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England v Sweden: Semi Final - UEFA Women’s EURO 2022

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Emotions overflow as England’s Lionesses reach the final in style, now it’s all about the legacy!

Beth Mead and Lucy Bronze combined, Fran Kirby shined, and England will play at Wembley at 5pm on Sunday. It’s a moment that we will remember forever, and the impact of this summer could be massive!

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

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I’m a bit of wreck here, sat at my computer as Alex Scott and Ian Wright fight back the tears on the BBC gantry as England’s cool captain Leah Williamson waved to them on her lap on honour.

Nobody can deny that England deserve their place in the final of Euro 2022 - 19 goals scored and only one conceded - still unbeaten under the magical Sarina Wiegman. They are now the powerhouses of European women's international football. There’s an irresistible quality to their play, the power of their finishing, the cheek of their interplay play, the doggedness of their defending.

101 years since the FA, rattled by the massive crowds that women’s football was pulling and spooked by the progressive working class causes teams like Dick Kerr’s Ladies supported, banned women from playing football - the game is back at the centre of the national conversation and cementing our sport as the national sport of the whole of England.

For those of us who already got it, who’ve been writing on these pages and elsewhere urging you to join us, this fact means the world. We hoped beyond hope that England would make it to Wembley, as this achievement will finally mean that the hard work of these women, some of whom have worked and studied alongside playing, get the recognition from the rest of the football community they deserve.

England v Sweden: Semi Final - UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

It’s gone beyond that now. These players are on the brink of achieving the status of true sporting legends.

We have said it for months, but those people - particularly the players, their parents and partners, and the loyal Lasses fans - around Sunderland AFC Women deserve to revel in this moment. We half joke that this is a team made on the Sunderland production line. We may not have produced half the team like at World Cup 2019, but the combined legacy of Sunderland Ladies and Cowgate Kestrals played a huge part in tonight’s glorious victory.

Mick Mulhern played his part. Mel Reay played her part. Steph Bannon played her part. Sue Cox and Jordan Nobbs played their parts. Steph Houghton and Demi Stokes played their parts.

All those in our region who helped Lucy Bronze and Beth Mead become the players they are today have been crucial to what we millions of us have watched have played their parts in these match winning performances. Together, English women’s football is 90 minutes from achieving our glorious goal.

Arsenal FC ‘Iconic’ Archive Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

When Jill Scott came on in the final moments of England’s 4-0 win this evening to make a landmark 160th appearance for the national team, she did so knowing that over the course of her long career she’s seen this game explode from a niche interest with a few dozen friends and family on the sidelines to the point where blokes in pubs in Sunderland tonight were whooping and cheering at Russo’s back healed finish.

As a friend rightly said on social media earlier today, and Wrighty just repeated on the telly, we need to ensure that there is legacy across English football. 90,000 at Wembley will be amazing, but turning the crowds of 100s at domestic games into crowds of thousands is the next task.

You can be part of this bright future. If you have an SAFC season card, or even if you don’t, you can go to Eppleton CW on a Sunday afternoon and see the Lionesses of the future playing for us and for the opposition in the Women’s Championship this season.

You and your family can be part of the legacy of this tournament by getting involved in the other part of our Sunderland AFC family. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.

We will have a “Matchday Musings” piece, more reaction, and a podcast coming out in the next few days...

England Women Camp - FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifiers Photo by Lynne Cameron - The FA/The FA via Getty Images


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