Erin Nelson will make history on Sunday as part of the first Newcastle United Women’s squad to play at St. James’ Park since the club was founded in 1989.
“Without those first sessions with Gordon [Bloomfield] and the Foundation, I don’t think I’d be where I am today,” Nelson said. The Newcastle United Women winger made an impact on the pitch age just five, her natural talent and determination immediately noticed by Foundation coaches.
“I first went along to Foundation football sessions in North Shields and I fell in love with it all pretty much instantly,” Nelson added.
Beginning her journey with the Foundation’s Women and Girls’ Football Development programme, Nelson joined a talent pathway offering open-access opportunities for all children and young adults to experience professional coaching, no matter their ability, age or gender.
More than 2,340 women and girls have been part of Newcastle United Foundation programmes including Premier League Kicks and Inspires, Holiday Courses, after school clubs, football festivals, Newcastle United Women matchday experiences, disability coaching sessions, and more during the 2020/21 season.
Nelson said: “Newcastle United Foundation helped me get involved in football from a young age and gave me the opportunity to learn new skills and play against others.
“I really hope that the Foundation can continue to grow and continue inspiring young players to get involved in football and fall in love with the game, just as I did.”
Nelson progressed to Newcastle United Women’s academy squad as a seven-year-old, hand-picked by Ben Dawson, now Newcastle United First Team Development Coach, who encouraged Nelson to grow her confidence as a dynamic winger.
The Whitley Bay native continuing honing her skills every Friday night with Newcastle United Foundation through its Girls’ Player Development Centre, which continues to engage hundreds of players aged six to 16 every season.
As a teenager, Nelson combined her passion for sport with exploring education opportunities at Tyne Metropolitan College, in Wallsend, as well as playing for Durham Cestria and making the reserve squad of Durham Women’s Football Club.
Durham Cestria were pivotal to the now 20-year-old’s development, with Nelson being selected for Durham Women’s first team on a handful of occasions, making her first-team appearance in the Women’s FA Cup for the Wildcats.
Nelson faced Newcastle United Women in the FA Women’s National League (FAWNL) on several occasions, facing off against her future manager, Becky Langley as the United Women and Durham Cestria revelled in a fierce rivalry.
While Nelson would not be managed by Langley until the 2021/22 season, the duo enjoy close connections with Northumbria University. Partnering in 2019, the Foundation and Northumbria University ensure the United Women have access to expert staff and facilities to achieve their league aims.
Langley assumed dual responsibility for women’s football at Northumbria University and Newcastle United Women, and now coaches several of the United Women’s players at both university and club level, including Nelson, Katie Barker, Kacie Elson, and Jane Harland, to name a few.
And in December 2021, Nelson made the switch from Durham Cestria to return to her childhood club where it all began all those years ago in Whitley Bay.
Nelson said: “Women’s football is only going to grow, and the more girls that get involved from a young age, the quicker it will develop.
“There are so many amazing opportunities about to arise and it’s exciting for not only me, but all the girls coming through in the future.”
**Newcastle United Women face Alnwick Town in their penultimate game of the FAWNL Division One North game of the season at St. James’ Park on Sunday, May 1.
Cash turnstiles will be in operation in the East Stand on Sunday, with entry just £3 for adults and free for juniors. All supporters under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Further turnstiles will be open in the Gallowgate End and Leazes End, subject to demand.**
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