Growing up a football fan, the magic of the FA Cup is never underestimated. It is a competition steeped in romance, of giant killings and underdogs taking the limelight.

With the fourth round kicking off this weekend, Southampton FC are one of the those looking to cause an upset as they take on Championship side, Bristol City, at St. Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.

Southampton are a young club, with the Premier League side revamping their women’s outfit in 2017. Under the guidance of England legend, Marieanne Spacey-Cale, they have been building the foundations and have progressed rapidly to the FAWNL Southern Premier where they now play. It is a project Spacey-Cale is clearly proud to be part of, one that is affording her team time to develop for long-term success: [Southampton] live by their values. It’s a real challenger club; it’s a club that believe in what we’re capable of – they believe in developing players and they believe in developing people…it’s about seeing potential in people when they might not even see it in themselves and allowing them to grow.

The Saints are enjoying a strong inaugural season in the Southern Premier and have been leading the way with fellow newcomers Ipswich Town. But the quality of the division this season is undeniable with Oxford United and Bridgwater United also pushing their levels, making it a very engaging contest at the top. The aspiration for all will be promotion to the Championship and Spacey-Cale is enjoying the learning experience for her team: “I think it just showcases the amount of talent and the clubs that are really invested in the women’s teams now….The game is becoming competitive further down the pathway and you get some really tight, exciting games.


Southampton FC


Southampton are an exciting side, clinical in attack and defensively solid. They have scored 53 goals so far in the league and conceded just three. Spacey-Cale has gathered a blend of experience (e.g. Laura Rafferty; Ciara Watling) and youth that have developed their game at both ends of the pitch and are dedicated to their progression: “On the pitch, we’re about committing to ruthlessness in defence and in attack, and hopefully just playing with a smile on our faces because we all love it. And, you know, regardless of what the result is on Sunday, they will give everything. They will just be looking forward to a really tough challenge, but also, as a group, aspire to keep getting better.

Like her club, Spacey-Cale is also continuing her development as a coach. After hanging up her playing boots, she started her managerial career at Fulham before joining the FA, helping England to bronze medal at the 2015 World Cup. She joined Southampton in 2018 and has been Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at the club ever since, trusted with building a side that has aspirations to go right up the pyramid. She possesses a strong desire to develop her trade while also realising that she is an inspiration for many female coaches to come: “It’s probably something that sits with us [female coaches] – that you’re role models to the next aspiring coaches. We’re still learning; every day, we’ll learn something different. So, I think you all aspire to be better; but as much as you’re aspiring to be better, you want to inspire those around you to be better as well and to continue their journeys.

Spacey-Cale has fond memories of the FA Cup – both as a player and a manager. She sees it a unifying competition that is integral to increasing interest, both by attracting players to this country and for the platform it gives to sides that don’t often get put in the limelight: “It brings the world together…when you look at that and you see how the game is growing, the FA Cup is a massive part of that because it is goes out to an audience who just  love watching football. And it’s about the underdog. Anybody can turn anybody over on their day and that’s been showcased over the years in the women’s game as well as in the men’s game. So, for me, it’s not just the magic of the FA Cup and the romance, it’s also the opportunity to create a whole new audience which is really important for the continual growth of the game here.”


Marieanne Spacey, Southampton FC


Her side are no stranger to cup upsets. Last season, they took the scalp of Championship side, Lewes, brushed aside Yeovil and put up a real fight against Birmingham City in the Fifth Round. In playing Bristol City this campaign, it is another chance to show their development and continue their learning, while getting to showcase their talent at St. Mary’s Stadium. Spacey-Cale is looking for her side to show the resilience they have developed from the experience and the belief that they can compete against the higher levels: “You want to share your story of progression. It’s not necessarily just about this one game. But this is where we were, this is where we are, and this is where we want to get to. Those stories are so important to raise awareness, not just to our local community, but also to the football community that, at the moment, the game’s being dominated by these teams but just keep an eye on these coming through.

With every round of the FA Cup, it is an opportunity to shine a light on the clubs that are growing and pushing up the football pyramid and Spacey-Cale will be hoping her Southampton side can come up with a little magic in their tie tomorrow.

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