Features. That's why she went to Iceland: Emma Kelly on promotion success

Newcastle United Women's Team player, Emma Kelly, with camera
28 May 24

From the North East to Iceland, the Midlands and now back home, Emma Kelly has experienced a very unique journey in football and has no regrets over the path she's taken to now being a mainstay in the Newcastle United Women side

The midfielder has just helped Becky Langley's Magpies win promotion to the Women's Championship, scooping the club's Players' Player of the Year award in the process. But five years ago, a simple conversation with former team-mate Rebekah Bass led to her packing up her things and moving to a small island in order to continue her dream of playing football, alongside working in a café. Having already left home once to go to university, Kelly found it easier than most when she was offered an initial trial over in Spain to play for Icelandic side IBV, and the former England youth captain was eager to snatch the opportunity.

"Once I finished university and spoke to a lot of the girls about playing abroad, they couldn't speak highly enough of it and that just made me want to do it," Kelly admitted. "The whole process of moving away was a really big lesson in life and it taught me to be a lot more independent. One of the girls I played with at Middlesbrough played with IBV and they're located just off Iceland on an island called Vestmannaeyjar. "So I got in touch with IBV and had a trial with them out in Spain before signing with them for seven months, and it was probably the best experience of my career. I even worked in a little café alongside playing football and it taught me a lot as well as getting to know the locals." Moving to one of the world's most aesthetically pleasing countries would seem to be a grand idea for any player, but as United's number eight recognised very quickly, there was nearly something of a catch. "The reason I wanted to work while over there was because most of the other girls were working in fish factories alongside playing football," Kelly - now a full-time footballer with United - told newcastleunited.com. "It didn't sound like the most appealing job, so when I got offered the job in a café I took it up straight away. "When friends and family came to visit they'd have to get a ferry, taxi or another plane just to come over from Iceland to our little island."

Taking big risks and backing herself has seen Kelly achieve notable success for both club and country, including the honour of leading out England at under-19 level.

"All of my experiences with England have been invaluable and (it was) a huge honour to have gone all the way up to the under-21s," she said. "I've been involved with so many different tournaments and even captained the side in a couple of camps.

"The day before the game I got told I'd be leading the team out when Mo Marley said they see me as a responsible enough player to lead the team out.

"I actually think I played centre forward that day, which was new for me and I'm not sure how I ended up there because I've now slowly moved my way back, but it was certainly one of the highlights of my career."

United's number eight was brought up in a sport-loving household, so to see her thriving and heading into the Women's Championship should come as no surprise. However, things could well have been very different for Kelly.

"I've always been a sporty and competitive person, whether that be table tennis - which the girls know about here - pool or just any sport, but football has always been the priority," Kelly admitted.

"I do play table tennis quite a lot but it's nothing I would've taken too seriously. But if you see me play, you'd maybe think I was going to the Olympics because of how competitive I get."

Having turned her back on a potential table tennis career, Kelly only has eyes on achieving the most with this crop of players at United, and paying back the people who mean the most to her.

"I've made a lot of sacrifices throughout my career and life to get to where I am," she added.

"The hours and time that me and my family have put into helping me has all been worth it and means a lot, so the least I can do for them is to make the utmost out of my career."

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