It was announced this week that Grace Ede has joined Sunderland Ladies first team squad from the Sunderland AFC Regional Talent Club (RTC). The Lasses were quick to pounce to enable them to tie up the midfielder, who only turned 16 years of age on the 6th October. In an announcement on the club’s website, it was confirmed the England under 17 international will wear the number sixteen shirt.
She is a big Sunderland fan and the latest player to join the Sunderland Ladies team through the RTC pathway. Some fans may not know a lot about the Sunderland Regional Talent Club, and it’s superb work with young players, me included until today.
✍️ We are delighted to announce the signing of Grace Ede, who joins the first-team squad from #SAFC's Regional Talent Centre.— S̶u̶n̶d̶e̶r̶l̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶A̶F̶C̶ SAFC Ladies (@SunderlandAFC) October 7, 2021
Grace Ede has joined the Ladies squad for the FA Women’s Championship season ahead. As the manager mentioned in her press conference for the game against Durham Women, the Sunderland RTC provides a pathway through to the Sunderland Ladies squad. It’s a route that’s nurtured stars Neve Herron, Jessica Brown and Maria Farrugia into the current squad.
Sunderland RTC are part of the Sunderland Foundation of Light family, which just this week celebrated it’s 20th birthday. Current Sunderland centre half Charlotte Potts recently posted on social media about the energy and dedication that Grace Ede has and that Grace was only 6 years old when Charlotte undertook her first volunteer coaching role with the Foundation of Light. I’m sure manager Mel Reay is keeping a close eye on the progress of fellow RTC and England Under 17 team mates Daisy Burt and Ella Wilson.
➡️ …— Foundation of Light (@SAFCFoL) October 7, 2021
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/AXMPmfBpf1
The recent investment in Newcastle United may bring further competition for the signature of more established players in the coming seasons for the lasses. To have a set up as good as the RTC will enable the club to bring through our own talent in addition to the signing of a sprinkling of more experienced player additions such as the excellent central midfielder Emma Kelly. Clubs such as Middlesbrough Women and Wallsend Boys Club Women have also benefited from the sheer amount of good players the RTC have produced over the years.
In the short to medium term it’s going to require astute signings in addition to the RTC graduates for Mel Reay to establish the team as a Championship squad. They could then look to push for promotion to the Women’s Super League.
It must be amazing for the players that are coming through at the RTC to see the manager picking a fellow player to join Sunderland Ladies and then immediately putting them in the squad. The hard work that they have put in with the help of the RTC coaches and family and the sacrifices they make has a pathway into the game at pretty much the highest level.
This leads me to the inevitable question. If the pathway is already set, the squad are regularly supplemented by their graduates, then will the club look to reward Sunderland Ladies with full time status in the future?
Ha’way the lasses!!!