Newcastle Women could beat Howe’s side to end club’s trophy drought | Women’s football

Becky Langley is suddenly well placed to beat Eddie Howe in the race for Newcastle United’s first trophy since the Saudi takeover. Howe’s men are desperate to end a drought of club silverware that dates back to 1969 when the Fairs Cup was scrapped, but Langley’s fully professional women’s team could still take the lead after reaching the National League Cup final next month.

After a 2-1 win over Portsmouth in front of a raucous crowd of 22,307 at St James’s Park, thanks to Georgia Gibson’s 90th-minute winner, Newcastle now face Essex-based semi-pro Hashtag United at Kenilworth Road in Luton.

An always exciting, often technically impressive semi-final, in which Charlotte Potts opened the scoring for Langley’s side before Emma Jones equalized, proved a wonderful advertisement for women’s football in the third tier.

“The adrenaline is still pumping,” Langley said after taking charge of her 100th game as Newcastle manager, joined by fans who turned the ground into a sea of ​​black and white scarves. “To reach the final today in a very special atmosphere is huge. It’s a fantastic moment for everyone.

“To get from where we were six or 12 months ago to where we are today, we have moved mountains. Five years ago we paid to play football on terrible pitches. I’m just so proud. I can’t thank our fans enough.”

Langley’s team sit at the top of League Three’s Northern Division and are poised to secure one of two Championship promotion places. Newcastle’s majority Saudi owners have instructed them to reach the top flight of the WSL as quickly as possible, and there is quite a debate about whether that goal represents sportswashing or is part of a genuine, wider attempt to fill the role of women in the kingdom.

Despite the clear lack of women’s emancipation in Saudi Arabia, Langley firmly takes the latter view. And especially after flying to Riyadh before Christmas to tutor women’s coaches and their players. “Because we have female role models at Newcastle United, we empower girls and women in Saudi Arabia,” she said. “I think that’s only positive.”

On a negative note, Dan Ashworth’s impending move from the position of sporting director at St James’ Park to a corresponding job at Manchester United appears to be a setback for Langley’s squad. The former FA technical director – currently on gardening leave while the two clubs haggle over compensation – played a key role in laying the foundations for the England Lionesses’ recent successes, before building a WSL side in his later post at Brighton.

“Dan was fantastic with my team and fantastic with me,” said Langley, whose players were getting fit at Newcastle’s men’s training ground on Saturday. “He is a fantastic sporting director and, more importantly, he is a really good guy. We have a lot to thank Dan for, he was brilliant.”

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With Howe not wanting Ashworth’s successor to have too much of a say in first-team recruitment, and the club’s England-based directors seemingly willing to accommodate that wish, Jack Ross could prove a shrewd replacement.

The Northumberland-based former Sunderland and Hibs manager has a genuine interest in and knowledge of the women’s game. She has a master’s degree in economics from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, previously worked as an executive at the international players’ union Fifpro and has written two children’s books.

Perhaps even more significantly, he is a 47-year-old who has also worked in Newcastle’s men’s academy between jobs and is more than intelligent and experienced enough for the role. Like Ashworth, Ross is comfortable in both a tracksuit and a suit and could be just the man to help Langley achieve his WSL dream.

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