes paid by former colleagues, players and coaches speak volumes for Chippy's influence.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 11:21 am
Updated Thursday, 13th May 2021, 4:03 pm
Sheila Edmunds, left, and Julie Chipchase, right, proudly hold the trophy following Doncaster Rovers Belles' FAWSL2 title triumph in 2018. Photo: Julian Barker
Sheila Edmunds, left, and Julie Chipchase, right, proudly hold the trophy following Doncaster Rovers Belles' FAWSL2 title triumph in 2018. Photo: Julian Barker

"At a time when the women's game was struggling for resources and recognition, she selflessly gave her all, passing on her passion and knowledge to inspire others. Our sincere condolences.”

A message from FIFA, no less.

Solemn words, encapsulating the love and respect for Julie Chipchase the Doncaster Rovers Belles legend who sadly lost her battle with cancer last week at the age of 60.

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Julie Chipchase, pictured in action for the Belles in 1992. Photo: Julian Barker

A pioneer of women’s football, Julie’s legacy lives on through the professionalisation of the sport and the endless opportunities now available to young girls in the game.

She put her heart and soul into Belles, football and life.

"It speaks volumes about the presence she had in women’s football when FIFA puts out a message like that,” said Belles president and close friend Sheila Edmunds.

“She was a loyal, kind, generous person who gave her time to help anybody and she made players and coaches believe in themselves.

A minute’s applause in memory of Julie Chipchase was observed at last weekend's FAWSL games. Photo: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

“People have either got that – that ability to empathize with others and bring the best out of other people – or they haven’t. Julie had it in abundance and she was so well respected and liked by everybody.

“She was so well liked within the FA. She worked with hundreds and thousands of coaches, men and women.

“One the biggest things she did at Belles was pioneer the development of female coaches and managers and get them to aspire to reach the highest possible level. Emma Coates [former Belles manager, now coaching within the England set-up] is testimony to that.”

Chipchase joined the Belles as a player in the late 1980s and managed the reserve team before taking the first team reins for six years.

She returned to the club in 2013 as director of football, a role which saw her work closely with Belles’ coaching team.

Chipchase also managed Leeds United Ladies and worked with England Women’s U15, U17 and U23 teams.

"She was all about developing young players and developing female coaches within the women’s game,” said Edmunds.

“She delivered the A Licence, she was a Pro Licence holder, and whoever she came into contact with – males and females – had so much time and respect for her because she was so good at what she did.

“She had such a passion for it. She had various other jobs before she got into coaching and she knows where we’ve come from as a sport.

“When I first met her in the early 1970s she was playing for Kilnhurst and we had nothing. You paid to play in those days. She’s been through it, she knows what it’s like and to see where the game’s got to now – cup finals at Wembley for instance, whereas we played on a semi-pro ground if we were lucky.

“Players are professional now, they’re paid to play, they’re on contracts, agents and all that that goes with it – some positive and some not so – but she has seen that growth.

“Chippy’s legacy is that she’s made females believe that they can have whatever they set their heart on, whatever they set their mind to.

“She made people believe in themselves and she brought out the best in them.

“She gave so many opportunities to people, especially young players. She was all about young players coming through.”

Belles founder Edmunds took time to look through some old photos and cuttings last week and one picture stood out – her and Julie together, celebrating the club’s FAWSL2 title success in 2018.

"She’ll leave a massive hole in my life,” said Sheila. “I’ve known her for a long, long time. We’ve got so many treasured memories and experiences, we’ve laughed and cried together, she’s always been there for me and I’ve tried to be there for her when we’ve needed each other.

“We just enjoyed it. Nothing’s been a great hardship. And even when we have had things to deal with, especially at Belles over these last few years, we’ve stuck together and done it between us.

“I said to Paul, my husband, I felt like we were the last two of the old breed.”

Chipchase won the Women’s FA Cup with Belles three times as a player and as manager she twice guided the club to the final.

“I was reading the 1990 cup final programme and she’d said in the player portraits it was her ambition to win the Women’s FA Cup and she did it in her first season at the club,” said Sheila.

“She was number two, full back and a traditional full back – none of this overlapping malarkey like the players today! Chippy just got in there, tackled for the ball and gave it to someone else.

“She was so dependable. She never let you down. She was always there, even if it was on the other end of a phone call.

"As manager it was a steep learning curve in many ways for her because that was her first bit of experience,” she added.

“But she had everyone’s respect and people wanted to play for her. They believed in her, they trusted her.

“A lot of the messages on social media are from ex-players who know what she’s like and what she did for them individually. There’s been messages from people I’ve not heard from for years but I’ve always said football families are special. Unless you’re in a football family you don’t understand it, you don’t get it. It’s just so special.”

Some well-known figures within the game posted tributes to Julie Chipchase on social media...

Sue Smith, former England and Belles forward

Absolutely heartbroken to hear of the sad passing of Julie Chipchase she was a Donny Belles legend as player and a successful manager. Loved playing for you! A legend and pioneer of the women’s game and a friend. RIP Chippy Love to Jo Lily and Charlie.

Neil Redfearn, former Belles manager

Absolutely shocked and saddened to hear the the passing of Julie Chipchase. My thoughts are with her family at this sad time. A truly remarkable football person and I will never forget our time together at Doncaster Rovers Belles. RIP Chippy.

Jess Sigsworth, ex-Belles striker now at Manchester United Women

Unbelievably sad to hear the news about Chippy. Julie took me back at Belles when I was close to giving in. Thank you for always believing in me and making me love football again. Winning the championship with Donny will always be very special. Rest in perfect peace Chippy.

Jacqui Oatley, Sports broadcaster

So, so sad to hear this news. Julie Chipchase was much loved and respected within women’s football. It was a pleasure to work with her many years ago. Her knowledge and insight was exceptional. Thoughts with her family and friends.