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Agnew will keep driving Rookettes forward
Jacquie Agnew has been the driving force in the remarkable rise of Lewes Ladies.
But she insists her work is not done despite stepping down as manager.
After 12 years of unprecedented success since taking on the post, Agnew handed over the reins following the final game of the season.
During that period, the Rookettes have risen from step six in the women’s pyramid to step three.
They ended the 2013-14 season as the leading team in Sussex – finishing above Albion ladies in FA Women’s Premier League South.
The next challenge is progressing to the FA Women’s Super League and that will form the basis of Agnew’s work in her new role as head of football operations.
Next season Lewes will add a women’s development/reserve side to their ranks as well as an under-18s team, making them even more of a force to be reckoned with.
It is all a far cry from when Agnew was asked to take over the newly-formed Lewes women’s team in 2002.
She said: “It was Terry Parris who first invited me and Ron Moore over to form a ladies’ team which would be both progressive and competitive.
“We pulled a squad of players together. We were at step six, so quite low down in the pyramid, at county level really.
“During that 12-year period we have won three promotions and seven trophies, including a couple of Sussex Cups and the Ryman Cup as well.
“It has been an incredibly successful period in terms of silverware and promotion too.
“Our goal was always to get promotion to the Women’s Premier League on merit and we finally did that in 2011-12, going unbeaten as we won the South East Combination and scoring something like 126 goals.
“This season has been quite challenging but we finished the season seven games unbeaten and one was against Brighton which meant we got the bragging rights for Sussex.
“Most managers set objectives for their team at the beginning of the season and ours is always to improve on the season before.
“The season before we got 23 points and this season we finished up with 31 so that was a big tick in the box.”
The profile of the women’s game in England has grown since the creation in 2011 of the FA Women’s Super League but currently there is no promotion from the Premier League. That is something Agnew wants to change in her new role.
She said: “We want to play at the very highest level we can but we want it based on merit, not on a licensed system like what the FA are doing with the WSL.
“As a club we have been driving the campaign to open up the pyramid again with the FA. We would like to get into the WSL within the next three seasons but the system has to change.
“I have been heading up the campaign to do that on behalf of the Women’s Premier League and we have had meetings with the FA. There is a lot of common ground now and we have come a long way in a short period.”
Agnew is relishing the challenges ahead, particularly with the expansion of the ladies’ section at Lewes, but she admits it was a tough decision to step down as manager.
She said: “It was a hard decision but it made sense. As we are expanding we needed somebody with experience of the club, who knows how it works, how it operates to look after that.
“I have gone on a high. Now I can bring my experience and skill set into developing a really good structure for Lewes Ladies going forward.
“I was given a very unique project at Lewes – a free hand to develop a progressive and competitive team.
“I was given great support by this community club and they let me achieve so much. It is a very unique scenario because you don’t normally get that.
“These last 12 years have been incredible and there have been some great memories.”
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