Distanced from the club and its owner, Becky Langley and Newcastle United could have perhaps never imagined they would be in such a privileged position 12 months on.
Amanda Staveley led her consortium to purchase the club last year and has been very quick to point out that investment would be handed to Langley, which was brought to light last Sunday.
Prior to their opening game of the season, it was announced that Newcastle United Women were finally affiliated with the Men’s side and would be given sufficient backing.
It’s a milestone moment that everyone involved in the club hasn’t taken lightly, as greater backing brings about loftier expectations, with Langley only interested in records and league titles.
Given the boom in football over the last 12 months and in particular, the last few months, Langley knows this chance hasn’t come about because of luck, the manager has had to put in the hard yards.
“Initially, I’m just really proud to be the first full-time Newcastle United Women’s manager,” she told Her Football Hub. “I think being the first full-time female manager as well is really important, so I’m already really proud of that as a stamp in history.”Embed from Getty Images
Years ago, the North East was a hotbed of talent for footballers, but a lack of funding from all clubs in the area, as well as some controversial decisions from the FA, saw their stars depart for moves further down south.
But with Newcastle now getting huge backing, Langley believes the good times will be coming back.
“I think we’ve got loads of talented players in the area and, currently, we’ve got a couple of players who are in the England U16, 17, and 18 age groups.
“So, we want to support their journey, but keep them here at Newcastle and by the time they’re then senior players, they’re pushing for the England Women’s first team.
“We’d like to think that we will be in the Championship, or in the Women’s Super League. So we just want to make sure that Newcastle United Football Club is the home of our own talent and keeping our talent in the North East and not letting them go to a Man City or an Arsenal.”
While Newcastle now have significant baking behind them, they are indeed still in tier four, which is lightyears away from the likes of Man City and Chelsea, so expectations have to be drawn in and kept in check.
This was evident last Sunday as the Lady Magpies went 1-0 down to league newcomers Merseyrail Ladies, only to then come out victorious 4-1 away from home.
“I think it’s just important that we keep our feet on the ground,” Langley said. “There will obviously be pressure now put on us to deliver and make sure we’re getting the results that, the club wants and we want.”
Newcastle will have a lot of eagle eyes focussed on them this season to see if they can cope with the pressure of having an increased fan base, more season tickets sold, and increased media attention, especially locally.
It’s not all about performances, results and financial backing though. For too long now, women have been subjected to subpar standards compared to their male counterparts. Birmingham City are a great example over the last few years.
Langley’s squad have long had to train away from the men’s Benton base and even just at the start of last season were having to help shovel snow off a 3G pitch at an away match last term, highlighting the lack of resources on offer in the game, especially at this level.
Given the success of England Lionesses this summer, it would be expected that many clubs will sit up and take notice of what equal opportunities look like in football. For example, sharing training facilities, offering the same medical and mental support as well as helping deal with nutrition and menstrual cycles.
This is something that Langley believes strongly about and was clearly delighted to be able to offer her players moving forward with a big grin throughout her answer.
“The players will be much more supported on and off the pitch, which will give them more professionalism and more resources to be able to train more often.
“They’ll be able to look after their nutrition more, there will be sports psychology support, so everything will be kind of wrapped around to put them in the best position to perform on a match day.”Embed from Getty Images
Looking from the outside in and people knowing who now own Newcastle, they will expect them to be winning everything and winning league titles, and that’s all that matters.
However, with Staveley leading the push to offer more equality to Langley’s side and coaching staff, something she’s been open about since arriving on Tyneside, there’s a lot more to it.
It’s about creating a competitive sporting environment for the squad to thrive and offer a clear pathway to the top of the Women’s game for young girls who have not had North East role models for years now.
People talk about the men’s team being a sleeping giant in Newcastle, but Langley’s side could be about to become their own monster that’s ready to shake things up in English football.
You can take in Newcastle’s first home game of the season on Sunday as the Lady Magpies welcome Stockport County to Kingston Park.
Tickets: £3 adults, £1 Juniors