The history of Chelsea Football Club is littered with great strikers, for both the men’s and women’s team, you don’t have to look far to find a goal scorer. To name just a few, Bobby Tambling, Peter Osgood, Kerry Dixon, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Didier Drogba for the men, plus the likes of Eni Aluko, Fran Kirby, Bethany England, and Sam Kerr, for the women.
However, the greatest ever goal scorer to play for Chelsea FC Women is a name known by only a few people, this is because there was no official record keeping back when the team started in 1992.
Julie Newell was part of the original Chelsea FC Women’s team under the management of Tony Farmer. Slight in stature, Newell was big in personality and never ducked out of a challenge, had a fantastic eye for goal and could score from distance. This is all the more impressive knowing that Newell was just 15 years old when she started playing in the inaugural season for Chelsea.
Newell’s career for the Blues got off to a flying start, with the youngster scoring 84 goals in her first 48 appearances, goals which helped Chelsea to an unbeaten season in 1993/94, securing promotion from the Greater London Regional Division Three. Success didn’t stop there, Chelsea, who had been moved up two divisions following their promotion in 93/94, gained back-to-back promotions in 1994/95, finishing 2nd in Greater London Regional Division One, behind Mill Hill United.
Newell was again top scorer, netting 28 goals in just 18 matches, taking her tally to 102 for the club. This of course meant that she began to attract the attention of the bigger, more established clubs of the era. 1995/96 saw Newell score 12 goals in the first 5 games for Chelsea before agreeing to move to Arsenal, who were the dominate force of that era, however, unlike some of her teammates, the transfer never really worked out for her, and she returned to the club for the start of the 1996/97 season.
That season however, Newell scored just 4 goals in 19 appearances, as she battled to return from a career threatening injury. Still just 18 years of age, Newell would play on for Chelsea for a further five seasons, scoring 18 goals in 1997/98, 16 goals in 1998/99, 7 goals in 1999/2000, 2 goals in 2000/2001 and 5 goals in her final season in 2001/2002.
Newell left Chelsea aged 23, having scored 166 goals for the club, and what’s interesting, is that this figure only includes goals scored and documented in league matches, not any cup competition. Newell could easily sit above Frank Lampard’s 213 total as the club’s all time record goal scorer.
Tony Farmer, who created the Chelsea FC Women’s team in 1992, signed up talented youngsters such as Casey Stoney and Fara Williams, but it was Newell who, according to Tony himself, stood out above all the others.
"I would probably say Julie Newell was probably the most naturally talented footballer I ever coached. She was just awesome.
"She was at Bedfont playing for their juniors when I was coaching and I went to watch them play and literally she was taking goal kicks, throw ins, corners, the lot.
"You just watched her and thought wow. I spoke to her mum and said look I’d like her to come and play [at Chelsea]. I had a double hip replacement a few years ago and I still think it was because of the way she used to dump me on the floor. She really was an outstanding talent.
"Julie I would probably say was the most outstanding out the three.”
Unlike Stoney and Williams though, Newell’s career never followed the same trajectory as her former teammates, but this is something Tony believes probably wouldn’t have happened if the game was professional at that time.
“It’s difficult because all the players develop differently, some players get distracted by other things in life. I think that probably happened with Julie. I’m not saying that as a negative at all. When she left to join Arsenal, I was absolutely gutted but I couldn’t blame her for doing it. Arsenal at the time where the closest you could get to a professional team.”
As a youngster though, Newell’s talent was obvious to see, and it was on one occasion at Chelsea’s training ground that showcased how the treatment of women’s football had let Newell down.
“We was at Chelsea’s training ground, we was doing a training session at Harlington, and he [Gwyn Williams] came out and was standing by the side of the pitch and he turned around to me and said “who’s that” I said “Julie Newell” and he went “how old’s she?” and I think she was 14 at the time, he said you know what, she’s one the best players I’ve ever seen at that age. If she was, he, I’d be getting schoolboy forms ready right now”
Sadly, there’s no video footage or YouTube clips of Newell in action, so her 35-yard goals are consigned to the memories of those fortunate enough to be there to watch them, but according to Tony, Newell’s talents reminded him very much of one of the club’s greatest ever players.
“If I was to compare her to any Chelsea player that I’ve watched down the years, you’re going to think I’m insane, but I’d say Franco [Zola]. That goal that always gets shown against Norwich the back flick from the corner, she could do that, she was capable of doing that stuff.
“The bit you always see on social media of him taking Carragher’s pants down and giving him a bit of a spanking out by the corner flag, she did that every game to players, that’s how good she was.”
Unfortunately, Newell’s Chelsea legacy remains largely unknown, and is a further side effect of the ban on women’s football, which took place from 1921 until 1971. This period set the women’s game back, and it’s only been until fairly recently that girls have been able to play football at school.
It means that Newell’s goals and appearances for the club remain unofficial, with games played at an amateur level. However, with thanks to work done by so many people, the true history of the team is being brought to light and we can put a spotlight on players, coaches, and supporters, who helped pave the way for the team we know and love today.
Fran Kirby might be the official all time record goal scorer for Chelsea FC Women but try and remember Julie Newell.
Tony Farmer was speaking to the Went To Mow Kingsmeadow Podcast, who are currently running a series on the 30 year history of the Chelsea FC Women’s team which can be found here https://www.patreon.com/wenttomowkingsmeadow