Newcastle boss hoping promotion could help more women’s teams turn professional

By Sports Desk February 20, 2024

Newcastle head coach Becky Langley has challenged her side to win promotion to the Women’s Championship to pave the way for other aspiring clubs to join them in turning professional.

The Magpies went full-time last summer – 12 months after head coach Langley had done the same – to become the first tier-three outfit to make the move in England.

They currently sit at the top of the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division, nine points clear of Nottingham Forest, who have a game in hand, and 14 better off than Burnley, who have played three fewer, as they chase promotion to the Championship and ultimately the Women’s Super League.

Langley told the PA news agency: “If we let a Burnley or a Forest, who are on a hybrid part-time model, win the league, then other clubs will go, ‘Well actually, you don’t need to go full-time, you can still do it part-time’, so there’s a duty of care for players to actually get them to be full-time players.

“We’ve got to be doing that on the pitch and showing that with results so the likes of a Wolves, a Burnley, a Forest, a Huddersfield, teams who have got good men’s sides, will start investing in the women’s game.”

The trajectory taken by Langley’s team since Amanda Staveley’s consortium assumed control at St James’ Park has been rapidly upwards.

On the night they were handed the keys to the club, Staveley referenced the women’s team as a major focus and an arm of Newcastle which had previously operated under the auspices of its charitable foundation was taken in-house during the summer of 2022.

Significant investment since has helped to fuel successive promotion drives, the latest of which appears to be firmly on course after a recruitment mission which, among others, brought Jamaica international striker Paige Bailey-Gayle to the club from Championship Crystal Palace in January.

Langley said: “Amanda has been absolutely phenomenal, since arriving, for the women’s team, showing her support – and it’s been consistent support.

“They just completely get it and they want the best for the women’s team as well as the men’s and the Academy.”

Much of the financial power behind Staveley’s consortium comes from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which holds an 80 per cent stake in the club, and the human rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community in the Gulf state have been a particular focus for critics since the takeover.

Langley, who has completed her UEFA B and A Licence courses and hopes to join an exclusive band of women in this country who have been invited to study for the Pro Licence, travelled to the Middle East late last year to work with female coaches.

The 28-year-old said: “To see actually so many girls participating in the sessions was fantastic – the quality was really good – and then actually empowering other female coaches out in Saudi was really important as well.

“Newcastle United and the power of having female role models at Newcastle United Women going out and empowering girls and women out in Saudi, I think is only a positive.”

It is not so long since sport and exercise science graduate Langley, then working full-time at Northumbria University, had to coach a squad including police officers and teachers after they had all done a day’s work.

Now fully professional, Langley and her Newcastle side are focusing on Sunday’s FA WNL Cup semi-final clash with Portsmouth at St James’, which is expected to be attended by a crowd in excess of 25,000, and beyond that, securing promotion.

Asked how big the club could be, Langley said: “It’s all going to take time, it’s not going to happen overnight. We can’t jump any steps. But I think it can be one of the best teams in the WSL.”

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