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Interview: Getting to know Sunderland AFC Ladies captain Keira Ramshaw!

Sunderland Ladies captain Keira Ramshaw speaks passionately about her love for Sunderland, the heartbreaking demotion of the Ladies team and her determination to get the side back where it belongs.

Colin Lock

RR: How old are you and what position do/can you play?

KR: I’m 25-years-old and I play centre midfield, centre forward or right/left wing.

When we played in Super League One, there were the odd occasion I would play as a wing back, and whilst I do like to be able to adapt and play different positions, I feel more comfortable in centre midfield.

RR: Tell us about your career to date…

KR: I was at Sunderland Centre of Excellence as a kid, but as soon as I turned 16, Mick Mulhern said I was ready to join the first team! A dream of mine growing up was to wear the red and white and be in that first team, and it was a dream I fulfilled.

Being a born-and-bred Mackem that was the proudest moment of my life, and to do it at 16 was a massive shock. At the time we had the likes of [England internationals] Demi Stokes and Jordan Nobbs in the squad who I always looked up to, so to play with players like those was massive for me.

I will always remember my first ever game against Everton. Jill Scott played for them at the time and I had been on the pitch about 15 seconds and I got carded for a tackle I made on her! I think when the lasses told me to “get stuck in young ‘un!” I literally did! Me and Jill laughed about it, so that was okay though!

I was around in the first team when money was never involved, when parents were secretaries/chairmen and treasurers or they helped sell the teas and coffees.

We took part in fundraisers and bag packs to try and get funds. We would travel down and pay £10 each so we could all have a nice meal in the hotel. To then start it as a job when we reached Super League Two was just amazing and the fact that the women’s game was pushing on and getting better/more support around it.

Winning SL2 was an amazing memory which I will never ever forget. The feeling that day was immense, knowing that we have just won the league and then on our way into SP1 to play against the best players in the country and the world - words just can’t describe the feeling I had that day.

We then had fantastic results in SP1. I’ll always remember beating Liverpool, it was our first game and we were also on TV, us being the underdogs, but we won 2-1 and I got an assist.

Then unfortunately due to non footballing reasons we lost our job and place in the Super League.

I was on holiday at the time when we found this out and the feeling I got in my stomach I can’t explain. I just thought ‘have we got a team?’.

As expected a lot of girls had no choice but to leave the club and look elsewhere, but I couldn’t do that despite offers - I wanted to stay loyal to this club, to my family and to the town that I’ve been brought up in.

The main thing for me then was building a team. We went to have a team meeting and Mel did fantastically well to sort a team out in such a short space of time to compete in the National League. Our pre season was only around two weeks long and we were straight into the league games.

When Mel gave me the captains armband, I was extremely proud moment. My aim was to make sure we as a team did the best we possibly could, and also aim to get the club back where it belongs.

As some know, it’s our second season in the National League now after finishing second last season, we have currently won eight and drawn one.

Together we are pushing on and aiming for that promotion. I love my team, I love the club and I love everything involved in Sunderland, so despite the set-backs, we will always give 100% and try get this club back to where it belongs, Right now I can say I’m feeling very positive about where we are.

I have gained friends for life through this club and currently have a team that also feels like one big family which is a fantastic feeling. I have amazing memories that will stick with me forever, my career to date has had ups and downs but I won’t change the shirt I wear.

Chelsea Ladies FC v Sunderland AFC Ladies - WSL Photo by Graham Hughes/Getty Images

RR: Who was your idol growing up?

KR: My idol growing up was Niall Quinn.

I can always remember singing ‘Niall Quinn’s disco pants’!

Kevin Phillips and Julio Arca were players I looked up to as well. The goals they scored for Sunderland, the commitment and passion they showed meant I looked up to them every week as a kid growing up. My family are Sunderland mad so it was always Sunderland.

In the women’s game, it was Jill Scott. She coached me when I was younger at centre of excellence and then when I was at college she would often coach alongside Mel.

S is a fantastic player who gives 100% at all times. She’s very committed. She’s such a genuine, caring lass.

RR: Proudest moment of your career so far?

KR: I have a few a proud moments, but the ones that stick out are my international experience and being part of the U19 UEFA Women’s Championship I played in Turkey, playing alongside the likes of Alex Greenwood, Nikita Paris and Mary Earps.

Proudest moment from a Sunderland perspective has to be winning SP2, playing in SP1 and gaining the captains armband.

RR: Who did you grow up supporting and what are your early memories of football?

KR: Sunderland! Always been Sunderland.

My early memories of football is my brother teaching me as much as he knew about the game. I remember playing in my back yard with the lads and my brother. I’d often join in with my brothers mates who are five years older than me, playing with a bunch of lads nearly every night after school helped me develop even if I did pick up bruises and cuts along the way!

As a family we would do caravan holidays every summer and I always had to carry a ball or we would drive to Whitburn fields and my dad would be in goal. My Mam and my brother would cross it and I’d be trying to score. I’ll never forget the memories football gave me and my family as a kid!

I remember joining SAFC 24/7 Girls, which was my first football team when I was four years old but I had to train for two years as I was too young to play at the time. Jordan Nobbs, Rachel Laws and Demi Stokes also played for them.

RR: Best thing about playing for SAFC Ladies?

KR: Wearing the shirt has to be one for me, as it’s always been my team, but also the training facilities are absolutely amazing.

We have great backing from the club, families and supporters and it feels fantastic.

One club our club; everyone feels part of it and together we create a great team. It’s just a lovely, friendly environment to be involved in.

RR: You’ve been at Sunderland since 2009, despite being only 25, you’re a Black Cat veteran! Have you enjoyed being mentors to the likes of Neve Herron and Jess Brown this season?

KR: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a go to person for the likes of Neve and Jess this season. It is important that the girls feel confident when coming into a squad then that way we get the best out of them and sure enough they’ve done amazing.

I think the girls have made a great impact and have brought talent to the team. As captain, and as their friend and team mate it is important that the girls know that I’m there to support and encourage them throughout their journey.

Even though they are young they fit in brilliantly to the squad and show great maturity (when they aren’t winding me up!) on and off the pitch!

Sunderland are a close knit family and have always had a brilliant youth coming through due to the passion of the area.

RR: You had the likes of internationals Beth Mead and Jordan Nobbs coming through the ranks with you. How much did having them around help your own progression?

KR: Having Beth and Jordan around was fantastic, they are both great players and prove it by where they are today. I think playing with fantastic players helps you progress as an individual. It pushes you to your limits and develops your talent.

RR: You’ve been picked for the Lionesses at under 19 level when you were younger. Do you still harbour hopes of getting into the National team?

KR: I think every woman who plays football has dreams of playing for their country.

It would be a massive honour and massive achievement for the individual and for the club they play for. There’s always that hope in anyone’s mind, I’m grateful and lucky that I was able to represent my country at a younger age and I take fantastic memories and experience from that.

RR: One thing you'd like to see change in women’s football over the next 10 years?

KR: I just want to see it grow even more, its growing rapidly and it is brilliant to see how much. I think as the years go on the women’s game can only get bigger.

Want to keep up with Sunderland Ladies and Keira Ramshaw? You can follow them both at @SAFCLadies and @keys_safc94

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