In true footballing fashion and cliches, it has undoubtedly been a tale of two halves or this instance, a year of two halves for Sunderland Women. After closing out what had been a relatively disappointing and hard 22/23 women’s championship campaign, the lasses have certainly defied expectations and put in some scintillating performances so far this football season.
It has been hard not to get swept up in the excitement and unbridled joy of following Sunderland Women recently, with many moments both good and bad and on and off the pitch taking place throughout the year.
So when the Sunderland Women official twitter posted out the following tweet on their socials on Friday afternoon, we had to ask our contributors... what has been your favourite moment of 2023?
With 2023 coming to a close, we picked out three of our best games from the year ️— Sunderland AFC Women (@SAFCWomen) December 28, 2023
Which match was your favourite in 2023? #SAFCWomen
My favourite moment of 2023 supporting lasses isn’t really a moment, so sorry for cheating. However it is definitely linked to supporting the lasses.
My wife has never been a huge follower of Sunderland because football bored her. She doesn’t like the often toxic individuals you get at football matches and therefore hasn’t expressed an interest in the men’s game beyond asking me “did we win?” whenever I get home from an afternoon of suffering at the Stadium of Light.
Myself, I’ve always followed the lasses as after all, they’re Sunderland too. During the summer of England’s triumph in the Euros my wife started to take notice, and appreciate the representation of women’s football on the global stage. To her, and to millions of other women and girls across the country, football was suddenly interesting and rightly so. For the first time women’s football was shown the spotlight and respect it deserves with players like Beth Mead and Mary Earps becoming household names. After the success of the lionesses I offered to take us along to Hetton and introduce my wife to the lasses and she hasn’t looked back since.
We’re now regulars at the home games, visited Durham away, watch every available livestream when we can’t be there in person and are planning some away trips as well. So while it isn’t a particular moment, sharing a passion for football and for the lasses with my wife is by far and away the best feeling I’ve ever had watching football. Seeing my wife shouting “get rid!” at Brianna Westrup and applauding the defensive action or the excitement at seeing her favourite player, Katy Watson come off the bench and score to seal the game for us was at first surreal but is something I cherish.
I never thought I could become closer with the woman I love but through football we have. We’ve found something new to share a passion for and that is something I will never take for granted. The moment I realised we’d created a new Sunderland fan is by far my favourite moment supporting the lasses in 2023.
Beating Reading 3-1 at Eppleton.
I think this game is the perfect distillation of our season so far. Full team performance with Claudia Moan making saves like a video gamer with anxiety.
The first half proved the quality of our defence with Amy Goddard standing strong in the backline and up front we had an Ellen Jones volley.
Second half had Liz Ejupi and Katie Kitching also adding goals in spectacular fashion with everyone on the pitch showing their class against a well-drilled opponent.
For me it’s the game that proved we weren’t just having a good run of form, but that we’ve become serious contenders this season.
Haway the Lasses!
There are quite a few to choose from, but the one I’m going for was huge for the women’s team and its future.
The announcement that we would be giving full time contracts to players for the season of 2023/24 and beyond. The team had done really well to secure a third season in the second tier of women’s football, but with the news that two teams would be relegated in the new season. I was worried about how the season would unfold. The full time contracts were a real game changer for the manager and what signings she could make. She’d worked wonders with signings almost exclusively from the north east and the famous regional talent centre. To do it again with fewer teams operating on a part time basis, would have taken a real risk with our Championship status.
The commitment made by the ownership to finance those full time contracts has really paid dividends. The players we have brought in just wouldn’t have been possible under a part time model. What a season it’s been so far, let’s see what 2024 brings for the lasses.
For me probably the Newcastle friendly would be my favourite moment of the season.
After what only could be described as a disastrous end to the 22/23 season combined with players such as Neve Herron leaving, we were all a little bit worried about what was coming ahead.
The hybrid model announcement along with signings coming in helped lift my spirits. Especially as the signings were from all over the country. So many times we have been relying on players from the North East coming across but now we had a really promising transfer policy.
The first game we got to see the new lasses in action was Newcastle at home. Newcastle came with a bit of arrogance thinking they would turn us over and boasting that our captain from last season would rather play for them. But Sunderland soon shut them up when Jenna Dear scored early and Mary McAteer scored a worldie. This was a real starting point into what has turned into a wonderful season so far for the lasses, but it was that game where we starting to feel that this was a good team.
Not only that, but the way the new players and players that stayed loyal have become a family. They stick together and have each other's backs and as fans, we feel this is a group that we can relate to and really get behind.
Happy new year everyone. Let’s hope 2024 we can pick up where we have left off.
For me the contrast between the start of this year for Sunderland Women and the end of this year is light and day. It’s also incredibly hard to pick a favourite moment, as there have been so many in such a short space of time, so I hope you’ll allow me to discuss some honourable mentions.
Firstly (and perhaps it cannot be defined as a moment) it has to be the fact that the team have got people feeling connected to the club again. Not just due to their success on the pitch so far this season, but also for how they interact and conduct themselves off of it. The team cohesion, connection and rapport is very much evident to see and those relationships are clearly aiding in their ability to work together on the pitch.
It is infectious to witness and wonderful to see that they extend that good nature to the fans, even in shite weather or following on from our only two losses at home this season, every player still made the individual effort to come over to the fans and thank for them time. This is not a mandatory requirement, but they still do it of their own accord and can be chatting to supporters for a good 30 minutes after the game, signing autographs, shirts, balls and taking selfies. Truly model professionals and just good natured people all round.
One favourite moment for me has to be my first Sunderland away trip to watch them take on Blackburn Rovers in the Conti Cup. Whilst it was midweek and freezing cold, it was fantastic to watch the lasses on the road and put in what was a brilliant performance. Seeing three young starlets score, with two of them getting their first ever senior goals was incredible and we could feel nothing but pride in Katy Watson, Libbi McInnes and Emily Cassap for scoring. All three are academy and RTC products. Truly the definition of ‘one of our own’.
We also got to debut our Sunderland Women flag at the game which the players were over the moon with and we spoke with a few of them after the match. Then to top off the night, myself and our other contributor Ant, got lost driving up the Pennines at midnight in the cold and frost. Well....I got lost. But it capped off what was a memorable night for me in the most stressful but hilarious of fashions.
A successful night under the lights ✊— Sunderland AFC Women (@SAFCWomen) December 14, 2023
Enjoy the highlights from yesterday's 3-0 victory over Blackburn...