Ode to Jen Beattie: An emotional farewell to an Arsenal legend

Jennifer Beattie of Arsenal celebrates after a goal
Jennifer Beattie of Arsenal celebrates after a goal during the Continental Cup game vs Bristol City on November 21, 2019 (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

Jen Beattie has made the leap to join the newly formed NWSL outfit Bay FC, leaving London as one of the best to ever wear the Arsenal kit. As a new season in the US gets underway, here is a look at the inspirational journey of one of the league’s newest additions.

Beattie, 32, departed from Arsenal in February. The centre-back said goodbye to North London, having signed a permanent contract with Bay FC. The San Francisco-based outfit play the first match in their history in the NWSL’s opening weekend against Angel City FC on Sunday, March 17th.

The Scottish international made her senior debut at just 15 years old, signing with the SWPL’s Queen’s Park FC Ladies. After two seasons, she transferred to fellow SWPL side Celtic. In one of football’s wonderful twists, she faced off against another teen sensation in the SWPL, future Arsenal teammate Kim Little.

Beattie retired from the Scottish National Team in 2023, after a stellar career on the world stage saw her earn 143 caps and 24 goals, including one at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Beattie’s time at Arsenal

Jen Beattie started her first stint with Arsenal in 2009. Wearing the No.5 shirt, her initial four years at the North London club saw her play a vital role in the team’s success. In addition to her stalwart defensive talents, she often contributed on the scoresheet. Using her strength, height, and knowledge, Beattie often became the target of corners.

In her first Arsenal term, she found the back of the net 11 times in 43 matches. Her first spell with the Gunners continued until 2013, when she made her move to Division 1 Féminine side Montpellier HSC. After a three-season spell, she returned to the Women’s Super League in 2015, signing with Manchester City.

Beattie was part of City’s championship-winning side in 2016, and collected several more pieces of silverware with the Citizens.

Beattie made her return to Arsenal in June 2019, winning the league title with the Gunners under then manager Joe Montemurro. She finished her career as an Arsenal legend with 166 appearances and 14 goals scored.

Arsenal describe Beattie as ‘a true legend of the WSL’.

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An LGBTQ+ role model

Jen Beattie has also made valuable contributions to the conversations surrounding football and the LGBTQ+ community.

After attending the Pride In London Parade in 2022 with Arsenal’s LGBTQ+ supporters’ group, the star said: “I’m so proud to represent Arsenal and support the club’s ambitions to create an inclusive environment for all. It’s vital that football clubs use their reach and influence to promote equal rights. Everyone should feel comfortable being their true selves and we have a responsibility to ensure we create a safe and welcoming environment that enables this.”

Having players like Beattie speak so openly about their sexuality and the importance of queer representation and inclusion, is incredibly important. Not only do Beattie’s candid comments provide reassurance to those who may be having difficulties in this area, but they also help to drive forward the progression of football as an inclusive sport across the board.

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Speaking to PinkNews in 2023, Beattie explained: “We still need to challenge perception. It’s even more important to do so in the men’s game because that’s where the game needs to grow. I still think both games need role models and we need people to be as open as they can. That’s what helps the next generation.”

A media presence like no other

Away from the field, Beattie has also made a name for herself as much-loved media figure and capable pundit. She impressed viewers with her commentary on the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and has become renowned among fans for her bubbly online persona.

In 2021, Jen Beattie was honoured with the Helen Rollason Award at then BBC Sports Personality of the Year. This award celebrates ‘outstanding achievement in the face of adversity.’

Her Football Hub editor Rick Pytlik on Jen Beattie’s impact

Far more than just a footballer

For the impact Jen Beattie has had on the Arsenal, Scotland, and women’s football as a whole, I must relate the impact she has had on me. I am also a Scot, but I languished basically my whole life in the United States. When I finally got into football, I cheered for Scotland’s national team, of which Jen was a vital member. (I will never get over the Finland match. If you know, you know). She was a Gunner, and a stalwart defender, my second favourite position on the pitch — #GKUnion.

She quickly became one of my favorite players in all of football. And then she became my hero.

At the very young age of 29, Beattie received the devastating news of a breast cancer diagnosis. Such news produces a range of emotions and thoughts. It could easily send a person into the depths of despair. Jen Beattie, however, faced it head-on and didn’t let it it beat her. She underwent prescribed treatment, had necessary surgery, and remained the amazing footballer that she had always been. She remained with club and country, and she amazingly scored for the Gunners just three days after receiving her diagnosis.

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The thoughts of a hero

Awarded an MBE in the 2023 New Year Honours list for services to football and charity, Beattie has become an advocate for those facing cancer and is very passionate about encouraging others to mind their health.

“The charity work is something I am so passionate about. Obviously, I went through the diagnosis of breast cancer and the importance of checking yourself and going to get checked,” she told former Her Football Hub reporter Graham Falk for The Scotsman.

“If you feel anything out of the norm, the likelihood of it being nothing is quite high. But the likelihood of it being something is still worth going to get checked and finding something early.

“The most important thing for me is taking away the embarrassment of it. We live in a world where we sometimes only talk about the positive things. There are a lot of difficult things, and the more we talk about them, the easier it becomes.

“There is no embarrassment in getting things checked by your GP and being told it is nothing because if it is something and you’ve caught it early — it can be OK. There’s so many ways for things to be OK in the end.”

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We are all Jen Beattie fans

Beattie’s Arsenal team joined with their Manchester City opponents to honor the star in their WSL clash of December 13, 2020. All players from both teams came on the pitch for warm-ups wearing the No.5 Beattie kit. The love and support of the football community has been outstanding, and everyone associated with football can feel it.

I was immediately inspired when I saw those kits, and before the opening kick-off, I had acted. I went straight to the Arsenal website and ordered a No.5 kit, but not with the name ‘Beattie’. I knew that the only thing I could get on that kit was the word ‘Hero’. I paid for expedited shipping, and put that kit on as soon as it arrived. I posted a picture of myself in it, and tagged Jen Beattie in it. I got one of the best surprises of my life when she liked the photo.

While sad as a Gooner, I am so excited that she is going to play in the States, as now I can see her play live. I plan to purchase a ticket as close to the visiting team bench when Bay faces Chicago on June 8th. I will be wearing that Hero kit, and I really hope that Jen sees it and knows how much she has inspired the entire football community with her strength and courage.

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