While we are spending our hours worrying about what player Newcastle United are or are not purchasing for however many millions of pounds or why we can't go to London without conceding 5 goals, Newcastle United Women's Football Club toil away in situations reminiscent of the stories someone of my age may have heard about Major League Baseball players before the explosion of mega-money in that league. There are no equipment contracts; the ladies of NUWFC provide their own equipment. They are students or civil servants, they work in bars or coach football (or both!) and must balance the requirements of their "day jobs" with the demands of playing for NUWFC. They are each individually responsible for their £100 signing on fee for each season as well as £15 per month to help offset cost for training ground and game day facilities rental, which they can pay on their own or can seek sponsors to pay (many of the young ladies are sponsored by Newcastle businesses). At the end of the day, when it's all said and done they are all proud to pull on the black-and-whites under the name of Newcastle United Women's Football Club.
NUWFC fields two teams, a first team squad and a reserve squad with the players coming not only from Newcastle, but from all over Northumbria and County Durham. In total, 40 players are signed with NUWFC.
NUWFC is a registered charity and though they are not affiliated with Newcastle United in an official manner, operate under the name and trademark black-and-whites under an agreement with the Newcastle United board. Phil Eadon is the Chairman of Newcastle United WFC. In an exchange of emails, Phil explained about NUWFC:
The club exists to provide an opportunity for local girls and women to train and play football at the highest levels possible in the English football leagues. It sits on the top of the local pyramid of girls football development and leagues in the Newcastle and Durham area. It has many players from both ‘North’ and ‘South’ of the river, including players who live in not only Newcastle, but also from all over Northumbria and County Durham. The club is run by a willing band of unpaid volunteers. We currently run a first and reserve team. We have approximately 40 players signed and involved with the club aged between 16 and 28. Many are at College or University or work in a wide variety of jobs in local companies and organisations. It’s a ‘Bend it like Beckham’ story for many as they try to juggle their training and playing commitments with their work, study or family duties.
On the whole, the ladies' situation is in complete contrast to the men's . On top of what I have already described, they must hire the mini-bus to take them to away matches. Only a couple of weeks ago, they were forced to move one of their home matches as they were the ones forced to give way in order to not over-play the pitch at the University of Northumbria.
The team hosts many fund-raisers over the course of the year, accepts sponsorships for individual players and the whole team, recognizes match ball sponsors and raises funds through several other avenues, but it is completely the hard work and dedication of the 40 players and all-volunteer staff that makes it possible for the players of NUWFC to represent Newcastle United on the pitch.
In spite of all this, the women of NUWFC take the pitch with pride and represent Newcastle United in a superior manor. They play in the Northern Combination League (analogous to League One). With 3 matches left in their season, they sit top of the league, 9 points ahead of Sheffield Wednesday. The position is not quite as cozy as it seems, as Wednesday have 3 games "in hand". Granted they would have to take a maximum return of 9 points to throw the wrench in the works... but one of those matches (currently needing to be re-arranged due to pitch conditions) is against Newcastle United, giving the ladies their chance to end any hope for Sheffield Wednesday. There is only one promotion slot from the NCL, and NUWFC are in the drivers seat for promotion to the FA Premier League (analogous to the Championship).
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Phil Eadon for giving me the chance to write these pieces and the women of NUWFC for being awesome. Look forward to more of these pieces heading forward as Coming Home Newcastle will do everything we can to help NUWFC to the league championship and promotion over the coming weeks!
Check out NUWFC's website here for more information about individual players and some more about the club.
Follow the club on Twitter at @NUWFC.
If you're on the Twitters, watch on Friday- I'll #FF the additional players and coaches that I have found on the bastion of 140-character communication.