Argyle Ladies legend and club captain Katie Middleton’s association with the club may be nearing an incredible two decades, but she still feels she has plenty to offer at Home Park.
Having amassed almost 300 career games for the Greens, scoring nearly 100 goals, Katie has experienced a rollercoaster career in women’s football.
A qualified physiotherapist with the NHS, Katie has stayed fit during the lock down by cycling to work, as well as keeping up her demanding training schedule. An honest and dependable central defender, Katie has been the rock at the heart of the Argyle defence for many years.
Argyle Ladies manager Dave Leonard does not underestimate the influence that his longest-serving player has on the squad: “What can you say about Katie? To be at one club for nearly 20 years speaks for itself.
“She has seen it all - what can I add to all the good things said about her over the years? But, to be honest, it’s proof of her desire and attitude to want to continue to play football. I would probably say as a footballer at Plymouth Argyle she is probably the longest serving player ever to play for the club.
“I remember Katie at Activate as a 16-year-old and she has been a great ambassador for the club. There will never be another player like her.”
Reflecting on her career so far, Katie said: “I have an older brother, Jamie, who played football - so we always used to be playing in the garden or the local school fields.
“He played for a local team and I would always go along with my dad to watch him play. I was 13 when football got introduced into the school curriculum, and it was from there that I was put forward for trials for the Argyle Girls Centre of Excellence that was being set up.”
Jamie went on to forge a terrific career in local football, but he was not the only influence on Katie’s career.
“Someone else who I always hold in high regard is Peter Distin, a legendary football coach who will be well known by anyone within the football circuit in Plymouth. Pete was the catalyst behind setting up girls’ football in my school and also allowed me to train with his ladies team at Activate when I first started playing. He was always a big admirer of mine and pushed me all the way.”
A promising youngster, Katie was already playing senior women’s football for Saltash Pilgrims, who would later merge with Argyle, while still at school. After a decade in the women’s game, she was offered a move into the big time.
“In 2009, I was offered the opportunity to play for Bristol Academy (now Bristol City) in the Premier League,” said Katie.
“This was too good an opportunity to turn down, so I signed for them and gained some really valuable experience for a season, albeit I was dual signed for Argyle at the time so never really left!
“I rejoined Argyle properly in 2010 as although it was brilliant playing in the Premier League, having to travel from Plymouth to Bristol 3 times a week whilst working full-time was really hard,” said Katie. “Since rejoining in 2010, I’ve not looked back and it’s been great playing in a progressive team that have big plans for the future.”
Katie has captained the Pilgrims for several seasons since her return from Bristol City, and it is a role she takes very seriously.
“As club captain, I feel I have plenty of responsibility. First and foremost, to be a positive influence on and off the pitch.
“If I can teach the younger players coming through how to conduct themselves in training, games and off field activities then I feel as though I’ve achieved something. I like to try to lead by example and that includes helping the club with promotional work as well as things on the pitch. For me, being a good role model is the most important thing.”
Over a long and storied career at Home Park, Katie references the Greens unbeaten 17/18 season as her favourite memory.
“We played Poole Town at Home Park to win the league and finish the season unbeaten. I also scored our 100th goal of the season in that game, which was a great achievement for everyone involved with the team.”
Despite the realities of balancing a demanding job with the challenges of playing football to a high level, Katie is no hurry to hang up her boots.
“I don’t think I’m quite ready to throw in the towel on my playing days just yet although I know that is getting closer.
“In my remaining seasons, I just want Plymouth Argyle Ladies to be as successful as we can, keep pushing ourselves as high up the leagues as we can. If I can remain a good role model for the younger girls at the club then I will finish my career with plenty of good memories and achievements to look back on.”