SAINTS have appointed England coach Marieanne Spacey-Cale MBE as the head of its women's football programme.

The club's recent bid to join the Women's Championship was unsuccessful and Spacey-Cale has come in to get Saints in a position where they will be able to have a women's side at that level.

She said: "From the moment I walked into the club the excitement has continued to rise.

"Listening to the people, the plans for the future and the potential impact that this club can have on women's and girls’ football, not just in the region, but in England and beyond, is fantastic.

"This is an opportunity to be part of a project that has got a solid foundation, but like anything, we'll have to grow and build to become something bigger and better.

"I'm excited for the future of women's football here."

Saints say the 52-year-old, who has been working at The FA for the last 11 years, 'represents the cornerstone of the club's ongoing commitment to expanding its girls and women's programme beyond its existing Regional Talent Club set-up, and providing a pathway for talented female players to fulfil their potential at Southampton FC'.

Spacey-Cale was part of the coaching staff which took England's women to third place at the 2015 World Cup and also won the Nordic Tournament as head coach of the under-23s.

She now leaves her job at The FA as ‘England Women’s player and coach developer’ to come on board at Saints, where she will be based at Staplewood on a full-time basis. 

The former Fulham Ladies boss will be responsible for managing all girls and women’s coaching and performance staff, as well as overseeing the development of the club's RTC programme.

Saints felt Spacey-Cale, who played 91 times for England as a player, is 'perfectly positioned' to 'further its ambition to continue to produce home-grown international standard female players, as well as achieving its future goal of competing in the FA Women’s Championship in the coming years'.

Martin Hunter, Saints technical director, said: "An awful lot of work and preparation has gone into this appointment. We were blown away by the calibre of candidate for this role, but are delighted to have Marieanne on board.

"We needed somebody with a proven track record of development, and Marieanne, with all of her playing and coaching experience clearly fits that. She's a student of the game, if you look at her qualifications and the fact she holds a UEFA Pro License.

"We're excited to welcome Marieanne to the club, and continue to drive the women's game at Southampton forward."

Spacey-Cale was made an MBE in 2016 for services to football and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Saints have also launced a new International Development Programme, which they say is a 'positive step towards realising the club's longer-term aim of competing at the top of the women's game'.