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Reay and Libbey’s new contracts point to a secure future for Sunderland Women

Gaffer Mel Reay and Assistant Coach Steph Libbey put pen to paper to remain at Sunderland Women, in a what is a statement of intent by SAFC and spells a bright future for the team

Photo by Chris Fryatt

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On Thursday Sunderland Women announced the fantastic news that Head Coach Melanie Reay and Assistant Coach Steph Libbey have signed new contracts with the club.

Not only is it the confirmation to Sunderland fans that the coaching duo are solidifying their future at the club, but gaffer Mel Reay has also been offered a full-time rolling contract. Sunderland Women are undergoing a rebrand in what is an exciting new era for the club as it looks to reach greater heights.

Assistant Head Coach Steph Libbey has also agreed to a two-year contract with Sunderland to work alongside Reay, with the prospect of a part-time extension if the team returns to the FA Women’s Super League

Libbey joined the Black Cats after eight years with Durham Women FC, where she spent four years as Development Team Manager before moving up to the first team. She then joined Mel Reay on Wearside for the start of the 2021-22 FA Women’s Championship season.

With the development of Sunderland Women’s U23 side this summer, name change, securing another season in the FA Women’s Championship, and conversations being had around full-time player models. Reay being signed to a full-time contract is a statement of intent from the club that it will provide even more support to the lasses and backing them to progress.

Reay will say goodbye to an incredibly successful career as Head Coach at Gateshead College, where she has spent the last 19 years helping support and procure the best young talents in the region, many of which have gone on to have successful careers at Sunderland AFC and beyond.

Her tenure with the College has been successful, just this season she led her side to three trophies - winning the league, premier cup, and playoff. Undoubtedly she will be missed there and her accomplishments will go down in unrivaled their history. But their loss, is categorically Sunderland’s gain.

Although she grew up supporting Newcastle, Reay has contributed greatly to Sunderland both as a player and coach. Reay joined the Cowgate Kestrels as a teenager, which ultimately became part of Sunderland AFC. She scored 17 goals in the 2002–03 season, sharing the FA Women’s Premier League Northern Division Golden Boot.

She retained the honour the following season as she helped the Black Cats win the Northern Division in 2004–05 by scoring 16 goals in 22 outings. She made 18 appearances for Sunderland in her last season with the club, scoring five goals.

Mel Reay featured on the cover of “Kicking the Boys Balls: From Cowgate to Sunderland” by Jane Ashworth

Reay had a period with Newcastle United towards the end of her playing career but later went on to be named assistant head coach by Sunderland ahead of the 2015 season. She then took over as head coach in March 2017, succeeding Carlton Fairweather.

She has stood by Sunderland through thick and thin, even when they were demoted to the third division of women’s football and lost some of the side's best players. She’s also been invited to coach with the Lionesses set up over the last couple of seasons.

Her technical and tactical nous, as well as an attentive eye for talent, has allowed the club to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and the future is certainly one which looks bright with her at the helm.


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