Sunderland Ladies, after a number of difficult years playing down the leagues through no fault of their own, are now about to embark on a season that has supporters waiting with eager anticipation.
Things have been quiet so far this summer, but over the last couple of weeks there’s been a flurry of activity for us fans to mull over.
We’ve seen the release of the FA Women’s Championship fixtures - this comes after the lasses were promoted to the second tier of women’s football in England, and Sunderland start their campaign with a trip to Coventry United on Sunday 29th August.
Whilst it’s important to not place too much pressure on the team, the first game with at least give the fans an early indication as to how well the club have recruited and prepared for the upcoming season. Coventry finished last season second bottom of the table, so it will be an intriguing opening encounter.
The, the home support will then have their first opportunity to watch second-tier action with a game against Blackburn Rovers - who finished their season last year third bottom - on Sunday 5th September.
At the time of writing there hasn’t been any information from the club as to where they will play their home games this season. The lasses have been playing their games at the Academy of Light, but with the re-induction of fans likely, fans will be eagerly awaiting news of where the matches will be staged - and to me at least it seems likely that the Hetton Centre and Hebburn Town venues used previously will be under consideration.
As things stand Sunderland Ladies have so far only made one new signing in preparation for the new season - the return to the club of centre half Charlotte Potts, re-signing after a season away playing in Scotland for Hibernian. I think it’s safe to say that lasses fans will be delighted to have the popular defender back - Pottsy is a tough-tackling defender who is very comfortable when bringing the ball out from the back, and will be a quality addition.
Fans will be intrigued to see what manager Mel Reay does to further strengthen the squad before the start of the season - she’s so organised with her planning that she will know exactly what she feels she needs going into the season.
Also joining Sunderland is Steph Libbey - our new Assistant Manager replacing the popular and highly rated Trevor Atkinson. Libbey moves from Durham Women FC, so will bring experience of working with a Championship side to the group.
Sunderland started their pre-season games with a 1-0 defeat to Celtic at the Academy of Light. The manager was happy with the work out and will be looking to work on shape and different game plans in preparation for the new season.
The second game saw the lasses defeat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the AOL on Sunday, coming from behind to claim the victory. The twitter updates gave the impression that the lasses were dominant and eventually they made the breakthrough late in the second half with a goal from Holly Manders, quickly followed by the second from Eve Blakey. Sunderland created many good opportunities which will have delighted the watching back room team.
With just under five weeks remaining until their season opener against Coventry, there is still plenty of time for any potential new signings to bed into the squad in what will be an intriguing season.
✅ First pre-season win— Sunderland AFC Ladies (@SAFCLadies) July 25, 2021
✅ More minutes in the tank
Our report from today's game... ️