The season ahead for Sunderland Ladies promises to be a very interesting one, with a number of players having exited the club in recent months and a few recent additions joining the squad in the last few days. Here, I take a quick look at how Sunderland Ladies manager Mel Reay may put her side together for another attempt at winning promotion.
Solid at the back
Reay has no problems in the goalkeeping department, as Claudia Moan is set for another season between the sticks. As she showed last season, Moan is an excellent goalkeeper and, with another campaign under her belt, she’ll be looking to keep things tight at the back again this time round.
Defender Charlotte Potts has left for Hibernian Women, and will be a big miss for the Ladies. She was one of the most talented players in a very strong Sunderland squad last season; a ball playing centre half who often started attacks from the back, and is a real leader. Olivia Watt has been signed from league rivals Middlesbrough to replace Potts. Although this is a big ask, she’s a highly rated defender who is returning to the club. She’s a young and accomplished defender who will develop her game under the guidance of Reay and her coaching team.
In Grace McCatty, the club has an experienced central defender who will take on more responsibility during the up and coming season. She will form part of a central defensive duo that will look to stay solid and which a promotion challenge will be built upon. McCatty was incredibly strong in the games I saw her play in last season, and Reay will be looking for her to continue this into the new season, as well as developing a partnership with the incoming Watt.
The Ladies have really strong options in the full back positions; Megan Beer, Faye Mullen and Louise Griffiths are all quality players and, whilst undoubtedly Potts will be a big miss, the players that Sunderland will still have available will provide a strong platform to push for the Women’s National League North league title.
The recent departure of central midfielder Molly Lambert to Durham Wildcats, who play their football one league above Sunderland in the second tier, is another big loss to the team. The midfield area was strong last season and, although the loss of the talented Lambert will be felt, the lasses have more than enough quality in this area to push on and continue to dominate the opposition.
Captain Keira Ramshaw is one of the best players in the league, and the onus will be again on her to create chances and provide goals from an advanced midfield role. When you add the burgeoning talent of youngsters Neve Herron and Jessica Brown to the mix, Sunderland will have plenty of energy, creativity and attacking threat to cause real problems to their league rivals.
It will be interesting to see where the manager plays Herron next season, she’s one of my favourite players at the club and she is so versatile and, therefore, fantastic to have in your squad.
At 17 years of age, she going to continue to develop in to a key player for the lasses.
The only real area of concern that I see for next season is in the centre forward position. The loss of Bridget Galloway is another blow to Sunderland; she was such a prolific goalscorer for the lasses. It will be incredibly difficult to replace her goals and it will be very interesting to see the plans of the manager for that area of the pitch. My belief is that Mel Reay will be looking for the goals to be spread around the team this season.
Also, there could an opportunity for one of the younger members of the squad, or a potential new signing for the forward area, in which to shine. There will be competition for places in the side from Emily Scarr, a recent signing from Middlesbrough Women, and youngsters Libbi McInnes and Abby Towers - all of which I can’t wait to see pull on the red and white stripes this season.
Sunderland were a long way better than their rivals last season, but I see it being alot tighter at the top of the table this year. However, with the quality that still remains in the squad, plus the astute additions, I’m confident that we’ll see the side right near the top of the table fighting for top spot again.
Haway the Lasses.