Heed Boss Leads Girls to History

Gateshead Ladies manager Carl Morrison will be proud to lead his side into the club’s first-ever Women’s FA Cup first round proper tie against Alnwick Town on Sunday 12 November.

A 3-1 win over local rivals Hartlepool United in the third round of qualifying saw Gateshead create history by reaching the first round proper of the competition for the first time in the club’s history. That result represented a cup upset with Hartlepool playing in the North East Regional Women’s Football League Premier Division, the fifth tier of the women’s English football pyramid – one division above Gateshead.

If the Heed Army are to create more history on Sunday, they will once again have to overcome fifth-tier opposition in the form of Alnwick Town. Though Carl knows the size of the challenge, he is confident that his side can continue their Women’s FA Cup campaign.

“They’re a very, very good team,” Carl told Fen Regis Trophies of Alnwick Town. “We are going to have our work cut out, but I think with what we are doing as a team and how we are building, we will be looking to progress to the next round.”

Coaching Adults with Autism

Carl has been a fan of the Heed Army since attending a pre-season friendly between Gateshead and Newcastle United in 1995. Previously unaware of the club’s existence, he has since become a devoted supporter of the club, so much so that his coaching journey has been interwoven with the non-league outfit.

When he opened his coaching academy in 2018, Carl naturally gravitated towards the Gateshead International Stadium as its venue. Working predominantly with players on the autistic spectrum, Carl was asked if he would take charge of a representative pan-disability team for the club at the Costa Blanca Cup in 2022, which his side won.

“It was a good venue to start something specific for adults with autism to be able to access a service where they could do football every day,” Carl said.

“When I first started thinking about coaching it just came about naturally.

“I was working in a day service for adults with autism because that’s kind of what my background is. There was a group session every week for adults with autism who wanted to play football and I can remember it being very tokenistic.

“There would be a line of 20 adults, one would take a penalty and go to the back of the queue. I remember thinking ‘why is this so poor? Can it not be better?’

“I just started getting involved myself and then did my badges and became obsessed with it.”

Carl is currently working towards his UEFA B coaching licence and, though he doesn’t set targets, he has an appetite to continue his development.

“When you do the UEFA B it becomes a lot more real,” he admitted. “When I first went on it, I had imposter syndrome. You’re in there with people who look the part and it’s very intense.

“It’s thought-provoking and [the course] takes you out of your comfort zone. It does take you to that next level.”

Gateshead Ladies

In September 2022, Carl received a call asking if he would be open to taking on the job as Gateshead Ladies manager. Having supported the club for almost 30 years, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Men’s assistant manager Ian Watson had been impressed by the work that Carl had been doing with his academy and recommended him to then technical director Rob Elliot.

“I hadn’t met Rob,” Carl said. “He offered me the job based on what he had heard about me. He wanted to meet me as well but said that the job was mine if I wanted it.

“My son is Gateshead obsessed and a big part of it was that he would be so proud. That’s how it came about.

“I re-jigged a few things on my weekly calendar to be able to work it, because if I am going to do anything I am going to do it to the best of my ability. Once I realised I could make the necessary arrangements, I was all in.”

In his first season, he led the Heed Ladies to a respectable fifth position in the league table and hopes that promotion will be on the cards at the end of the current campaign.

“Promotion is our target. The tricky thing is we have got some Under-23 teams in our league who are full of young England internationals.

“Two teams can go up, so it looks like the team that finishes behind Sunderland’s Under-23s will have the best chance of going up. We are pushing for promotion regardless.”

There is still a lot of football to play between now and the end of the season in Carl’s pursuit of promotion, but that certainly doesn’t mean that Sunday’s Women’s FA Cup game is an unwanted distraction. He hopes to see the local community come out supporting his side.

“The FA Cup is one of my fondest memories when I was younger,” he said. “My family wasn’t into football, but they would all gather around the television to watch the FA Cup.

“That’s the only time they would watch football with me, and to manage in the FA Cup has been huge.

“We had about 150 fans [in the previous round], which was the most we have ever had. Now that we have made history, getting to the first round proper, I think we will be looking at least double that hopefully.”

Gateshead Ladies host Alnwick Town in the first round of the Women’s FA Cup at Gateshead International Stadium with the tie kicking off at 1pm on Sunday 12 November.

By Aaron Gratton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Visit our online shop