Inside the Opposition: Sunderland AFC Ladies

Manchester City Women head to Hetton to face Sunderland Ladies in a bid to extend their league record to 4 wins in 4. Ahead of the game, we spoke to Sunderland fan Katie Hume to get the lowdown on the opposition and her views on the game.

How do you think the season’s gone so far for Sunderland?

It’s been a roller coaster so far, obviously losing 7-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup was a massive knock to the team’s confidence, but after coming back from 2-0 down at Liverpool I think the confidence is back.

We saw the club make a few signings in the off-season, notably ex-Lady Black Cat Lucy Staniforth having rejoined the club. How do you think they’ve settled in so far?

We made four signings, Rachel Pitman, Lucy Staniforth, Kylla Sjoman and former City player Joey Johnston and I think they’ve all fitted into the team really well. Lucy has been fantastic in midfield and Joey has provided a few assists from the wing. Kylla has arguably been our best player so far this season, so I was very sad to see her pick up a serious injury against Liverpool. Sadly I’ve not been able to see Pitman play as she picked up an injury in our FA Cup game against Yeovil.

Whenever you hear about Sunderland in the media you always hear about Beth Mead, and rightly so after such a standout season last year, but are there any unsung heroes in the squad that people might not know about?

Brooke Chaplen has been on fire so far this season, scoring 5 in 5. She’s been absolute class for us ever since she signed – I think her class is finally starting to come through. However I think the unsung hero for us is Rachel Laws. She didn’t play in the Liverpool game and I think we really missed her. In previous games she’s made some massive saves.

Going back on what’s just been said about the media and Mead a little bit because it has to be asked: do you think Beth Mead will ever get an England call up? As the league’s top scorer last season and picking up PFA Young Player of the Year and Sunderland AFC’s Female Player of the year just last week, she has to, right?!

I don’t understand what more she needs to do to get into the England squad. When you look at the England games since the World Cup, we should have been scoring so many more goals, we’re really missing a goal scorer and I think Beth is the key to that. Hopefully Mark Sampson will make the trip up to Hetton to see how class she is.

Sunderland had a great 2015, eventually finishing 4th in the league. What can we look forward to Sunderland doing in the league this year?

Hopefully the same! I’d like to think we’re pushing for the title again, or at least Champions League, but our main aim is to avoid relegation.

After exiting the FA Cup following heavy defeat at the hands of Arsenal, is the Conti Cup something you’re looking at Sunderland doing well in this year, especially after the disappointment of not getting out of the qualifying group last season?

I think the Conti Cup group we were in was the most difficult group, there were 5 teams that had played in the WSL 1, but with the layout change this season I’d like to see how we do. We’ve drawn Donny Belles which I think is the hardest tie but hopefully the girls will be up for the game!

As always, the FA WSL 1 fixtures are controversial, this time due to nine teams in the league resulting in clubs sitting out some match weeks, plus a lot of night/mid-week games. What’s your take on Sunderland’s fixtures for this season?

As a fan that travels from Manchester for games it’s annoying having so many mid-week games. The argument for the mid-week games that I’ve heard is “The stadiums are being used for the men’s [games] at the weekend”, which isn’t valid as, like City, we share the stadium with the men’s youth teams. I think the FA care more about getting games on TV rather than fans attending the game.

City beat Sunderland 1-0 in the league home and away and 3-1 at your place in the Conti Cup last season. Do you think the results will be as close this season in the league?

I’d like to hope so, I’ve seen both teams play a few times this season and I think it’s got the potential to be a good game with both teams missing key players through injury.

What aspects of Sunderland’s game should City be aware of?

Brooke Chaplen and Beth Mead on the attack is the obvious answer but I also think they need to be aware of how good Rachel Furness is in the air, she’s brilliant.

What do you think of City, both on and off the field?

Living in the North West I’ve been following City ever since their rebranding in 2014. I think they have the potential to be a world class side but I think they’re a bit short of that at the moment – too many big changes in transfer windows is to blame for that. I think in previous seasons they’ve brought in too many new faces and it’s taken the team a few games to gel together, which has cost them the league. There are a lot of ex-Sunderland girls in the team so I’d like to see them do well.

Off the field I think the club could be more fan-friendly and better organised. The amount of frustration I’ve gone through for some games – the fact the autograph pen has been in 3 different locations this season as well as the struggle of buying tickets for some games – is annoying, but hopefully the organisation will pick up soon!

Which City player do you think will cause Sunderland the most problems?

Jane Ross has been in fantastic form lately, so probably her.

Predicted Sunderland line up?

After our last game against Liverpool he [manager Carlton Fairweather] gave a few development players a chance to shine and I thought they were brilliant, so I’d like to see them feature in the game at some point. We’ve got a few injuries that I’m not 100% sure about but I’d like to see Laws feature back in goal.

Laws – Homes – Bannon – Williams – Sharp – Staniforth – Furness – Chaplen – Johnson – Mead – Roche

Predicted score?

I’m hoping it’s going to be a close game, but I think City might just edge it. I’ll go for 2-1 to City, but I hope I’m wrong!

Thanks for speaking to us, Katie!

Sunderland AFC Ladies v Manchester City Women. The Hetton Centre, Hetton-le-Hole, Sunderland. KO: 7:45pm.


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Written by Jill Peacock

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