Newcastle United’s women’s squad will be unveiled in front of a large crowd at St James’ Park at half-time in the Premier League game against Leicester City on Sunday.
It’s a bit like the story of a team which, just two years ago, had the privilege of playing. In Mike Ashley’s day they went by the Newcastle name but were, in the words of people who worked for the club, nothing more than an ‘afterthought’. Perhaps.
No more. Newcastle’s new ownership group has ambitious plans to ‘transform’ the city’s women’s team, which is currently struggling to move up from the fourth tier and is run by Newcastle’s independent charity foundation.
I May reveal a five-year plan is in the works aiming for the Champions League by 2027 and supporting the club to be a future force in women’s football, with Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi pledging to provide funding and resources to accelerate your ascent. across the leagues.
In fact, co-owner Staveley said I the success of the women’s team is “an integral part” of his vision for Newcastle. Other proposals in the five-year plan include:
- Newcastle United take over management of women’s team in time for 2022-3 season
- Getting the club to ‘climb the ladder’ with a staged funding approach that includes moving full-time and providing a transfer budget, with ambitions to be in the Champions League by the start of the 2027/8 season.
- Potential new director of football Dan Ashworth is using his experience with the FA to play a pivotal role in the club’s progress
But first, on May 1, the team will play at St James’ Park for the first time in their history when they conclude their season with a game against Barnsley. The hope is that the match, which will take place 24 hours after the men’s game against Liverpool, will attract up to 30,000 fans and show that there is a real thirst for success in the city’s women’s game.
Staveley, who has been on regular fact-finding trips to speak to club staff since taking over six months ago, will be there. She said I“The women’s team is very important. This is an integral part of our plans to develop talent within the Club and ensure that women’s football and our team continue to gain greater recognition and supporters everywhere.
“[The vision] It’s very close to our ambition for the men’s team, which is to see them grow and compete for the top Premier League trophies.
“This season we hope Newcastle United Women will cap off a successful season with promotion.”
It’s something really transformative for a club that is still made up of part-time players. But it won’t be about throwing money away, bringing in big names from outside and hoping for the best.
Instead, they consulted with those already in the club to see how it can be developed, with regular meetings with existing board members and staff.
What they discovered was a forward-thinking organization which, despite limited funds, had a forward-thinking and highly skilled manager in Becky Langley, who spent three years helping to restructure the club, using cutting-edge psychology . and methods of training and conditioning. .
He has developed a club spirit based on four main values: a positive attitude, friendliness, hard work and commitment.
“At first my concern with the new owners was that everything we had built would be left behind,” admits Langley. I.
But those fears were quickly dispelled when Staveley and Ghodoussi met the team. “It’s not a public relations problem for Amanda or Mehrdad. It’s a real interest, a real desire to create this pathway for women and girls in the city to play professionally,” she said.
The co-owners were told there was a real chance of making an impact on women’s football, where Sunderland have always been the powerhouse of the North East. For their part, they want to promote the exchange of knowledge between Langley and Eddie Howe. Ashworth’s experience will be key, but they won’t lecture those already in charge.
According to Langley, “One of the best things they said was, ‘We don’t want to fix anything that isn’t broken, a lot of good work has been done here.’ They tried to figure out how they can help: it’s not just about having the money, now use it.
“It could be detrimental. They just said to us, ‘Tell us how we can help you, submit a proposal’”.
Langley, a Newcastle fan, was part of those discussions. “My ultimate goal is to get Newcastle into the WSL,” he said.
“But we can’t buy our place in this league, it has to be done the right way. We need good staff, good players. Our first goal is from level four to level three. If that happens, we’ll look to speed it up quickly.”
Newcastle are currently top of the fourth tier but title rivals Liverpool Fed have two games in hand and now appear to be favorites to move up. He could go all the way, until the May Day game at St James’ Park.
Winning, losing or drawing that day will be a big moment. “We’re going to focus on the football aspect, but it’s a huge thing for the city, for women’s football in Newcastle and for the history of the game here,” Langley said. “It never would have happened two years ago. It will be a very proud moment for us.