Emma Kelly happy to have made the move from Sunderland to Newcastle United
Newcastle United Women’s team are enjoying an outstanding season as they bid to secure back-to back promotions.
Becky Langley’s side, who saw off the challenge of Durham Cestria to win the FA Women’s National League Division One North in 2022-23, are currently five points clear at the top of the FA WPL Premier Division (the third tier of women’s football).
Although they lost their first league game of the season after suffering a narrow 2-1 loss to fellow promotion chasers Nottingham Forest on Sunday, they still have a great opportunity to secure a place in the Women’s Championship for 2024-25.
Since the takeover in 2021 enormous strides have been taken, with the club becoming professional in the summer of 2023. This prompted a summer overhaul of the squad, with the ultimate aim of reaching the promised land of the Women’s Super League.
One of the first players signed was Emma Kelly, who joined from local rivals Sunderland. For this article I sat down with Emma to talk about her time at the club so far, her experiences in Iceland and her ambitions for the future.
A former England youth international Kelly, who has also played for Middlesbrough and Birmingham City as well as enjoying a short spell playing in Iceland, is thriving at the heart of Langley’s side.
Emma Kelly, who had previously played in the WSL during her time at Birmingham, took a step down the pyramid in order to sign for the club but says the opportunity to play full-time was one that was too good to miss, having previously juggled her playing career with her commitments as a P.E teacher.
“Trying to balance the full-time career as a teacher and having to train in the evenings was difficult last season. It was such an intense schedule that sometimes you can’t fully focus on the basics such as nutrition, your sleep, getting a chance to rest and switch off. It’s made a massive difference to training and how I feel in games.
“I don’t view it as a step down with the investment and the momentum of where the club is going. The way they’ve supported the women’s team to go professional speaks volumes.”
Emma Kelly was one of a number of signings in the summer as the club prepared for the step up in quality after achieving promotion and she has been pleased with how well the team has performed since the busy summer transfer period.
“You don’t know how a brand new team is going to bond and perform together. We’ve been really lucky, but the group has gelled really well. Since I came to Newcastle I’ve been made to feel really welcome and I think we couldn’t have asked for a better start as a new professional team.”
Newcastle United’s progress in the women’s game has been evident not just on the pitch with the results, but also off the pitch where the fanbase continues to grow. Record breaking attendances at St James’ Park (see image above) have highlighted that interest while Kingston Park continues to attract thousands of supporters through the turnstiles for regular league fixtures.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of the Newcastle fans. The support they give is unbelievable. The support they show at Kingston Park and on social media really makes the club feel as one. When we are playing it makes a massive difference.”
One of very few players to have played for Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough Kelly also enjoyed a year playing in Iceland, which she says was one of the highlights of her career so far.
“I loved Iceland. I had just finished my university degree and I spoke to a few girls who had been abroad for football and they all just said it’s a life experience that you need to do and really sold it to me.
“The whole experience of Iceland was amazing. I lived on a little island off Iceland, so the travel to and from games was a bit different, having to get ferries or flights to the mainland and then it would be long bus journeys to get to the games. That was an adjustment but I can’t really explain how good life was out there. I worked in a little café and got to know the culture and the people and travel round and experience the country.”
With the season building to an exciting conclusion, Kelly and her team-mates will be aiming for success on two fronts with a quarter final tie against Fylde this weekend in the FA Women’s National League Cup. This is followed by a potentially season defining match against Burnley on 11 February.
Win that game and promotion will be theirs to lose.
Asked if promotion was what the team is aiming to achieve this season Kelly replies:
“Definitely yeah. Because we have done so well now it’s a target that is definitely something we want to be aiming for. We didn’t know how the season would start. There’s not many teams that would do a back-to-back promotion which is a really hard thing to try and achieve. The way that we are going we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, we just take every week as it comes but it is definitely what we are striving for.”
With players like Emma Kelly at the beating heart of Becky Langley’s team, few would bet against them adding two more pieces of silverware to their trophy cabinet by the end of the season.
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