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Sheffield United Women v Sunderland Ladies - FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup

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Lasses Interview & Profile: The dependable Allison Cowling!

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Lasses goalkeeper, Allison Cowling. Reliable, brave and assured, you can want for nothing more than to have her in your side.

Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

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With the 2021/2022 FA Women’s Championship season over and Sunderland having secured another year in the second tier of women’s football, it’s time to stop and reflect.

Want to learn more about your favourite footballer or fun facts about some of the lasses biggest stars? Then look no further....

This summer, Roker Report is profiling some of the SAFC Women players by asking them some interesting questions, delving into their stats, and sharing our thoughts on them as both players and as people.

Allison Cowling

Sunderland Ladies v London City Lionesses - FA Women’s Championship Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Where were you born? Houston, Texas

Former teams you’ve played for? Youth Club - Houston Express; School - Bellaire High School; University - Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee; Clubs - Lewes FC Women, Newcastle United WFC

Favourite food? Mexican Food is definitely the food I miss most from back home in Texas.

Favourite music genre/artist/band? I love loads of different music, could never pick just one! Self Esteem has probably been my favourite artist this year. If I’m feeling homesick, it’s got to be Beyoncé or Country music.

Who inspired or inspires you? My family

What would you sing on the team bus karaoke? I wouldn’t inflict that on anyone.

Who is your favourite women’s footballer past or present? Growing up probably Kelly Smith or Brianna Scurry.

Do you have any superstitions or pre-match rituals? Oh god, loads…too many to name. I’ll pick one…I always touch the crossbar before kick off.

Any other hobbies? Cooking, travelling, hiking, camping, rock climbing. This past year I’ve l tried to get into swimming in the sea and growing my own fruit and veg.

Fun fact about yourself or hidden talent? I grew up supporting Hull City and have been to well over 50 football league grounds following them around the country.

If you weren’t playing football, what do you think you would do or want to do? Sleep more! Full-time work and football doesn’t leave many free hours…ha!

Sports wise my second sport growing up was basketball but I’d love to be really good at snowboarding. Other careers…not sure, maybe a chef?

Snapshot Analysis

After signing with the lasses at start of their first season in tier three in October 2018, Allison Cowling has experienced the highs and lows of being a Sunderland player. She is now a key part of a team rising from the ashes as Sunderland continues their push to earn their rightful place back in the Women’s Super League.

Distribution is undoubtedly one of her key attributes. Predominately right-footed but looks assured with her left too, Cowling has a very calm presence on the ball, which is felt by the team when playing out passes towards the full-backs or short but through the lines. This is evidenced by her 94.4% passing accuracy on short passes.

However, she has more in her repertoire when it comes to passes and goal kicks. Cowling can also add power to hit deep in the opposition half and attacking channels. She also has the vision and intelligence to start a counter attack quickly, looking to roll the ball in front of her teammates for her teammates to run onto and who have space to carry.

This is, however, not something you will see all too often. As Sunderland like to play a more patient and measured style of football, particularly from the back. Therefore she is rarely looking for immediate counters unless a winger is in lots of space and/or unmarked.

When it comes to shot-stopping, what amazes me about Cowling, is that even from a static position, she somehow manages to generate power, height and stretch when pushing off, as demonstrated in the footage below when Cowling has regularly made exemplary saves by tipping the ball over the crossbar.

Most of her diving saves are one-handed efforts, yet she still does a fine job of diverting strikes away from dangerous areas in the box. Pushing it away from danger.

Cowling is absolutely fearless and determined. Once she has committed herself to coming off her line, she does so with great finesse, speed and strength. Something you can occasionally see in women’s football is this hesitancy to come out and claim the ball. But Cowling has no issues with that. Her feet become like springboards as she jumps into the air when the ball is played into the box, towering above her teammates and opposition players as she comes to claim the ball or punch it away from danger.

Cowling - Average ‘‘Heatmap’’

Her rapport and cohesion with the team is also one which cannot be understated. Cowling is very aware of her defence, not rushing out to commit to a block if there is good cover, but staying back and trusting her team to guard her.

At games I have attended in person, I can hear Cowling commanding and organising the team, not just the defence. Making them aware of players sneaking in at the back, players who are unmarked, encouraging her teammates to get forward or to drop back.

Cowling works well with centre-back, Grace McCatty, who both joined Sunderland at the same time in 2018 and have had four seasons working with each other. Whilst not always necessarily together on the pitch, but will have undoubtedly spent time with each other in training and there appears to be a clear relationship of trust, respect and confidence in one another.

This is evidenced by the fact that McCatty is a centre-back who likes to get involved in aerial duels and yet when Cowling is playing and shouts for the ball, she has full faith that the goalkeeper will get to it.

They’re both experienced players and they provide that stability and reassurance for some of the younger squad members in the team, particularly when some are being asked to play out of position. For example, she links up well with Megan Beer, who has played right-back numerous times this season.

Cowling’s reflexes are excellent and she is able to adjust her positioning with quick feet to respond to snapshots or deflections, but perhaps her biggest strength is how confident and assured she is in a one-on-one situation, and we’ve seen this demonstrated regularly this season.

She’s brave and determined when she comes off the line, rushing towards the opposition player, getting down low and quickly before wrapping the ball up in her arms or closing the shot down.

Her ability to make swift and intelligent decisions so quickly to adjust her position depending on the opponent's body language is incredible. Her nimbleness and flexibility allows her to shift her body position from being low in an attempt to snatch the ball to big and wide to block the shot.

It is hard to ignore her propensity to come off her line with confidence. Cowling’s acute awareness to close down space quickly in one-on-one situations neutralises the threats in the area and provides relief and reassurance to her teammates.

Cowling tends to favour and make efficient use of the spread save, benefitting from her tall build, flexibility, bravery and wingspan. Her desire to win these battles exemplifies her willingness to sacrifice her body at point-blank range.

The athleticism and core strength required to make such rapid, physically demanding adjustments should not be underestimated and is an incredible quality and skill to have as a goalkeeper.

Overall, Cowling is a fantastic asset to the team and we are incredibly fortunate to have her with the club. As Sunderland look to build towards next season and with eventual targets to gain promotion back to the WSL, she will likely play a key part in that process.

2021-22 Season Stats (Averages)

  • 1.01 Conceded goals
  • 1.23 xGC
  • 3.87 Shots against
  • 2.86 Saves with reflexes
  • 2.24 Exits
  • 8.97 Long passes
  • 4.18 Short passes
  • 94.4% Passing accuracy on short passes
  • 7.81 Goal kicks

Ed’s Note [Rich]: It’s an unusual situation to have two first-choice goalkeepers at the club, and perhaps only Mel Reay and the coaches at the club know the rationale behind why either Allison Cowling or Claudia Moan is selected in any given game. But we really are blessed to be able to have two great shot stoppers, both able to keep us in a game whilst definitely having their individual strengths.

Cowling brings with her that experience of having come through the US system where girls playing organised football is and has for a long time been a normal part of childhood, the competitiveness of a graduate of the college soccer scene, combined with a grounding in the English football culture through her mum.

She’s clearly embraced the opportunities on offer at the Academy of Light, including training with the Okkulo equipment, and over the course of the season, I’ve seen a big improvement in her all-round game.


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