Sunderland A.F.C. Ladies

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Sunderland AFC Ladies
Logo Sunderland.svg
Full nameSunderland Association Football Club Ladies
Nickname(s)Lady Black Cats
Founded1989; 33 years ago (1989)
(as The Kestrels)
GroundEppleton Colliery Welfare Ground
ManagerMelanie Copeland
LeagueWomen's Championship
2021–22FA Women's Championship, 9th of 12
WebsiteClub website
Current season

'Sunderland Association Football Club Women' is an English women's football club that plays in the Women's Championship. They play their home games at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground in Hetton-le-Hole, in the City of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.

Sunderland won the FA Women's Premier League Northern Division in 2004–05 to reach the top tier National Division. After relegation in 2007, they returned to the National Division in 2009 and also lost that season's FA Women's Cup final, 2–1 to holders Arsenal at Pride Park Stadium.

The club's bid to join the FA WSL for the initial 2011 season was controversially rejected in favour of the relatively newly formed, but big spending, Manchester City. This decision led to the departure of many star players (3 of whom represented England in the 2015 World Cup) and is thought to have damaged the development of the women's game in the North East for years to come. Despite this they responded by winning the Premier League National Division, which had become the second tier, on three consecutive occasions and also collected the 2011–12 FA Women's Premier League Cup. In 2014 Sunderland were accepted into the second division of a newly expanded FA WSL. They won the league on the final day of the season and were promoted into FA WSL 1 for 2015.

At the end of the 2017–18 season, Sunderland A.F.C. Ladies were unsuccessful with their application for a license in both FA Women's Super League and FA Women's Championship, meaning the Lady Black Cats, were demoted to the FA Women's National League North, for the 2018–19 season.


The club began in 1989 as a five-a-side team called The Kestrels and won the Women's Football Association (WFA) Yorkshire and Humberside League in 1990. Over the next decade they competed in the Northern Premier as Cowgate Kestrels, RTM Newcastle Kestrels and Blyth Spartans Kestrels.[1] In 2000 the club merged with an independent Sunderland Ladies club, to become Sunderland Women's FC, after winning promotion to the top tier FA Women's Premier League National Division for the first time. The new club was originally financed as part of the established professional Sunderland A.F.C. men's club, but following financial troubles in 2004, the women's side was forced to become financially independent. Sunderland A.F.C. only provided some kit and the home ground.

In 2001–02 Sunderland won one league game all season and were relegated back to the Northern Division.[2] On Sunday 10 April 2005 they won promotion from the Northern Division as champions. In the 2005–06 season, they finished 9th in the league (then the penultimate position), but stayed up after tying a promotion/relegation playoff against Southern runners-up Bristol City W.F.C. 5–5 on aggregate.

With the emergence of Jill Scott and Steph Houghton, the club began to develop a reputation for producing England women's national football team players.[3] On 6 May 2007, with all their games finished and only having 11 points, Sunderland were relegated after Cardiff City beat Doncaster Belles 3–2.

In Season 2007–08 Sunderland finished in 3rd position in The Women's Premier League, Northern Division, behind Champions Nottingham Forest and Lincoln City. The top 3 were almost in a league of their own as Sunderland finished 17 points ahead of 4th placed Newcastle – who only finished 15 points ahead of bottom-of-the-table Crewe Alexandra.

With team re-building completed, the 2008–09 season began with high hopes for the Wearsiders who had six England youth internationals in their ranks and had recently recruited full England international midfielder Kelly McDougall from Everton Ladies.

On 22 March 2009, Sunderland WFC reached the final of the FA Women's Cup after beating Chelsea 3–0. Goals from Williams (2) and Gutteridge ensured their place in the final against holders Arsenal at Pride Park Stadium, home of Derby County on 4 May. In the final, favourites Arsenal beat Sunderland 2–1. Despite dominating possession and creating several chances, Arsenal found it difficult to convert their opportunities. Arsenal's Katie Chapman scored in the first half, their second coming in extended 2nd half injury-time from Kim Little. However, Sunderland never gave up and scored a consolation goal from Kelly McDougall just before the final whistle. Lucy Bronze gave a superb display at right-back, earning herself the Player of the Match Award for the Black Cats.

Sunderland won promotion to the National Premier Division after defeating Preston 4–0 away in the last match of the 2008–09 season.

Back in the top flight, Sunderland exceeded expectations and topped the league for five months. They also handed Arsenal Ladies only their second league defeat in six years. However, the club's bid to join the FA WSL was rejected on commercial and marketing grounds – leading to the departure of star players Lucy Bronze, Jordan Nobbs, Lucy Staniforth and Helen Alderson.[4]

Despite the exodus of these players, Sunderland secured the FA Women's National Premier League title with two games to spare, following their victory over Millwall Lionesses on 3 April 2011. They defended the title two further times in 2012 and 2013. In 2013 they were formally integrated into the Sunderland AFC structure.[5]

In the 2014 season Sunderland entered the newly created FA WSL 2. On 26 October 2014, they were crowned inaugural champions of the FA WSL 2, beating Millwall Lionesses 4-0 on the final day of the season to finish two points ahead of Doncaster Belles.[6] As a result, Sunderland returned to the top division, taking their place in the 2015 FA WSL 1. Manager Mick Mulhern, who won more silverware for the Sunderland Ladies than all other combined northern football teams (Men and Women), stepped down after 15 years for work-related commitments. He was replaced by former professional Carlton Fairweather.[7]

Before the 2017 Spring Series the club announced they switch to part-time players only after three years of having a mix of half- and full-time players.[8]

Prior to the Spring Series, Carlton Fairweather was replaced by his assistant Melanie Copeland, together with her and her new assistant and former player, Victoria Greenwell, they guided the Lady Black Cats to a creditable 5th place finish. Results in the Spring Series included victories against Yeovil Town and Bristol City WFC and draws against Arsenal W.F.C. and Reading F.C. Women.

