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.
Where were you born? Sunderland, England
Former teams you’ve played for? I played for my primary school team, Farringdon Community Academy (secondary school team), Boldon, Durham County, Sunderland RTC and now I play for Sunderland Woman. In the last year I have represented England at U19 level
Favourite food? It has to be chocolate fudge cake with pouring cream! It is so rich, but so so good
Favourite music genre/artist/band? To be honest, I can’t quite narrow my favourite artist or group down to one. I like a variety of music and listen to all sorts of different genres
Who inspired or inspires you? My mam definitely inspires me and continues to inspire me. She supports me everyday and always encourages me. She definitely inspires me to be better
What would you sing on the team bus karaoke? Hmmm... I would sing ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus. It’s a great song and gets everyone involved and singing too
Who is your favourite women’s footballer past or present? I always looked up to Lucy Bronze growing up. She started her football career at Sunderland and I just think she’s a great player with good mindset and attitude.
Do you have any superstitions or pre-match rituals? I’m not sure when it started, but I always eat a couple of Haribo Tangfastics before a game
Any other hobbies? I have an interest in a lot of sports, but I fully commit myself to playing football. It’s not only my job, but I love playing it.
Fun fact about yourself or hidden talent? Author’s Note: When we asked Neve this question she didn't feel like she had any fun facts or hidden talents. So we spoke to her mum, so that she could embarrass Neve, by sharing the following with us. We think you’ve sold yourself short, Neve!
If you weren’t playing football, what do you think you would do or want to do? I’m not sure as I absolutely love football. But If I didn’t play football, I’d probably do another sport like tennis or netball or athletics.
It is almost impossible to watch Herron and not enjoy her play. Her dedication, commitment, tenacity and love for this club shine through in every game she plays, as she leaves everything out on the pitch.
This season, she has become a stalwart and dependable figure, regularly being called upon by gaffer Mel Reay to do a job for the team, she does it with no complaints. Whilst a natural centre-midfielder, she has been asked for large portions of this season to play in centre-back and she has certainly not betrayed Reay’s confidence in her.
Herron’s ability to be versatile and adjust to various roles and positions, cannot be understated. It adds an incredible facet to her game, which continues to improve and get better with every match played.
Regularly we find ourselves having to remember that Herron is only 18-year-olds, yet she plays with such maturity, skill, decorum and proficiency. Certainly one for the future and one that I’m sure other clubs will be watching very closely.
Herron is flexible, agile, and constantly scanning the field of play; a valuable skill for a midfielder that allows her to photograph the pitch mentally. It also aids her smooth movement and timing, and her vision and reading of the game are sublime.
She constantly plays with her head up, searching for opportunities or ways to take the ball forward. She has complete trust in her abilities and ball carrying skills, not needing to look down to take note of her feet or ball positioning, moving the ball with extreme composure and elegance.
This is when Herron is at her best, effortless when she runs with ball and a joy to watch as you see her thinking two steps ahead and surveying her options to play in a through ball or her trade-mark long ball over the backline for a winger or forward to run onto. We at Roker Report often compare her to a quarter-back in American Football, due to her astounding capability to find a player with her pinpoint passing.
Her passing technique is very precise and reliable. She can hammer passes over short and mid-ranges quickly and is capable of moving the ball to wide areas or dropping a floating pass behind the defensive line. Her switch passes from the left half-space to an isolated teammate on the right flank, are a big part of her game.
Herron also excels at linking play from deeper areas, pushing the ball from the defensive third with crisp passing, and spreading it out in midfield with a lively pass-and-go approach; she animates possession episodes rather than stunting them.
Her ability to slide into a space, show for the ball, and then receive and release it in a few touches allows her to be a useful outlet. She’s always one step ahead of the game, looking for an open teammate or a spot where she can rapidly move the ball.
Herron often takes control of the ball early in Sunderland’s build-up play, creating angles to receive passes from centre-backs or the goalkeeper, and release a runner into depth over the defensive line or down the channel.
The speed with which she spots and plays that line-breaking pass is crucial because it throws opponents off guard and gives teammates more time and space to turn and attack the defence.
Her skill as a passer, unsurprisingly, is also based on strong technical principles. She is a smart player in terms of positioning and anticipation, scanning frequently and modifying her position to receive and release the ball on a regular basis.
Her ball control is also compact, and she is at ease taking and moving the ball with her weaker left foot. Positive first touches lead to positive actions, and crisp turns allow her to switch from back to front play.
