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Interview: Getting to know Sunderland AFC Ladies defender Charlotte Potts!

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In the first of a weekly series, we chat to Sunderland AFC Ladies defender Charlotte Potts to discuss her footballing education, her hopes for the future of the game and the proudest moment of her career so far.

SAFC Ladies

RR: So Charlotte - tell us a bit about yourself!

CP: I have just turned 25 in September.

I play centre back now, but have played holding midfield all the way up until college. I also played midfield for most of my Women’s Super League appearances.

RR: Tell us about your career to date - where have you played your football?

CP: I played grassroots up until I was 15, I then went to Newcastle CoE where Mel Reay was my coach. I should have stayed one more year at the academy, but Mick Mulhern [former SAFC manager] persuaded me to make the move to Sunderland Ladies due to turning 16 at the start of the season. This was when I was part of the squad who won the National Premier League back in 2011.

I lost a lot of confidence at this stage and tried to regain it back by making the move to Newcastle Women. Moving there was successful and I enjoyed my time there, as our squad at the time had a strong bond which showed when the team were promoted. During that promotion season I received managers player of the year from Michael Havelock.

Afterwards, I was awarded with an opportunity to study in Florida on a full scholarship. I made the move but unfortunately personal circumstances made it clear that it wasn’t right for me, so following my return home, I signed back for Sunderland and started to work my way back up to the first team after two successful seasons with the development squad.

While playing for the development team, under Amber Whiteley, we were league and cup runners up, then won the league the seasons after. A few of our current squad were also involved in this team.

I was delighted when I signed a contract for the first team, and although it was part time I used to commit to training full time.

Unfortunately I went through some personal difficulties which resulted in me having to take time out, and during this time out from playing I was focusing on studies, coaching abroad which fed back that hunger to want to play again.

As many know I returned to Sunderland for a short spell last season to gain some fitness back for my main focus to play abroad in Canada. I was hoping for a successful season at Calgary Foothills to then progress to play professionally again, but I was always wondering how the girls were getting on back home and I could not wait to be back!

RR: Who was your footballing idol growing up, and why?

CP: I like to study my idols based on which position I’m playing. Whilst playing central midfield it had to be Steven Gerrard. The passion he showed was inspirational, especially when he captained Liverpool to win the Champions League final at Istanbul.

He also loves a good slide tackle, as do I!

RR: Proudest moment of your career so far?

CP: Without a shadow of a doubt my second year at Gateshead College.

We broke records and won all three national cups alongside the league. I was very proud to do that, and I scored in all three cup finals!

RR: As a goalscoring defender what do you prefer, a goal or a clean sheet?

CP: That’s an easy one - definitely a clean sheet.

I was more ecstatic about the clean sheet at Stoke last week than my hat-trick!

I understand we concede as a team but I can’t help the guilty feeling when we concede, that feeling I’ve not done my job properly if we do.

I’m quite hard on myself when it comes to making mistakes.

RR: What’s the best thing about playing for SAFC Ladies?

CP: Although I support Newcastle, I’ve always been proud to put on that Sunderland shirt since being 16. The fact I’ve made moves back and forth was due to previous Sunderland environments not being right for me as an individual, but there was something special about the current team that’s pulled me back again - hopefully for the last time so we continue in our mission to get back to where we deserve to be.

RR: One thing you’d like to see change over the next ten years in the women’s game?

CP: I’ve played mixed football for boys teams up until 14 years old and didn’t really see much difference until turning a teenager.

I truly believe academies should be mixed up until a certain age. I understand people may disagree with my opinion on this, but not only would it help the women’s game get more respect by seeing the mix in an academy environment, but it would also help girls socially, emotionally and mentally.

Having coached both boys and girls teams, there are certain strengths a boy has while young that a girl lacks, vice versa, in my opinion. This in turn could help them compliment each other if mixed.