MARIEANNE Spacey-Cale has reassured the local girls’ football scene that Saints Women are here for the long-haul.

It was only 14 years ago that the south coast side pulled their women’s team following the club’s relegation to the Championship from the Premier League.

It had a devastating impact on women's football in the region, especially those playing for Saints, who were left without a team to play for.

But with women’s football in the ascendancy, it was decided that Saints would start from scratch with Spacey-Cale appointed in July 2018 to lead them forward.

She was brought in by former vice-chairman Les Reed and ex-technical director Martin Hunter who offered her a blank canvas.

And with this in mind, Spacey-Cale believes it’s important Saints Women are given the chance to prove themselves.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, the ex-Arsenal player said: “For me, we are here to create a new history.

“I used to play against the Southampton teams and they were fantastic with some fantastic players.

“We’re not here about that history, but we respect it. Women’s football in Hampshire is phenomenal and women’s football in the lower leagues is phenomenal.

“There are some great players and coaches and we are here to create a new history for Southampton Football Club but respect what’s gone before.

“The club are fully behind us.

“We speak to the board regularly and they are aware of our vision. They’ve had an input into our vision and have bought into it.

“They’ve spoken to us about it and they are invested in the women’s programme. It’s a big part of the club and they want us to be successful.”

As well as wanting to boost the profile of women’s football in Southampton, Spacey-Cale doesn’t want her team to come across as elitist.

Backed by the finances of a Premier League football club, their resources are far greater than anyone else they are currently competing with.

This, along with Spacey-Cale’s vision and a squad of good players, saw them win 18 out of 18 matches last season.

Despite their unbeaten campaign, the Saints Women’s boss doesn’t want people to think they are spending their way to success.

“I think it’s like anything, we’ve come in and want to create a new history, even though we are very respectful of what’s gone before,” she continued.

“We don’t to be the ones who come in and put loads of money into it but you have to invest. You have to invest now because that’s where the women’s game is going.

“I certainly look at some of the other teams in the area and I respect them because what they do, with the resources they have, is phenomenal.

“They are what epitomises women’s football and they are growing with that.

“We are in a fortunate position that we have full support from the men’s club and we want to build for the future.”

In the St Mary’s side’s last set of accounts, it was announced that they would commit £1million per year towards the development of Saints Women.

It comes at a time when the women’s game has never been so popular.

The Lionesses reached the semi-final of this year’s World Cup and recently attracted over 77,000 supporters to Wembley to watch their game with Germany earlier this month.

And with the extra money in the bank to spend, Spacey-Cale believes it will only be a good thing for Southampton’s local football scene.

She explained: “It’s amazing because that money is across the women’s team and the RTC – it’s not just based on the women’s programme.

“It’s everything that surrounds the player because we put the player in the middle and that’s what we invest in.

“It’s about psychology, mental health, diet, nutrition, sports science and medical insurance in case the girls get injured.

“The player is the person in the middle and it’s about how we support them to be the best they can be.

“At Southampton, it’s about potential into excellence and if you haven’t got that support then you might drop short somewhere.

“But that support is in place, so the girls can really aspire to be the best they can.

“We have got an opportunity to build for the future. We know it will take hard work and it will take a lot of winning but that’s the beauty because we’ve got that time now.

“The investment isn’t just about this season, it’s about securing the next years to come so we can play at the top level.”

It was seen as a coup on Saints’ behalf to appoint someone with Spacey-Cale’s experience, given her previous role was as an assistant coach with the England Women’s football team.

She has also held the manager’s job with an array of England youth sides and has 91 international caps to her name.

The majority of her playing days were spent with Arsenal before she moved to Fulham, where she won the domestic treble in 2003 before retiring from football in 2005.

Spacey-Cale was then awarded with an MBE in 2009 in recognition of her services to football, as well as being inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

With a CV that could take her anywhere in the game, the 53-year-old said starting from scratch at Saints was an opportunity she didn’t want to turn down.

“I spoke to Les Reed and Martin Hunter when I came in for the interview and heard their ambitions, what they wanted to achieve and how they would support the women’s game,” she continued.

“It made absolute sense to bring the experience I’ve had in different roles and to feel fresh again.

“I wanted to be a part of something that matches my values as a person and the values of the football club, they are both aligned.

“I felt this was the right opportunity and the right time for me personally, but also in terms of where the women’s game is.

“I really want to create something at Southampton Football Club.”

Part of her long-term plan for the team is to guide them to the Women’s Super League – the female equivalent of the Premier League.

Given their fast start as a club, and with Saints’ financial backing, reaching the top flight seems a very realistic target for them to set.

“We do want to be in the Women’s Super League and at the highest level,” Spacey-Cale.

“In terms of getting there it’s about what we can do on the pitch.

“It might take four years, it could be five years, or it might be three years, but our aim is to be there, and the club are supporting us and giving us the opportunity to build, grow and learn.

“The future is really, really, really bright. We are impatient, we want to be there tomorrow, but it will take time.”

The Saints Women’s boss was speaking at the Romsey School, where she was joined by her side’s captain, Shelly Provan, to put on a football session and inspire the next generation of girls.

They were also there to stoke interest in tomorrow’s Hampshire Cup tie with AFC Bournemouth at Totton’s Snows Stadium.

As a part of their Super Saints campaign, club sponsor Virgin Media are giving away a free burger and drink to the first 1,000 supporters to buy a ticket for the quarter-final which kicks off at 2pm.

It also falls on Women’s Football Weekend, a national incentive, with Saints hoping they can break the club’s Women’s team attendance record.

Spacey-Cale added: “Our attendances have grown over the season which shows that people that do come, come back.

“They are role models for the girls, but they don’t just walk on and walk off the pitch. They spend time with them, have pictures with them and tell them stories.

“Because of that accessibility, they are suddenly touchable, and they are there to be role models and good people, so they will have those conversations with the supporters.”

Fans attending the match will also get the chance to hear Saints Brass playing, as well as getting the opportunity to test their FIFA skills in the Virgin Media Saintsmobile, on top of a range of other entertainment.