Herron adeptly coordinates all of those skills in a fluid sequence, which supports her two-touch speed as a passer. That speed is also her most effective way of playing under duress.
New month and new player analysis coming soon on @RRLasses ⚪️— Charlotte Patterson (@kirbyhazard) June 1, 2022
Starting off with the spectacular @NeveHerron06
I watched nearly two hours worth of footage on Herron and it was almost impossible to select the best bits! But here is part one of her key contributions
️ Wyscout pic.twitter.com/FfMoT6rlhL
Herron’s defensive skill and value vary depending on the spaces she plays in. Her swift agility provides her with an advantage in tighter spaces, where she is most effective. According to her statistical profile, her ability to read and react is a key component of her defensive repertoire, as evidenced by her above-average rate of interceptions.
When it comes to cutting out passes, she likes to pounce on the ball, moving into passing channels or nipping in close to disturb the receiver’s touch. Her razor-sharp intensity catches opponents off guard.
Herron is a defender who loves to defend when asked to play as a centre-back this season. She exudes calm aggression; she’s never rushed, she manages circumstances deftly, and she makes excellent use of her little but powerful frame.
In duels, she is dominant and assertive, but not reckless; she reads the game extremely well and has the athletic attributes to match. Over the first few yards, she has powerful running with a quick burst of speed and clean footwork that allows her to cover ground both laterally and vertically.
Herron is especially adept at changing her weight or adjusting her stance when the ball abruptly changes direction and she has the highlight-reel ability to produce explosive plays and last gasp slide tackles or blocks as evidenced in the footage above and below.
Her defensive skill not only allows her to be a challenging match-up for any opposition forward, but it also allows her to keep the rest of her back-line calm. Without the ball, she has a commanding yet calm demeanour: she is seldom seen racing to get into position and is at ease shifting out wide and guarding more vulnerable positions.
Her nimbleness offers her uncommon agility among centre-backs, making her one of the best at cutting out low crosses, which is especially essential given her lack of height for the position. She is regularly seen throwing herself towards the ball or shot, not afraid to put her body on the line.
Attacking, defending, carrying the ball forward, tackling, long balls, clearances. Herron has it all in her repertoire. I honestly still forget that she is 18. Playing well above her years— Charlotte Patterson (@kirbyhazard) June 1, 2022
️ Wyscout pic.twitter.com/0gfmGnotn6
Herron is a player who is constantly improving and evolving. Just last season alone, when comparing how she started to how she finished, her statistics show evidence of refinement - with more involvement in various facets of the game and ameliorating in terms of her passing.
With a successful year all around under her belt with Sunderland Women securing another year in the FA Women’s Championship, her call-ups and performances for the England U19s, and winning three trophies with Gateshead College, she can certainly enjoy her well-earned break and be proud of her accomplishments.
The trajectory of Herron’s performances is on the rise and possibilities for her in the game appear endless. I have absolutely no doubt that she will continue to improve and add further skills to her repertoire, perhaps in terms of contributions towards goals and assists.
However, given the way she plays, her importance and the contributions she currently provides, this is not a necessity. We are very fortunate as a club to have someone who appears to be another extraordinarily gifted player on our hands; I honestly feel that she will rise to have a similar career to that of Sunderland legends, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Jill Scott.
2021-22 Season Stats (Averages)
- 64.72 Total actions per game
- 28.3 Passes per game
- 64.2% Passing accuracy per game
- 22.02 Duels per game
- 10.58 Recoveries per game
- 7.24 Interceptions per game
- 6.67 Long passes per game
- 4.47 Aerial duels per game
- 2.2 Dribbles per game
- 4 Goals
- 2 Assists
Ed’s Note [Rich]: Sunderland AFC Women is rebuilding for the future, and Neve Herron is going to be a huge part of that. We have an uncommon and extraordinarily valuable talent on our hands, as Charlotte’s analysis makes clear.
I believe that in years to come there will be murals dedicated to this girl, and people will be writing “On This Day” stories about the day she made her debut, her first goal for England, her first win with the Lasses at Wembley.
If there’s one guiding principle I would enact for the women’s section of our club is that it should ensure that this player can earn a good living and play at the highest standard, represent her country and win trophies, whilst playing for her home town club.
If we can keep her and the other fantastic young talents emerging through the RTC programme here, help them to build their careers on Wearside, then we will truly be back where we belong. Everything should be orientated towards that goal.
Also, this was never a penalty and certainly not a red card!