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Sunderland Ladies v Blackburn Rovers - Barclays FA Women’s Championship

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Lasses Interview & Profile: The ever-reliable Grace McCatty!

Scatty by name but almost never by nature, we profile defender and adopted northerner Grace McCatty. She is everything you want in a Championship defence - experienced, calm, and a natural leader.

Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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With the 2021/2022 FA Women’s Championship season over and Sunderland having secured another year in the second tier of women’s football, it’s time to stop and reflect.

Want to learn more about your favourite footballer or fun facts about some of the lasses biggest stars? Then look no further....

This summer, Roker Report is profiling some of the SAFC Women players by asking them some interesting questions, delving into their stats, and sharing our thoughts on them as both players and as people.


Grace McCatty

Sunderland Ladies v Durham Women - FA Women’s Championship Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Where were you born? Gloucester, England

Former teams you’ve played for? Quedgeley Wanderers FC, Gloucester City Girls FC, Gloucester City WFC, Bristol City WFC (formerly Bristol Academy WFC), Durham WFC and Sunderland AFC Ladies

Favourite food? Garlic bread… I appreciate it’s not a proper meal, but you can’t beat it! And anything Italian with garlic bread on the side!

Favourite music genre/artist/band? Throwing it back to the 90s with Westlife.

Who inspired or inspires you? My inspiration was, and still is my Dad. As someone who grew up with three brothers, from as young as I remember, we were outside in the garden playing football and it has always been something we just did, and now I continue to do. My Dad always encouraged us to engage in any activity which we enjoyed, and this is how I fell in love with football.

What would you sing on the team bus karaoke? It would definitely have to either be a Westlife number, Black Eyed Peas ‘Where is the Love?’ or a throwback song to the 80s or 90s which I am sure most of our younger players won’t have even heard of!

Who is your favourite women’s footballer past or present? My favourite player would have to be Kelly Smith. Having had the opportunity to play against her, she was as good as they all say she was, and she is still such an iconic figure of the women’s game today.

Do you have any superstitions or pre-match rituals? I don’t have any superstitions, but I am a person of habit, I just like to make sure I get my pre-match coffee in, have a proper meal which usually includes eggs, and then a Red Bull before kick-off.

Any other hobbies? Football alongside my job and my PhD studies dominate a large part of my life, but outside of football, seeing friends and family keeps me busy enough. I would one day love to learn to play the acoustic guitar!

Fun fact about yourself or hidden talent? I have three brothers, one of which is a twin called Jordan! I am 11 minutes older than him and I regularly like to remind him of that

If you weren’t playing football, what do you think you would do or want to do? I would be doing exactly what I am doing now, working in international development. I love my job, and I love that I get to travel and work in Africa - the best continent in the world - and I am grateful that not only do I get to do this, but I get to do it alongside playing football! I am very grateful.


Snapshot Analysis

Averaging 90 minutes per game and playing in 17 out of 21 fixtures this season, Grace McCatty has been a reliable figure for Sunderland.

One of the most experienced players in the team, McCatty along with the likes of Keira Ramshaw, Magan Beer, and Abbey Joice, lead the squad by example.

Playing as right centre-back, McCatty has been a key piece of the defensive line. Particularly since the lasses lost her defensive partner in Charlotte Potts, McCatty has had to adjust to playing in a back four with slightly inexperienced players or those playing slightly out of position. She’s worked alongside the goalkeepers to command the backline, making teammates aware of opposition players running in unmarked, or to get their defensive shape.

McCatty Average ‘‘Heatmap’’
Wyscout

McCatty is a defender who loves to defend, it is her bread and butter, she regularly finds herself the last player back and is someone who is not afraid of getting stuck in. She plays with composed aggression, knowing when to press, when to tackle and when to close down.

Her stalwart nature and defensive prowess, means she is a calming and reassuring figure for the team to look towards. They don’t need to second guess any of her decisions and are confident in the way she composes herself. Never one to find herself out of position, she reads the game constantly.

In the footage I have reviewed from this season, I can regularly see McCatty scanning her surroundings, looking over her shoulder, looking for opportunities to may herself available to receive the pass and in some instances, she is not afraid to get forward and involved in a corner. Her off the ball movement is exemplified in the clip below; short and direct bursts of pace, you could forgive an opposition player for not wanting to tackle her as surges towards them.

McCatty is nothing short of brave, putting her body on the line, throwing herself in front of the ball and adjusting her body position at a quick rate as she reads the direction of play. Her agility and nimbleness allows for her dominant in aerial duels despite measuring in at around 5ft 7 in height. She towers above opposition players, making sure she is first to the ball.

She is the definition of an old school defender. No nonsense type of player, who isn’t interested in the intricacies of dribbling or showboating, relying on her sheer physical strength and mentality. McCatty is good at slowing down and nullifying an opponent with her presence, disrupting their attacking flow by applying pressure and closing them down, sometimes hard. It forces players to rethink their strategy, you can’t run at McCatty and you certainly can’t dribble past her either. Her ability to time tackles and get stuck in are second to none.

When McCatty has the ball, she shields it well. Not over-exerting herself or allowing an opportunity to be dispossessed. She keeps the ball close to her feet and is confident in her abilities, running with the ball with her head up as she scans the field for an opportunity to pass to a teammate or look to play in a long ball over the top (you can see this in the clip below.

McCatty is at her best when pressing up from the back, keeping a low centre of gravity and ensuring she keeps a side-on perspective, allowing her to get a full view of the pitch and easily pivot and/or turn should the opposition begin to counter, giving her time to react, by either coming forward to close them down or drop back.

Her split-second shifting, vision, physicality, sheer determination and use of her legs to get in-between and around opponents all combine to make her a defensive destroyer for the lasses.

A valuable asset, key player and undoubtedly a reliable figure on the pitch. It’s no wonder that in only one game this season she has been substituted off and even then, it was in the 88th minute.

She is an integral part of this team and I hope the club appreciate her expertise, commitment and affinity for the game. Her passion and dedication know no bounds and that extends into her personal life and work life.

Sunderland Ladies v Blackburn Rovers - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Charlotte Tattersall - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

2021-22 Season Stats (Averages)

  • 46 Total Actions per game
  • 22.12 passes per game
  • 14.71 duels per game
  • 2.84 aerial duels per game
  • 4.14 interceptions per game
  • 9.5 recoveries per game

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Grace McCatty is in many ways the linchpin of the modern Sunderland AFC Women’s squad; an experienced campaigner who has played WSL and Champions League football with her former side Bristol City. Her presence in and around the squad - on and off the pitch - brings a sense of maturity and calmness to the Lasses backline that other Championship sides sometimes lack. It also clearly benefits the younger players like Neve Herron and Abby Towers who’ve partnered her since the departure of Charlotte Potts in the winter.

Her other career in humanitarian and development work in sub-Saharan Africa is clearly very demanding, and when she’s not been available we have always looked more vulnerable, and we miss her at the other end of the pitch on set-pieces too.

Nevertheless, the fact that she is able to combine the two is testament both to her and the flexible model that SAFC have adopted, which allows for older players to continue with their jobs whilst offering younger players the opportunity through the scholars programme and the Gateshead College link-up, to concentrate almost full-time on football.

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