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Contrary to the beliefs of a very small minority of supporters, Sunderland’s Grace Ede has been nothing short of exemplary this season.
She’s consistently put in exceptional performances despite playing outside of her natural position, as well as coming up against pacy wingers and players potentially ten years her senior.
Ede is a player who’s currently playing beyond her years and illustrating the level of maturity, intelligence and dedication she possesses. This is illustrated by the fact that gaffer Mel Reay has started Ede in every single game since first choice left back Louise Griffiths was forced off with an injury during the trip to Lewes FC back in October.
The fact that some believe she’s not good enough is quite frankly ludicrous and you can’t convince me otherwise.
Constructive criticism is a necessary part of football, but the borderline bullying and targeting of an eighteen-year-old speaks volumes about those doing so. However, I digress and I’d rather concentrate on giving Ede the praise she deserves.
Despite left back not being her usual position, Ede has fitted in tremendously well and has given Griffiths competition for that spot since she returned from injury, which in turn is giving Reay and her coaching staff a positive selection dilemma.
It would be easy to solve the problem by placing Ede back into her more familiar role as a left winger or even as a central midfielder, but that would be an injustice to both Ede and Mollie Rouse, who’s since been given the nod to play on the left wing.
The two of them have already linked up incredibly well, with Ede’s instincts to get forward combining well with Rouse’s keenness to attack, which can be seen in the clip above.
As well as the frequent displays of confidence from Sunderland in picking Ede for each match day squad, she’s also been a regular in the England U19 setup, recently partaking in the Algarve Cup against the likes of the Netherlands, Sweden and Portugal.
Ede has demonstrated great potential with the senior side and she continues to surprise me with each game, particularly in terms of her strength, participation in duels, and overall hustle.
She plays with tremendous passion and controlled aggression, forcing mistakes from opponents or making them go back and rethink their strategy. This is an impressive quality considering her youth and relative inexperience.
Ede also has the engine and speed to match the team’s needs and to perform to the standards expected of a modern-day full back.
Almost all of her defensive strengths are fuelled by her athleticism and drive to push forward and press. She’s a powerful one-on-one defender who’s both proactive in engaging wingers in wide areas and difficult to beat due to great acceleration over short distances.
Her tackling style is measured. She rarely dives in and prefers to stand opponents up before charging at the ball. She also enjoys defending in the offensive phase, jockeying attackers before bursting into action to intercept loose or wayward passes.
She also possesses strong in-game awareness and makes excellent forward runs.
She knows exactly when to underlap and overlap, but is also content to remain still if midfielders commit. She sometimes feints to join the assault before ghosting in unnoticed, either at the back post or as an extra player in risky spots to cause overloads.
In the offensive phase, she roves about the half space to provide herself with alternatives inside and outside, due to her preference for coming inside.
Her final third vision is keen and although she can play on the outside like a traditional wing back, it’s from these inside positions that she performs the most eye-catching creative work, such as sliding passes in between defenders for teammates making runs beyond the defensive line or playing teasing crosses into space around the far post area.
Ede exudes confidence in her own abilities as she performs a variety of techniques from her repertoire, something that Reay clearly approves of.
She can only develop further and hone her artistry and technical aptitude by playing senior football against older and more experienced players. She doesn’t look out of place, her teammates clearly have a great deal of trust, pride and confidence in her, and she can only benefit from having such strong support from the players and technical staff.