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Happy International Women’s Day! Who are the greatest ever Sunderland Ladies players?

Roker Report celebrates International Women’s Day as our panel take a look back at the greatest women to wear a Sunderland shirt. Who have been your top players over the years?

Durham Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies - FA WSL 2
Beth Mead celebrates after scoring the third Sunderland goal from the penalty spot during the FA WSL2 match between Durham City and Sunderland at New Ferens Park on April 17, 2014
Photo by Ian Horrocks - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Rebecca Johnson- Steph Houghton

When you think of Lasses players and one person comes straight to mind, and that’s Steph Houghton. The current Manchester City and England captain has had an incredible career and started off at Sunderland, helping the side win promotion to the Northern Premier Division in 2005.

Since leaving the north-east Houghton has become one of the key players in growing the women’s game in England. A reliable and no-nonsense defender for sides including Leeds, Arsenal and Manchester City, her club career has been littered with a countless amount of honours with every side she’s played for.

Houghton is part of a number of former Lasses players who have been involved with the England set-up for many years, offering consistent and assuring performances at the back, earning her 121 caps for her country.

For me, Houghton is one of the players who made me get into the women’s game more. Watching her, a North-East lass, lead England at the 2015 World Cup in Canada was fantastic, and those were some of the first games of women’s football I watched, and I’ve never looked back since.

An incredible person on and off the field, Houghton is more than worthy of a nod on International Women’s Day.

Soccer - FA Nationwide Women’s Premier League - Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Stonebridge Road Photo by John Marsh - PA Images via Getty Images

Rich Speight - Beth Mead

The impact of Whitby lass Beth Mead on Sunderland Ladies in the mid-2010s was breathtaking. In five seasons from when, at the age of 16 in 2011, she broke into the side, she took first the Premier League North, then WSL 2 and finally the WSL 1 by storm, scoring 77 goals in 78 games as we rocketed up the pyramid, almost reaching the summit.

Long standing fans of the Lasses had never quite seen anything like it, she was almost unplayable at times and her performances pushed Sunderland to the heights of a fourth place WSL 1 finish in 2015/16. She won PFA Young Player of the Year in 2016 and, as it became clear that the club under Ellis Short were not going to invest in women’s football to the extent of some of our rivals in the Premier League, it was apparent that sooner or later the Lasses prized asset would depart. She has natural talent in abundance; she’s full of pace, trickery and lethal finishing, and has represented England at all age groups.

In 2017, Mead signed for Arsenal after finishing her degree at Teesside Uni, and has been in and out of their star-studded line-up ever since, suffering several injuries in recent times that have limited her opportunities. Now often used as a winger rather than up-front by Joe Momtemurro, Beth made her full debut for the national team in 2018, winning 25 caps and scoring 8 goals along the way - including one against Brazil in the 2019 She Believes Cup.

However, the new England boss Hege Riise recently omitted Mead from her first squad, stating that she needed to see performances every week if she was to make it back onto the international scene. But she is a determined and passionate character, so I wouldn’t bet against her proving her critics wrong and, if she can stay fit, being a mainstay of the Lionesses team for years to come.

Graeme Field - Bridget Galloway

I have picked a player who helped ignite my passion for women’s football. The player affectionately described as the GOAT by many Sunderland Ladies fans, and that is Bridget Galloway. A striker currently plying her trade at FA Women’s Championship side Durham Women FC.

As we all know, putting the ball in the back of the net is the hardest part of the game. That’s why a player like Galloway is a crucial part of a side that has aspirations of a successful season and another reason why I have picked her as my favourite player.

I only started watching women’s football last season, having the pleasure to attend the majority of Sunderland Ladies home games. They were a side full of talent, all over the pitch, but it was difficult not to notice Galloway. A striker who has all of the attributes to develop into a top level player, she’s got pace, strength, a natural finisher and a fantastic attitude. In tight games she can be the difference from turning one point into three. Galloway at twenty one years of age is already a superb striker.

At such a young age and already scoring goals playing in the second tier of the women’s game. It can only bode well for a successful future for her in the game. I see her playing in the WSL in future. The highest level in English women’s football.

She scored over twenty goals last season and I’m confident she would have made it over thirty goals had the season not been curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunderland Women v Newcastle United Ladies: FA Women’s National League Cup
Number 9 Bridget Galloway of Sunderland up against Newcastle in 2019
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Ant Waterson - Keira Ramshaw

Happy International Women’s day. I cannot think of any player for any Sunderland side I’ve watched who is more committed than Kiera Ramshaw. You quote the phrase “Bleeds red and white” then you find Kiera.

As a 16-year-old Keira made her debut in 2010, she is living the dream of a Sunderland fan representing her childhood club and has scored double figures in every full season she has played in. She has also played in a wide array of positions, from striker to centre mid to wing back and has done herself proud in every position.

Amongst all things though is just how loyal she is, first seeing players like Beth Mead and Jordan Nobbs leaving when Sunderland’s application into the WSL was rejected in favour of Manchester City (money talks), and secondly when the lasses were demoted into the WLNL in 2018. Kiera could have easily left for a much better side and a probable England call up, but she has stayed and helped bring through the latest crop of local talent including the versatile Jess Brown and the extremely talented Neve Herron. She was also deservedly named captain of the side and she leads with example, scoring 24 goals in 23 games in the 2018/19 season.

Kiera is a proper Mackem, a true Sunderland lady and a true leader. She does it all with a beaming smile as well. I really can’t wait to see what the future will hold for her and the Sunderland ladies. Thank you, Kiera.

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