After the Spring Series, Sunderland A.F.C. Ladies moved from their home venue af the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground to Mariners Park home of South Shields FC. However, after a season at Mariners Park, the Lady Black Cats decided to return to their Hetton-le-Hole home, for their debut season in the FA Women's National League North.

Recent seasons[edit]

As of completed seasons 2006–2021.[9][10]


Champions Runners-up Promoted Relegated

Divisions in bold indicate a change in division tier.

Season League FA WSL Cup FA Women's Cup FA Women's League Cup Top league goalscorer
Division (Tier) P W D L F A Pts Pos Name Goals
2006–2007 WPLN (1) 22 3 2 17 15 72 11 11th n/a R4 R1 Stephanie Houghton 7
2007–2008 WPLR (2) 22 16 2 4 52 30 50 3rd n/a R4 QF Sarah Danby 14
2008–2009 WPLR (2) 22 17 2 3 95 16 53 1st n/a RU QF Sophie Williams 11
2009–2010 WPLN (1) 22 12 1 9 36 35 37 5th n/a R4 SF Kelly McDougall 7
2010–2011 WPLN[A] (2) 14 9 3 2 30 16 30 1st n/a QF QF Demilee Stokes 7
2011–2012 WPLN (2) 18 13 3 2 49 18 42 1st n/a QF W Beth Mead 18
2012–2013 WPLN (2) 18 14 3 1 54 16 45 1st n/a QF SF Beth Mead 17
2014 WSL2[B] (2) 18 15 2 1 47 15 47 1st Grp R5 n/a Beth Mead 13
2015 WSL1 (1) 14 6 2 6 24 24 20 4th Grp R3 n/a Beth Mead 12
2016 WSL1 (1) 16 2 4 10 17 41 10 7th R1 SF n/a Beth Mead 5
2017 Spring Series WSL1 (1) 8 2 3 3 4 14 9 5th n/a QF n/a Beverly Leon 2
2017–2018 WSL1 (1) 18 5 1 12 15 20 16 7th* QF QF n/a Lucy Staniforth, Keira Ramshaw, Bridget Galloway 3
2018–2019 WNL North (3) 24 15 3 6 83 36 48 2nd n/a R2 R3 Keira Ramshaw 24
2019–2020 WNL North (3) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 n/a n/a R5 Final** Bridget Galloway 21
2020–2021 WNL North (3) 9 5 0 4 17 17 15 5th* n/a R3 n/a Keira Ramshaw 5

Current squad[edit]

As of 20 August 2022[11]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
1 GK United States USA Allison Cowling
2 MF England ENG Neve Herron
4 DF England ENG Faye Mullen
5 DF England ENG Grace McCatty
6 DF England ENG Louise Griffiths
7 MF England ENG Keira Ramshaw
8 MF England ENG Emily Scarr
9 FW England ENG Nicki Gears
10 FW England ENG Danielle Brown
11 MF England ENG Jessica Brown
12 DF England ENG Abby Towers
13 GK England ENG Claudia Moan
No. Pos. Nation Player
14 MF England ENG Emma Kelly
15 FW England ENG Emily Hutchinson
16 MF England ENG Grace Ede
17 FW England ENG Abbey Joice
18 MF England ENG Libbi McInnes
19 DF England ENG Megan Beer
20 FW England ENG Tyler Dodds
21 MF England ENG Holly Manders
24 DF England ENG Abby Holmes
25 FW England ENG Katy Watson
27 DF Scotland SCO Brianna Westrup


As of 31 August 2021[12][13]
Head coach:
Assistant coach:
  • England Steph Libbey
General Manager:
  • England Alex Clark
Goalkeeper coach:
  • England Chris Wilson
Strength and Conditioning coach:
  • England Lee Fairley
  • England Cameron Lane

Former players[edit]

For details of current and former players, see Category:Sunderland A.F.C. Ladies players.


With the WSL 2 trophy in 2014


A. ^ The FA Women's Super League was formed in 2010 for the start of the 2011 season, Sunderland Ladies were not chosen to participate in the newly formed top tier of women's football. Although Sunderland Ladies were not relegated from the top tier of Women's football in England in 2010, they found themselves playing in the second tier at the start of their 2011 campaign.
B. ^ The FA Women's Super League was expanded to two divisions in 2014 for the start of that years season with the formation of the FA Women's Super League 2. Sunderland Ladies were one of 10 teams elected to participate in the newly formed second tier of women's football for the start of the 2014 season.


  1. ^ "Striker Melanie is just Shear class!". 9 June 2008.
  2. ^ Shannon, Dave (9 September 2002). "England (Women) 2001/02". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Meet Sunderland Women FC". British Broadcasting Corporation. 5 January 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Bannon's Black Cats eye promotion". BBC Sport.
  5. ^ "History of Sunderland AFC Ladies, TheFA WSL". Archived from the original on 1 April 2014.
  6. ^ "WSL2 glory for champions Sunderland". BBC Sport.
  7. ^ "Carlton Fairweather: Sunderland Ladies name new head coach". BBC Sport. 29 December 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  8. ^ "She Kicks - News Section: Sunderland Revert To Part-Time Basis". Archived from the original on 6 January 2017.
  9. ^ "FA Women's Premier League". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  10. ^ "FA WOMEN'S CUP". soccerway. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  11. ^ "Ladies 2019-20 squad numbers". Sunderland Association Football Club. 12 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Staff". Sunderland A.F.C. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Team". Sunderland AFC Ladies. Archived from the original on 9 July 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°49′17.990″N 1°27′19.800″W / 54.82166389°N 1.45550000°W / 54.82166389; -1.45550000