Kate Longhurst joined Liverpool Ladies over five years ago when former manager Matt Beard brought her with him from Chelsea. The time spent with the city and the club has been the majority of the attacker’s career, including the back-to-back league title winning seasons of 2013 and 2014, and her attitudes both on and off the pitch have helped her maintain her staying power with the club. Longhurst spoke recently with SheKicks magazine about her experience on Merseyside and the years that she has seen, now at 28 and a senior player for the club.
“For me, a big part of football and enjoying it is the social side, and I think it always has been,” Longhurst explained. “I am ambitious in terms of playing football but for me, it’s always massive, the part off the pitch.”
“Over the years, we’ve had quite a few characters, especially here. Katrín Ómarsdóttir, I loved her; she was so funny and just someone you could bounce off straight away.
“Katie Zelem was always a massive character here and it’s been a bit quieter without her (since her move to Juventus). There’s been so many different people that I’ve got on with or just different characters who bring their own little individual bits.”
Longhurst’s ability to mix on-field intensity and off-field positivity has proven the perfect recipe for her success, and she’s more than happy to tackle any challenge that comes her way. Both physically and metaphorically.
“I like proving people wrong, because I think quite a lot of the time, when I’ve been here and at other clubs, sometimes people may think I’m technically not as good as other players and I know one thing I’m always going to produce is hard work. I think the key is to always try and improve,” Longhurst continued.
“I kind of like playing relaxed, but I also don’t mind responding to a little bit of criticism and showing that I want to prove people wrong.”
Kate got her start as with Colchester United, also representing England as a youth international. In 2006 she started with Ellen White in the Nationwide Under-17 Tournament final as she scored for England in a 2-0 win over Scotland. From there she went on to feature for Chelsea in their 2012 FA Women’s Cup final against Birmingham, adding her name to the score sheet by burying a right footed shot into the top corner. Her position since those days has changed fairly significantly, with Longhurst playing more midfield these days, and more defensively at that.
“I used to be a striker and I don’t think Scott [Rogers] would put me anywhere near there now! I’ve had to change my role quite a bit; I think I’ve become more of a defensive player, probably because I watch a lot of football, and I feel like my understanding of the game’s quite good,” Longhurst added.
“I haven’t scored for ages now so it’s probably best that I don’t go anywhere near the 18-yard box! When I was younger, I was quite quick, so I used to always look to get in behind and try and finish shots that way, whereas now I think I’ve had to work a lot on my game coming short and getting on the ball a little bit more.
“My role’s changed quite a lot really.”
Kate signed with Liverpool in 2013 and in those five years has been part of every high, every low, and every part of the rebuild that came with the departure of Matt Beard. She was part of the side’s first campaign in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2014 and the league second league crown, and she’s adamant that team spirit and togetherness were the keys to their success that year.
“I think team spirit always takes a massive part of it, because I think if you get on off the pitch then you’re willing to work harder for people and probably willing to do a little bit more for them. That’s always been a big thing here, and then it’s just the quality and having players that can be consistent and turn up in big moments.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to have players that can produce on the big occasion.”
Former manager Beard moved on to coach the now defunct NWSL Boston Breakers in 2015 and his one time assistant Scott Rogers was the one to take the reins in his stead. The upheaval was only exacerbated by an injury ridden season with the ladies finishing 5th the following year. It was clear then that a rebuild had to happen for Liverpool, and in many ways continues to happen.
This is exactly where Liverpool sit now, sitting in fourth on the table with six wins and four losses in ten games, trailing behind bigger money clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal. There’s a definite air of excitement building behind the scenes, though, with Bethany England scoring left and right while on loan from Chelsea, having scored 11 since joining the team.
“We’re definitely still in the progression phase,” Kate continued. “We’ve got a lot of young players coming through the team and it’s about bedding them in and getting us to play at a more consistent level against the best teams.
“I think against Arsenal we played quite well, but we didn’t take our chances in the moments that we needed to, and against City, some of the goals were quite lucky but I don’t think we deserved anything from the game. We’re still building, we’ve got a lot of young players, but I think in the next couple of years we should be looking to build a side that can challenge.”
While that time might still be a ways off, Kate has already dipped her toes into other projects - with the potential for future management in her thoughts. She had a taste of it six years ago when she led Thurstable School’s team to the ESFA Under-18 Schools’ Trophy for Girls, with a 3-2 win over St. Julie’s at the Don Valley Stadium. She was also potentially going to help out with Liverpool’s U17s but has since focused her efforts on playing.
At 28, she’s not nearly ready for retirement, not by a longs hot, but she has been reflective on her career and how she’s changed since she started playing. A maturation she could bring to management further down the line.
“I think I’ve matured quite a lot. I still like having fun, and well, you ask other people and I’m still quite young at heart, but I think I’ve definitely matured, on and off the pitch,” Longhurst added.
“You kind of look after yourself a bit better and you might have to change your role within the team as well, so now I’m one of the older players I have to check that some of the younger players are alright and things like that. When you’re a bit younger, you’re a bit more carefree and you look after yourself a little bit, whereas now you’ve got to look at the bigger picture and see if anyone’s struggling or if anyone needs a bit of advice or help if things aren’t going well.
“I think you change quite a lot as you get older. Most of my life does revolve around football.
“I watch a lot of football, I go to games, and I’ve still got my season ticket at West Ham, so I go there when I can. Now I’ve got a bit older I like looking at the world as well; city breaks when I can, climbing mountains, things like that, just to appreciate the good views and appreciate what the world has to offer.”
With the longest span of her career spent in Liverpool, it would be hard to not become immersed in the city, even as such a fan favorite like Longhurst. That questionable season ticket issue aside, Kate is happy to call Liverpool home.
“I love the city and the people, and it has become a home for me here.
“I haven’t really picked up the accent, but then we haven’t really got many in the team; it’s only really Alex (Greenwood) that’s pure Scouse. But I think whatever happens from here, it’s always going to be a big part of my life, Liverpool.
“It’s really where I’ve had most of my adult life, so it’s definitely a city that will always stay close to my heart.”