Roker Report: How would you rate Sheffield's performances recently and league position? Over-performing, underperforming or just what you expected?
John Slingsby: Recently, we’ve undergone a small resurgence from where we were even a month ago. We’ve changed manager with Johnathan Morgan replacing Neil Redfearn after a torrid middle of the season where we were without a league win between September and February. Morgan has got some decent results since taking the helm, with a great win away at London City Lionesses before our weekend defeat against Palace. I think optimism is on the up again, especially with Morgan being our first-ever full-time head coach, which hopefully shows the club are more committed to making the team full-time in the very near future.
RR: The Blades currently find themselves 11th in the league and just 8 points ahead of bottom-place Coventry United. Are you or the fans nervous? Or do you believe you can do enough to stay safe?
JS: I think there were a lot of nerves up until the win against Charlton. I think going without a league win for 5 months didn’t help allay those fears, and we looked pretty down and out until then. Luke Turner really did a fantastic job getting us to play positive, front-foot football again and has been as a big a part of our mini-revival as Morgan has been. I’d like to think that we’ve got one foot to safety at the minute with the final stretch of the season in sight, but obviously things can change on a dime in football, so I think there’ll be a few nerves until safety is fully confirmed.
RR: Who would you say could be a thorn in the side for Sunderland? Who do we need to look out for?
JS: Our attacking triumvirate of Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Mia Enderby and Bed Rayner can cause any team problems in this division when they’re all on song. Sweetman-Kirk is still a regular goalscorer at this level, and her eye for goal and her ability to regularly stretch defenders is a major plus point in a league like The Championship. Aside from those three, Georgia Walters has had a bit of a resurgence in the side since Redfearn left. She got the winner against Charlton and has been causing problems as of late with her ability to hit venomous shots from dead ball situations.
RR: Has there been any breakout stars for Sheffield this season?
JS: I think our blooding of young players has been one of the standout positives of the season. Our RTC has been churning out quality players like Lucy Watson and Fran Kitching, and even Beth England and Millie Bright going further back. That talent line has continued this season, with Mia Enderby being the standout of the new group. Mia’s got six goals this season in her breakout campaign and is a regular on the England youth scene. It’d be fantastic to keep her beyond the end of the season but, much like Watson last year, not being a professional team leaves that possibility of our better young players moving on a lot more of a reality than if we were pro. Aside from Mia, Chene Muir and Tamara Wilcock have been regulars in the first team, with fellow youth products Molly Graham and Ruby Clarke becoming regulars on the bench in recent weeks.
RR: United have scored 14 and conceded 14 in 16 games, with Sweetman-Kirk and Enderby getting four goals each. Where do you think Sheffield have struggled the most this season?
JS: I think our biggest downfall this season has been our inability to land a coup de grace on opponents when we’re on top. We’ve just lacked a bit of potency in front of goal, and it’s really hurt us at times this season. We’ve started to create more opportunities as of late, we just need to start taking them.
RR: Is there anyone in Sunderland’s current squad you feel the Blades will need to be wary of?
JS: Emily Scarr caused us a lot of problems when we played Sunderland last season, especially when you beat us quite handily towards the back end of last season. I think if we can subdue Emily somewhat, we’ll be doing someone right.
RR: How do you see this game panning out?
JS: As long as it’s not a repeat of when Sunderland pasted us last season, I’ll be very happy. I’ll go for a very entertaining 2-2 draw.