Sunderland secured a second season in the WSL Championship last weekend. It is a massive achievement by all involved and whilst the likes of Neve Herron and Keira Ramshaw have quite rightly come on for a lot of praise this season. Its been a huge squad effort. Today I’m picking five players who have quiety made a huge impression this season.
Joice has been absolutely tremendous this season. She has been our box-to-box midfielder and her pace and aggressiveness have been crucial to the way Sunderland play.
Joice’s fitness has also impressed me hugely. She covers every blade of grass and looks as if she could run another 90 minutes when the final whistle goes. Joice has scored one of our best goals of the season, finishing a wonderful team move against Sheffield United. For me, she is our player of the season.
Arguably Sunderland’s most improved player this season. Griffiths has matured into a fine full back - superb at tackling and a menace to wingers - she has also looked to get forward whenever possible and has formed a partnership with whoever has played left midfield whether it's been Herron, Ramshaw, Manders, or even young Grace Ede.
It says a lot about her that up until the Sheffield United game, she had played every minute of the Championship season. She’s surely one of the first names on Mel Reay's teamsheet.
Whisper it quietly, but Emily Scarr is Sunderland's second-highest goalscorer this season. Starting out as a centre-forward, her game improved immensely this season on the wing. Goals against Blackburn, Liverpool, and two absolute gems last week against Sheffield United saw Scarr use her blistering pace to great effect.
She has been one of the main beneficiaries of Sunderland's new formation; she’s back out wide and giving Championship full backs a torrid time. Scarr has linked up beautifully with Maria Farrugia recently to provide support for the Maltese striker and at only 21, she is just going to get better and better.
Up until the Liverpool game at home, Cowling had only started a couple of Conti Cup matches this season. You would be forgiven for thinking a nervous performance would follow against the runaway league leaders, you would have been wrong.
Cowling kept Sunderland in the game with a string of unbelievable saves to really give Mel Reay a boost as Claudia Moan was struggling in confidence. The American stopper has really stepped up this season and has proven herself to be a quality keeper at this level. Just go and watch her double save against Palace at home if you don’t believe me.
The fact I’ve included two keepers in this list shows how incredibly lucky Sunderland are to have Chris Wilson as our goalkeeping coach.
Claudia Moan started the season as the first choice but a couple of errors lead to a loss of confidence. She then played in the heavy Conti Cup defeat to Aston Villa and I felt incredibly sorry for her as you could tell she was struggling.
Moan was given a chance to return to form in the FA Cup game against WSL side Birmingham and performed superbly making three crucial saves. She then was given the keeper’s shirt against Charlton at home and has not looked back since.
She was a big factor in Sunderland picking up the three points that game and has followed that up with strong performances against Blackburn and Sheffield United, making vital saves at key moments in both games. Moan’s kicking and communication skills have come on leaps and bounds this season. As fans, we are so happy for her that she’s found her confidence and looks happy on and off the pitch.