2017-18 WSL 1 season preview: Sunderland

Written by Katie Mishner

Since joining the top flight in 2015, the WSL 1 has been hit and miss for Sunderland. Now, The Lady Black Cats have been preparing for their third full season with a new manager, new players and a new part-time infrastructure.

Spring Series marks change

Melanie Reay took charge of Sunderland following Carlton Fairweather’s departure amid the club’s transition into a part-time club. This time also saw the likes of wonder kid Beth Mead leave for Arsenal with Rachel Furness and Brooke Chaplen making a move to WSL rivals Reading.

The abrupt changes left many doubting how the North-East club could compete in the Spring Series. However, the Lady Black Cats reacted to the circumstance with competence and a fresh look of resilience.

In their opening match, they managed to hold title contenders Arsenal to a draw which set the tone for a strong campaign. Placing fifth, and finishing above notoriously consistent Birmingham Ladies, in the Spring Series bodes well for what is to come.

More deviations are to come for Sunderland as they will kick their campaign in their new home, Mariners Park in South Shields.

New additions

During the transition of Sunderland, they also lost goalkeeper Rachel Laws to Durham but this season she rejoins the squad – the keeper will play alongside Spring Series recruit Anke Preuss who played a huge part in the one-off season.

Tyler Dodds is another player that will re-join Sunderland after a short spell with Durham. Reay has also recruited the UEFA Women’s Champion League experience of Zaneta Wyne who joins the Lady Black Cats from the Icelandic side Thor.

Sunderland’s business in the window has been holistic as they also managed to secure thes signature of Austrian forward Simona Koren, in addition to WSL 2 side Doncaster's Kasia Lipka

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Maintaining form

As mentioned, Sunderland’s relationship with the top flight has been up and down. The Wearside club stormed into the league in 2015, finishing in fourth come the end of the season. 2016 was a different story for the club who had to battle with Reading and Doncaster in a bid to survive.

In the Spring Series, it seems to have they kept the goal defecit down but on occasions against Chelsea and Liverpool, Sunderland conceded a total of 11 goals.

Reading, Yeovil Town and Bristol City are all teams that Sunderland have proven themselves against but the question is – how will they coped with the increasingly stronger top three?