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Sunderland Lasses’ U23’s continue their excellent start to 2023/2024!

“The future is bright at Sunderland and the philosophy of developing youth prospects and inspiring them to play expansive attacking football is clear to see,” writes Charlotte Patterson.

Following on from the inception of Sunderland Women’s U23s, the team has continued to make strides forward, for various reasons.

From the plethora of talent being churned out, the clear pathway through the various age groups to the senior team and the attacking impetus and confidence the squad plays with, they continue to make waves and to showcase their abilities to a wider audience.

The future is certainly bright and our ability to produce talent has always been a testament to the dedication of Sunderland AFC’s philosophy and model.

However, it’s also down to the incredible work, sacrifices and commitment shown by coaches and staff right across the board in providing a pathway that allows players to adapt to senior football whilst simultaneously unearthing the next generation of talent.

Sunderland Women’s U23s are currently unbeaten in twenty six games and have won all seven games of their 2023/2024 campaign. It’s an incredible achievement and one of which the staff and players should feel immensely proud.

At times, you forget that many of these players are only sixteen or seventeen years old, yet so many of them appear to play beyond their years in terms of their reading of the game, as well as their composure and ability.

They’re coming up against opponents who may well be double their age and yet these young women aren’t overawed. They show respect, but they’re not afraid.

Current 23/24 North East Regional Women’s Football League Table
The FA

I went to watch Sunderland U23’s a few times last season and I’ve caught them once this year, largely due to their games kicking off at the same time as the senior team.

Every time I watch them. I’m amazed by the skill, ferocity and technicality displayed by such a young group, and this is something to which I’m sure our fellow contributor Ant Waterson would attest.

There are so many players I could single out, whether it’s Daisy Stokoe, Mya Forgie, Milly Cairns, Eve Parker, Hannah Ward or Laila Wallace, and we’ve already seen the likes of Mary Corbyn, Eve Parker, Emily Cassap, Ella West, Rhiannon Mallaburn and Ellie Jadine break into the senior setup.

They’ve trained with the team, have been named on the bench in match day squads and have even played fixtures against tough opposition.

Corbyn and West were brilliant against Durham Women in the Conti Cup over a month ago, and Emily Cassap scored her first senior goal against Blackburn Rovers in last Wednesday’s cup tie.

Footballers such as Jill Scott, Steph Houghton, Beth Mead, Carly Telford, Lucy Bronze, Demi Stokes, Lucy Staniforth and Jordan Nobbs are some of the big names that either started out or came through the Sunderland system before going on to represent England at the highest level.

We’re continuing to see that progression, with Grace Ede and Katy Watson representing England U19’s and Libbi McInnes representing England U23’s, and that’s without mentioning many other Sunderland players who are representing various countries in different age groups.

Built and not bought. Sunderland Women are creating a powerful and cyclical dynasty.

22/23 Durham County FA Women’s League One Final Table
The FA

Last season, they were awarded promotion to the North East Regional Women’s Football League Northern after finishing first with fifty six points.

During the twenty game season, the young lasses won eighteen and drew two fixtures, scoring a whopping seventy one goals and only conceding eight.

Throughout the season, Sunderland amassed over fourteen different scorers, with the following players getting on the score sheet:

Jade Danks - Seventeen goals in seventeen appearances

Milly Cairns - Ten goals in eight appearances

Daisy Stokoe - Ten goals in sixteen appearances

Jasmine Elliott-Wood - Seven goals in fourteen appearances,

Amy Richardson - Five goals in seventeen appearances

Ebony Thompson - Four goals in fourteen appearances

Layla Huskisson - Four goals in seventeen appearances

Jasmine Badillo - Three goals in ten appearances

Tvene Derderian - Three goals in fifteen appearances

Montserrat Lomeli - Three goals in fifteen appearances

Hannah Collins - Two goals in five appearances

Mya Forgie - One goal in sixteen appearances

Kelly Garcia - One goal in eight appearances

Rhiannon Mallaburn - One goal in fourteen appearances

Ones to watch: Niyah Dunbar and Rhiannon Mallaburn

There are quite a few players I could highlight here and perhaps further down the line, but for now, allow me to pick two players that I feel the fans should keep an eye on.

Rhiannon Mallaburn appeared on the bench for the Sunderland Women’s senior side a few times towards the end of the 2022/2023 season, but has yet to make her full debut.

However, don’t let that deter you.

She’s a tricky player who’s adaptable enough to slot in anywhere in the defensive line and also in midfield when needed.

She appears most comfortable at full back where she’s able to showcase her ability by linking up with her winger, forming underlaps and overlaps to get forward, sending dangerous balls into the box or picking out inch-perfect passes.

Dunbar, meanwhile, has seven goals and three assists in six appearances so far this season.

A clinical striker who’s able to score with her head and her left or right foot, she has an eye for goal and is deadly when receiving the ball in the box.

Although her ability to score is understandably a key strength, she also reminds me of Liz Ejupi, in terms of her all round game, her intelligence to know when to drop, when to hold, when to take the ball forward herself and her selfless play.

Rhiannon Mallaburn
Sunderland AFC
Niyah Dunbar
Sunderland AFC

Notable name...Emily Hutchinson

After tearing her ACL towards the end of 2019, Hutchinson worked hard to get back to playing the beautiful game as quickly as possible.

Dedicating herself to recovering physically and mentally, as well as engaging in various rehabilitation programmes, she did everything possible to get back to playing as soon as possible.

At the start of 2021, Hutchinson made her return.

She participated in some pre-season friendlies and staked a claim for a place in Mel Reay’s team prior to the 2021/2022 FA Women’s Championship season with some impressive goals and performances.

However, just as she was beginning to get back into form, she suffered a second ACL tear in the same knee.

At the time of writing, Hutchinson is currently working hard to make a second return and underwent successful surgery at the end of March 2022.

The rehabilitation process has naturally been very gradual to ease her back into competitive football without the pressures and ferocity of the women’s championship, and she’s been playing with Sunderland U23’s this season.

Hutchinson has five goals and four assists in five appearances for Sunderland thus far.

Where and when they play

Sunderland Women’s U23’s play all of their home games at the Academy of Light, with their fixtures available to watch at any time, whether you’re a family member or a fan.

The majority of games take place on Sundays with a kick off time of 2:00pm, but can vary from club to club in the division.

The majority of their opponents this season are based fairly close by in terms of locality and distance, with the likes of Thornaby and Blyth Town Ladies being the exception.


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