LAST November, Becky Langley and her players cleared the snow from a pitch to ensure their FA Cup away second round match against Salford City went ahead.
On Sunday, their Newcastle United women’s team will battle Barnsley for a place in the third round in the completely different setting of St James’ Park.
More than 25,000 spectators – which would be a record number for a women’s game at the stadium – are expected to watch the club’s attempt to keep their FA Cup dreams alive.
Last year, a 4-0 win over Salford meant the Magpies recorded a third-round draw with Chorley before progressing to the fourth round where they lost 1-0 to Ipswich Town
Langley, 27, whose side play in the women’s fourth division, told NUFC TV: “The FA Cup has always been a competition and we have great memories of it.
“Last season we played at Salford City Men’s Stadium and shoveled the snow off the pitch to make sure the game actually went ahead.
“And a couple of weeks ago we played Hull away from home with brilliant memories of 17-year-old Becky Ferguson scoring the winning goal in extra time that got us to this round.
“We want to make sure we get through this round.”
The Magpies’ game at 2pm could see them surpass the previous attendance record they set for a women’s game in Newcastle in May this year.
Back then, 22,134 spectators turned out to see Langley’s side defeat Alnwick Town 4-0 in an FA Women’s National League match.
The game, which Langley became the first boss to oversee a Magpies women’s team at St James’ Park, was attended by club co-owner Amanda Staveley, 49, and Prem team boss Eddie Howe.
Also in attendance was midfielder Freya Bailes, who leads the Durham University side and joined the Magpies this July.
Reminiscing about the day, Bailes said: “When I got off the train in Newcastle I thought a lot of people were wearing shirts.
“The closer I got to the stadium, the more I realized everyone was going.
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“I was a bit emotional just because I’ve been playing football for so long, so I can’t imagine what the feeling will be like on Sunday when I put the shirt on.
“It will definitely be the highlight of my career so far.
“I’ve been to the FA Cup before and played at some big stadiums but I’m expecting more fans than ever there on Sunday.
“As a childhood fan, it will be surreal to come to St James once or twice a year as the highlight of our family outing.
“It was a moment I talked about with Becky for so long, something that really made me sign (for the club).”
In the most recent clash between Newcastle and Barnsley, the former winners sealed a 1-0 Women’s National League victory.
And Barnsley are currently three points behind their opponents in the fourth tier with a game in hand, having played eight games in the division so far this season.
Langley, whose side are fighting for promotion, is currently third in the North Division of the National Women’s League.
In August of that year the team, previously independent and backed by the Newcastle United Foundation, officially became part of the club.
The move came as part of a formal reorganization that includes the establishment of a development team.
And in April, Langley spoke of her hopes of one day seeing the team compete in the WSL.
She told The i : “My ultimate goal is to get Newcastle into the WSL.
“But we can’t buy our way into this league, it has to be done right. We need the right staff, the right players.”
For the past year, Newcastle have been the focus of “sports laundering” allegations from human rights organizations including Amnesty, following a Saudi-backed takeover of the club last October.
The £305million takeover, which involved the Middle East Nation’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), resulted in the PIF owning 80 per cent of the club.
Last month, Amnesty reportedly renewed its allegations.
And in August, its spokesman, Felix Jakens, claimed that Saudi Arabia’s investment in sport was an “attempt to divert focus away from human rights concerns in the country, including women’s rights.”
Last October, Staveley, who insists the club want to ‘welcome everyone and include everyone’, said that Newcastle were ‘wholeheartedly committed to women’s and girls’ football’ and helping their women’s team to grow.
Langley insists having her team’s support has made her lineup more professional.
The Magpies boss said: “Last year we were run in a kind of grassroots style.
“Once the owners came on board they started to professionalize a few things but it was a serious approach to make it feel right.
“Now we’ve gone into this season with a much more professional feeling.
“We have received additional training sessions, we have additional funds to provide facilities and we have more professional staff on board to support everything in the girls’ game.
“And now we’re in a position to really get going this season, pushing for winning the league and going through to the next round of the FA Cup.”
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6775277/newcastle-united-women-fa-cup/ Langley reflects on FA Cup memories and shovels snow ahead of Salford win as Newcastle women prepare for Barnsley