Sunderland Ladies’ game against FA Women’s Championship leaders Liverpool on Saturday evening sees the return of a couple of former Lasses favourites, not least Hebburn-born Rachel Laws.
The experienced goalkeeper spent 12 years as part of the Sunderland women’s setup, breaking into the side as a teenager, and joined us on our weekly live podcast on Twitter Spaces this Monday to talk about her career and the upcoming fixture.
Roker Report’s Katie Hume asked Lawsy about her early days with Sunderland:
I remember getting picked for the county team for South Tyneside, I think I was around about 13 and there was a Sunderland scout there. There was me and about three or four others at the time, and Mick Mulhern rang me a couple of days after and said “Rach, we want to bring you into the academy set-up” and at the time, you didn’t really hear about it at the time, you had Jill Scott and Steph Houghton, but girls at county level – I never ever thought that it would be my next step, still being in school and stuff. So I had trials and I was successful, and I went into the under 14s at the time and still played for the county and the school alongside it.
I got the step up with the under 16s and I was playing with the Sunderland reserves at the time. At still round about 15 or 16 years old I got called into the first team, I thought “oh my god, Mick’s ringing ‘us” , and I actually made my debut against Derby County, when Sunderland played at Washington. I think at the time Carly Telford had dislocated her shoulder or something and Helen Alderson was injured at the time as well, and I didn’t really have time to process it as he rang me the night before.
Probably at the time it was pretty normal, now it’s not as heard of a 16 year old playing in a first-team environment unless they’re very, very good. I think we won the game 3-1 and I conceded a penalty, and from then on I was in and out of the first team and the reserves. The reserves won the league, and then I was more with the first team for a good few years after that, and they were definitely some of the best years of my footballing career, and I think them years with Sunderland made me the person I am. I was still at home, I was still a home girl and I still very much am.
And every time I get the chance to come home I do, and I never forget where I come from. It’s nice to see Sunderland back where they belong in the Championship, it took them a few years to build back up and be back where they are, but they do belong there, and it’s nice to see them doing well.
Asked about her career highlights, Laws picked out winning WSL1 title whilst on loan with Liverpool in 2013, before she returned to Wearside and won promotion with the Lasses in 2014.
Back then, when Sunderland weren’t full time, and to experience full time football and winning the WSL with Liverpool has got to be up there. Going from not even a part time environment to a full time environment, playing with some of the best people, the best footballers in Europe, and winning the WSL with them, is up there.
But also winning WSL2 at the time, it wasn’t the Championship back then, with Sunderland and beating Millwall 4-0 away to secure that title when Doncaster Bells were right behind us, I think we just needed a win. To do it with a team and people I’ve known the majority of my life, they’re like a second family, and I think that’s got to be up there on par with the WSL title win. To do it with people I’m so close to, even now, it holds a special place in my heart and it always will.
Laws joined Liverpool for this second spell in 2020, and was full of praise for Mel Reay’s current Sunderland side, having worked under the Lasses’ gaffer before moving on to Reading following our demotion in 2018:
Mel’s done a great job, when I was there a few years ago she was thorough, she knows her stuff, she’s been involved with the England setup so she’s not stupid – she prepares well, or she did when I was there and I presume it’s the same now. They’re not doing so well in the league and doing so well and picking up the results they have for nothing, it’s because of what does on behind the scenes.
They’ve got Keira, they’ve got Joicey, they’ve got Grace, they’ve got Pottsy – all players I’ve played with – and they’re not going to be pushovers this season, any team they come up against who underestimates them will get a shock, because if they think “oh, where they’ve come from, they got elected, they weren’t top of the league…” it doesn’t matter. They were good enough to come up and they’re clearly showing that they can hold their own and it’s going to be a difficult game, and we’re under no illusion that it’s going to be tough.
It will be Liverpool’s second trip to the North East in less than a week following their victory at Durham on Sunday. It’s going to be quite the battle in front of the home fans at Hetton, and Laws was clear that the fully-professional visitors won't be taking anything for granted against the newly-promoted side.
Especially with Sunderland being at home, no one – apart from me because I’m from there – likes to travel up to the north east, and come Saturday night under the lights it’s a different atmosphere – I remember from when I was there and used to play on a night and those lights would come on and it’s a bit intimidating.
But the team they’ve got this season, they’ve show up for Mel, and she’s clearly getting something out of them in a very good way, and I think if people are willing to work hard for their manager I think it show on a matchday, and I think that’s what they’re doing this season.
We’ll have more from the interview with Rachel Laws in our bumper matchday preview as our enhanced coverage of Sunderland AFC Ladies here at Roker Report continues.
There’s plenty of time for supporters to get from the Stadium of Light down the A690 to watch the Lasses on Saturday night, and all the details are in the tweet below.
Buy in advance— Sunderland AFC Ladies (@SAFCLadies) November 16, 2021
Pay on the day
️ Accessing the stadium
ℹ️ Other enquiries
Ahead of Saturday's game against Liverpool Women, secure your seat and read our matchday guide...