Features. How training with Oxford United's men set Beth Lumsden on the path to professional football

08 Apr 24
Read time
10 min

Growing up, there was only one aim for Newcastle United Women's Beth Lumsden: to play football professionally.

Aaron Hindhaugh
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Since joining the Magpies in January this year, Lumsden has become one of the first names on the team sheet under Becky Langley, and her obsession with the sport - something which runs in her family - has helped her to reach that point.

There were next to no female footballers playing as professionals or on full-time deals when she began playing, but that never dampened Lumsden's spirits when it came to achieving her dreams.

Playing with boys was not unusual when Lumsden and many of her team-mates were starting out at grassroots level, with very few girl-specific teams - but the Borehamwood-born winger took things one step further.

Such was Lumsden's desire to improve her game and get as much experience under her belt as possible, she took the opportunity to train with then-manager Karl Robinson's Oxford United first team during the 2021/22 season, while she played for the U's women's team.

"It came about very weird," Lumsden explained to nufc.co.uk. "Karl, the men's manager, had a lot to do with the women's team, trying to help out whenever he could.

"I said to him about wanting to get more contact time on the ball and he just invited me down during the day to train with the men. I was training with the men for about four months which brought me some good experience.

"They were obviously going to be quicker and stronger but that helped me out physically."

She focused on letting her feet do the talking and before anyone could even question why a girl was training with EFL professionals, she was welcomed into the squad.

Lumsden added: "It was tough at first - I didn't know how they were going to react to me either, a girl coming into training, but I think once they see that you can play football they accepted me really well.

"They were all really nice to me and it was good to be training during the day and getting that experience and learning what a full-time schedule was like."

While a lot of her Newcastle team-mates signed their first-ever professional contracts ahead of this season, when the Magpies turned full-time, Lumsden had already experienced that moment of euphoria and fulfilment.

The speedy wide player earned her first full-time contract with Southampton Women in 2022 and the change in lifestyle and ability to focus on playing football can't be underestimated for female players, who would otherwise be working jobs, going to training and not getting home until close to midnight.

"It was just excitement (signing that first pro deal) at the start; it's what I dreamed of since being a little girl," United's number 28 recalled. "It's just different. You're not getting in at 11pm, your only focus is football.

"It's tough working a 9-5 job and then going straight to training but being full-time it's your main and sole focus."

She added: "It's crazy how much the game has changed - growing up it wasn't even a thing to play full-time football.

"I played in boys' teams growing up and I think I speak on behalf of most of my team-mates, but there are certainly more girls' teams now.

"You get it even at school, people saying 'she's a girl, she can't play', but once you show them that you can play they change their minds quite quickly and I never let it affect me. I just love playing football."

All of the United squad were fanatical about football as youngsters, but perhaps few had as little say in taking up the sport as Lumsden.

She was a Chelsea fan as a youngster and admits to modelling a lot of her game around Eden Hazard, who she often watched at Stamford Bridge.

The United winger added: "Growing up I always liked the way Hazard played, and (Lionel) Messi.

"I've got a big brother and we're quite close so he helped me get into football. Where I lived, everyone was massive on football, everyone around me played football growing up, and again, my brother, dad and mum love football. So I just had no choice in the matter."

Still only 24 years of age, Lumsden sees her role within the squad as one where she can help and guide a lot of her younger team-mates, including those who have only recently turned professional.

Packing in full-time jobs in the hope of playing as a professional footballer is a huge leap for anyone to make, but with such lofty ambitions for the club it's one that Lumsden was all too willing to take.

United are potentially one game away from earning promotion from the FA Women's National League Northern Premier Division and into the FA Women's Championship, but Lumsden has no intention of stopping there.

She said: "I want to play as high as I can and hopefully one day, maybe at international level, but for now we're just focusing on the league.

"One day I hope to be playing in the WSL (Women's Super League) - with Newcastle, of course."

Newcastle United Women's next game is at home to Huddersfield Town Women on Sunday, 14th April. Kick-off at Kingston Park is at 14:00 BST and tickets are on sale here, priced at £5 for adults and £1 for children.

However, prices will increase to £8 for adults and £3 for concessions on the day of the game.

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