Toon revolution was too good to refuse for aspiring Ribble Valley footballer Cara Milne-Redhead

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Stepping down a couple of levels in standard may not appear to be the best career move for any footballer, but Cara Milne-Redhead admitted the draw of signing for a huge club like Newcastle United was an offer she could not refuse.

​The promising young midfielder departed Coventry United earlier this month to make the move to the North East.

While the Red and Greens ply their trade in the Championship – the second tier of the women’s pyramid, just one step below the Women’s Super League (WSL) – the Magpies currently reside in the National League Division One North.

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However, for Clitheroe girl Milne-Redhead – who began playing football at the age of four with local junior side Clitheroe Wolves – making the switch to Newcastle was a no-brainer.

Cara Milne-Redhead made her debut for Newcastle United Women against Chorley at the weekend (photos: Colin Lock)Cara Milne-Redhead made her debut for Newcastle United Women against Chorley at the weekend (photos: Colin Lock)
Cara Milne-Redhead made her debut for Newcastle United Women against Chorley at the weekend (photos: Colin Lock)

At 20-years-old, it was the chance to secure regular first-team football and be part of something which potentially could be very special.

Newcastle United Women’s Football Club are affiliated to the men’s set-up and benefit from the use of the club’s academy training centre.

They play their home matches at Kingston Park – the 10,000-capacity stadium of Premiership rugby union outfit Newcastle Falcons.

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The women’s team are currently placed in second spot in the table this season – vying with neighbours Durham Cestria for the title and promotion to the FA Women's National League Northern Premier Division.

Cara Milne-Redhead, second from the right bottom row, with her Newcastle United team-mates ahead of their fixture against Chorley at the weekendCara Milne-Redhead, second from the right bottom row, with her Newcastle United team-mates ahead of their fixture against Chorley at the weekend
Cara Milne-Redhead, second from the right bottom row, with her Newcastle United team-mates ahead of their fixture against Chorley at the weekend

They are seven points behind their local rivals but with two games in hand and the pair will go head-to-head in a potential title decider at Kingston Park next month.

Promotion is certainly the target for Milne-Redhead and her new team-mates this season, but whatever happens this year, the club appears to be heading in only one direction with the target of reaching the WSL the long-term goal.

"It’s always a risk moving down from the Championship to go to a tier four team,” said Milne-Redhead, who made her Magpies’ debut at the weekend in the 3-1 win at Chorley.

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"I was in full-time football, I had some really good team-mates around me and I was 19,20-years-old playing in the Championship.

"But I knew for the development of my career, I needed to be getting regular game time somewhere and I wasn’t getting that at Coventry.

"I sort of jumped straight from academy football to Championship football which is obviously a massive jump because I had not played adult football before.

"Possibly it was too big of a jump but I think now that experience is something to build on. I am now playing regular adult football, starting games, playing 90 minutes. I hope that continues this season and beyond.

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"Newcastle came along at the right time for me. It’s a dream come true to sign for the club.

"The ambition, the vision, the goals which Newcastle have set; it is such an exciting project to be a part of.

"The short-term goal is to get promoted this season and then the goal is to get into the WSL within three years – it’s a very ambitious target.

"I think when the club gets into the Championship, the WSL, I will be ready for it.”

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Newcastle’s men’s team are currently enjoying a season to remember. They have reached the final of the Carabao Cup, where they will face Manchester United at Wembley, and sit in fourth spot in the Premier League having lost just once all season.

Backed by Saudi Arabia ownership, the club has the funds to compete with the best – and that financial strength can only benefit the women’s set-up.

"We went to the men’s Carabao Cup semi-final game against Southampton at St James’s Park which was the day that I signed,” she said.

"On the big screen, there was information about the women’s team and that was really exciting to see.

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"Then at the weekend, we played at Chorley and there were more Newcastle fans inside the ground than Chorley fans.

"I think the buzz around the men’s team is definitely branching out to the women’s game. We have got a home game this weekend against York City and I think there’s expected to be around 3,000 fans there.”

Having begun her footballing adventure with Clitheroe Wolves, Milne-Redhead was scouted by Burnley FC Women.

She soon attracted the attention of Manchester United’s academy set-up before moving on to Manchester City’s women’s academy.

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"I was playing in a match for Lancashire and there was a Manchester United scout there,” said Milne-Redhead, who has also enjoyed a spell playing in the USA for Seton Hall. "I was there for three years. In my final year, I was only 16 but I was playing in the Under-21s. I loved it there – it was my first taste of a more professional environment.

"I then decided it was time for a move and went on trial at City. I played two seasons in the Under-21s and we played a style of football I enjoy playing. Technically, I feel like I improved at City.

"The philosophy at City is the same from the Under-5s boys and girls’ teams right up to the men and women’s team.

"It’s all about playing out from the back; sharp passing, movement off the ball.”

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Trying to make her way in a predominantly man or boys’ world has made Cara Milne-Redhead a stronger footballer – and character.

​The 20-year-old began playing football at the age of four for Clitheroe Wolves – and generally found herself as the only girl on the pitch during matches.

Under FA rules, mixed football can take place among juniors up to Under-16s level.

The odd one out in terms of ability she may not have been, but in terms of her sex, Milne-Redhead was usually the only female among the 22 players during games.

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"I went to Clitheroe Wolves and played in the boys’ teams because there was no girls’ team,” said Milne-Redhead, who has represented Scotland at youth level and has ambitions to make her full international bow.

"I think at the time, I was really young and nothing really fazed me.

“Looking back now and hearing some of the stories that some of the boys have told me and my mum and dad have told; I would turn up for games and the opposition would say, ‘We need to win today, we are playing against a girl. We can’t get beaten by a girl.

"Then it would be, ‘Oh no we are getting beaten by a girl, this is not fair, this is a boys’ league’.

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"I think there was that kind of negativity towards me but I was kind of young and just loved playing football, it didn’t faze me.”

Milne-Redhead admits she has a lot to thank the Wolves for the way they helped develop her game.

"The Wolves were massive for me,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be playing football now and I wouldn’t have had any of the opportunities that I have had.

"Massive thanks to Ross Hibbert and Martin Aspinall. They were unbelievable with me. Gave me the opportunity to play in the boys’ team which was a little bit unheard of back then.”