When Charlotte Potts left Sunderland over Christmas it left the lasses with a massive gap in defence. We lost a great player with a wealth of experience. Pottsy was playing well and had contributed with a goal and assists as well as her defensive work.
Mel Reay was forced to shuffle her pack and move Neve Herron to centre half. Neve has played numerous positions for us and has always done a brilliant job wherever she has played, but it’s clear that she is vital to our midfield and the way we like to counterattack.
A string of poor results and performances against London and Lewes followed, and the loss of Potts was compounded by Grace McCatty getting sent of against Lewes. The upshot was that Sunderland were left short at the back, with no fit centre halves.
Reay brought in Grace Boyes from the RTC but its clear that Boyes is regarded as one for the future. The club worked hard to recruit in January, but our geographical isolation, our part-time status, and the commitment needed from players to train and play at tier two made bringing in the right cover a difficult challenge.
Nevertheless, after the transfer deadline passed, Sunderland announced the return of Abby Towers from Middlesbrough. She is an England Under 16 international, and first signed for the Lasses from the RTC in 2020, but then moved to Teeside to get first-team experience.
Abby spent most of this season playing regularly for Boro and, despite the National League side suffering some poor results, was looking one of the better performers in the side. As a non-contract player, she was free to make the switch back to Wearside.
✍️ #SAFCLadies are delighted to announce Abby Towers has re-signed for the club!— Sunderland AFC Ladies (@SAFCLadies) February 23, 2022
Towers made her return debut at home as a substitute against Crystal Palace in February coming on in the first half after an injury to Megan Beer. Sunderland lost that game in controversial circumstances, but Towers quickly formed an understanding with the returning McCatty to keep Palace quiet for the majority of the game.
Since then, Sunderland have gone on to win two out of three games vs Charlton and Sheffield United and arguably should have taken at least a point over Blackburn.
I’ve been to all three games and I have been so impressed with how easy Towers has slotted into the defence. She is very assured of herself and looks like a player well beyond her years despite only being 17.
Not only has she formed a terrific understanding with the vastly experienced McCatty, but her introduction also allowed Neve Herron to move into a quarterback-style role for Sunderland, breaking up play, distributing the ball and allowing our devastating counter attacks to work.
Since returning to midfield Herron had scored twice and assisted once in the three games since returning to the midfield, and it’s clear that Sunderland have a lot more balance and solidity now; we look much harder to break down and really dangerous on the counter.
Unfortunately for Sunderland, Towers has taken up the fantastic opportunity of a scholarship in America, so she will more than likely leave the club at the end of the season.
That’s a well-trodden development path for Sunderland youngsters going right back to the early 2000s, and the college soccer scene is responsible for producing professionals that play across Europe and North America.
Towers has proven that she can perform at a pretty high level in the Championship and cope with some of the best forwards in the division, and I’m sure it will stand her in good stead for when she moves on to the next chapter of her career. She’s certainly going to be hard to replace for Reay and her team.