Roker Report: Natalie... thanks for speaking with us about Sheffield United but you’re well known as a Man United fan, so I guess you must be a bit of both...
Natalie Burrell: I’m a Man United fan but I’ve watched Sheffield since 2018 since they had Carla Ward there, I’ve seen a lot of their games this year and I keep up to date. I do keep in touch with Sheffield, I don’t really know Redfern but I know a lot of the behind the scenes staff from back when I was watching them when Man United were in the Championship and I know a lot of the old-school players - Maddy Cousack whose been there since it started, and Kas [Lipka].
RR: How are they doing this season? Who are you most excited to see play?
NB: Sheffield are doing good, they’ve had a little sticky patch - I’d say games where they’ve not played their best in and got a lot of draws. They played West Ham in their last game out, and before that it was 1-1 at Durham, and for me, that’s a good result. Anyone going up there and getting a point is a good result.
But they’ve got Rhema, and I that’s where a lot of the creativity comes from and I feel like when I’ve seen them - although she’s been been out for a lot of the season - when she’s at number ten in lots of games earlier in the season and in pre-season, she was running it. But then she was out, I thought it was going to be her season, so for her to come back now for the second half of the season - I’m excited to see her back and anyone going down should watch out for her because I feel like she’s a quality player- very under rated.
RR: What’s your perspective on Lucy Watson, who is obviously a bit of a hotshot who has scored five this season. What can we expect and what do you make of her as a footballer?
NB: Absolutely class. She’ll be playing for England one day, and I’ve seen her in the Under 19s as well and she scored two goals that day - that was when she was 17. She’s not 18 yet, and that just shows the quality that she’s got. Yes, she’s scored five in the Championship but that was early in the season when pretty much every game she was banging in goals. The last game I saw, when I went to Bristol... I can’t even explain this goal, the way she scored it, her touch and the first time shot into the bottom corner! She’s like an out-and-out clinical number nine.
RR: Sunderland have brought through a few 16-year-olds, recently, and Watson is 17 and performing really well. Is there a bit of a talent production line down there too?
NB: Sheffield are really doing that a lot now too. There’s Tamara Wilcock, Charley Docherty, Mia Enderby - they’re all about bringing a lot of the young ones on. Enderby is another one I’d look out for, but they have experience as well. With Lucy Watson, she’s been coming off the bench a lot more than starting now, but against West Ham she was back in the starting lineup and played her part in the goal that they scored with some nice link-up play. With her being 17, playing in the Championship and scoring loads of goals, for me she - if not net year the year after - will be in WSL and will be smashing it. I would be on guard for her.
RR: Do you think the 4-1 loss against West Ham will affect the Blades?
NB: Even though the last game they were up against WSL opposition and lost, it was at Bramall Lane and they got a good attendance, I feel like they’ve had their sticky patch now and they’re on an upward trajectory.
RR: So they seem to have a good setup down there, Neil Redfern seems to have a lot of respect in the women’s game too?
NB: I remember when Carla Ward left, and a lot of my love for Sheffield stemmed from her, and she got me into it, and was always asking me to come down and watch, and I’ve still got a lot of love for Carla.
But it was a big shock when he came in and she left and the way that all panned out, but he’s done well, he’s brought in Fran Kitching who is really good and Cortney Sweetman-Kirk who I think is really good. Quite a lot of girls that he plays, Sophie Bradley-Aukland is the captain now, so he’s bringing through youth and putting a lot of fair in young players.
RR: Thanks for your insights, Nat. A pleasure as always.