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Sheffield United v Sunderland - Barclays FA Women’s Championship

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Lasses Fan Focus: Blades fan John gives us the lowdown on SAFC Women’s opponents today

After both Sunderland Women and Sheffield United Women opened up their 23/24 season accounts with a draw, we spoke with Blades fan John Slingsby to see how he feels about the upcoming fixture

Photo by Ashley Allen - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Thanks for chatting with us John! How would you rate Sheffield's performance over the off-season and in your recent 1-1 draw over Charlton?

John Slingsby: We’ve had a decent off season as we start life as a fully professional team. Some stand out results against SWPL champions Glasgow City and Hearts coupled with a good win against Blackburn look to have put us in good stead.

We created a lot of chances at The Valley against a Charlton side that has recruited some top talent in the pre-season. The last 15 minutes was more or less all United and we could have won it had we been more prolific. Very pleased to get points on the board early doors however in what looks to be a very, very competitive division this year!

Charlton Athletic v Sheffield United - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Henry Browne - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

What do you make of your transfer business in this window?

JS: It’s been a real summer of change at United thanks to the change to a fully professional club. We’ve seen long standing talent in Alethea Paul, Ellie Wilson and Rhema Lord-Mears all leave alongside our standout player from last year Mia Enderby.

We seem to have focused our output on getting in some good, young talent however with Tara Bourne returning on a permanent basis after a short stint at the club in 2019 on loan.

Fran Stenson has also been retained on a permanent basis after a superb loan spell last year alongside the signings of Ella Kinzett and a real coup signing in Bristol City’s Jodie Hutton. There’s been a lot of change, hopefully the new signings bed in quick and we get off to a flyer!

Coventry United Ladies v Birmingham City - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Morgan Harlow - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Do you suspect anyone will have a breakout season or will you likely be relying on key players?

JS: Molly Graham looks to be the next big thing from the club’s academy after a great second half of last season. She looks very assured and like she’s played pro football all her career despite being just 18.

Bex Rayner will be a major part of our success this season with the attacker fully capable of playing at a higher level.

Hopefully, that will be with us if all goes well this year.

Sheffield United v Sunderland - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Ashley Allen - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Who would you say could be a thorn in the side for Sunderland? Who do we need to look out for?

JS: The aforementioned Rayner will definitely be one to watch next Sunday.

Capable of producing absolute magic (see her equaliser from this weekend to see what she can do) she’s the glue that holds together a lot of our attacks and is superb to watch.

Isobel Goodwin also looks like she’ll be a handy player this season with some great link up play against Charlton. She looks a real talent.

It’s always tough to give a score prediction early in the season, but how do you see this game panning out?

JS: I’m going to be cheeky and predict a home win! I don’t think it will be as resounding as our last meeting at The Lane, but a 1-0, 2-1 home win would do very nicely.

Sheffield United v Sunderland - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Ashley Allen - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

And lastly, what are your expectations for Sheffield this season?

JS: It’d be nice to get back up to where we were a couple of years ago in challenging for promotion and all that good stuff.

But a return to the top half of the table would be a decent first season as a pro club.

Although, looking at the results from this weekend, it could really be anyone’s league this year.


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