Sunderland Ladies start their season on Sunday with a trip to Coventry United.
As the excitement builds to the season opener, after promotion to the FA Women’s Championship, I look at what the season ahead could have in store for the lasses.
Manager Mel Reay has added to her squad with the signing of two former Sunderland Ladies players. First through the door was central defender Charlotte Potts. She ended her time at Hibernian Women earlier than anticipated and will be a great addition to the squad, bringing vast experience and competitiveness to a young group.
Reay then brought in another former Sunderland player, midfielder Emma Kelly, from WSL side Birmingham City Women. She will bring experience and calmness on the ball in a critical area of the pitch.
Their first season back at this level for a number of years will be a huge test for the lasses. It’s a journey into the relative unknown for a talented and young squad. In this week’s club podcast SAFC Unfiltered, with Frankie Francis and Danny Collins, Reay tells the host that she does not know a lot about the Coventry United side that will provide the opposition on Sunday.
Mel is known for her thorough preparation and player management skills, so as the season progresses, so will her knowledge of league opposition.
Sunderland gave a good account of themselves in a 2-0 away defeat to fellow FA Women’s Championship rivals Sheffield United Women, in their final pre-season friendly. It is widely thought that their opponents that day will again finish near the top of the table, after a fourth-place finish last season.
In the SAFC Unfiltered podcast, the Sunderland boss talks about the stability of the squad and staff at the club as being a key strength. The two new additions having already played for the club and they understand what comes with that. She mentioned that they will be looking at the season in blocks of games and I think that’s a sensible way to approach it with it being their first season at this level.
In pre-season Sunderland did look to bring in highly-rated wide forward Tyler Dodds. The club Twitter account did in fact announce the signing, but the tweet was subsequently deleted. Dodds has since opted to join Glasgow City, which would give her Champions League football that Sunderland can’t offer.
This suggests to me that the manager may still be in the market for a forward player to bolster the squad. Although if no additions are made, she can call upon the hugely talented young forward Eve Blakey and has the option of moving Sunderland legend Keira Ramshaw from an advanced midfield role to that of a forward player.
With it having been a number of months since the majority of fans have had the opportunity to attend matches it will be intriguing to see how the season starts and then unfolds from there.
In the podcast mentioned earlier in this article, Reay also spoke about the plan she has in place with Sunderland Sporting Director Kristen Speakman and owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus which entails building the squad slowly and sustainably.
The club appears to be looking to improve communications with fans and the club recently tweeted a fantastic season ticket offer for Sunderland Ladies, in conjunction with the under 23 side.
✔️ @SAFCLadies— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) August 26, 2021
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It would be great to see as many fans as possible at the lasses games. To the fans who regularly attend the games, it’ll be great to be back and to the fans who are thinking about going along to a game, get yourself there you’ll not regret it. Ha’way the lasses!