Sunderland A.F.C. Ladies

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Sunderland A.F.C. Ladies
Logo Sunderland.svg
Full name Sunderland Association Football Club Ladies
Nickname(s) "Lady Black Cats"
Founded 1989; 28 years ago (1989)
(as The Kestrels)
Ground The Hetton Centre,
Ground Capacity 2,500
Chairman Per Magnus Andersson
Manager Melanie Reay
Coach Amber Whiteley
League FA WSL 1
2016 7th, FA WSL 1
Website Club home page

Sunderland Association Football Club Ladies, previously Sunderland Association Football Club Women, is an English women's football club that plays in the FA WSL, the highest division of women's football in England. They play their home games at The Hetton Centre in Hetton-le-Hole, Tyne and Wear, North East England.

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.


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 stepped down after 15 years, to be 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]

Recent Seasons[edit]

As of completed seasons 2006-2015.[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

Current squad[edit]

As of 2 July 2016.[11][12]

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

No. Position Player
1 England GK Rachael Laws
2 England DF Abby Holmes
3 England DF Vicki Greenwell
4 Northern Ireland MF Rachel Furness
5 England DF Stephanie Bannon (captain)
6 England DF Gemma Wilson
7 England MF Keira Ramshaw
8 England MF Kelly McDougall
9 England FW Beth Mead
10 Republic of Ireland FW Stephanie Roche
13 Scotland FW Suzanne Mulvey
14 England DF Hayley Sharp
16 England DF Rachel Pitman
No. Position Player
17 England FW Abbey Joice
18 England DF Megan Beer
19 England MF Brooke Chaplen
20 England MF Emma Kelly
21 England DF Victoria Williams
22 Canada DF Kylla Sjoman
24 Norway GK Hilde Gunn Olsen
28 Canada MF Maddie Hill
36 England DF Charlotte Potts
37 England MF Lucy Staniforth
46 England DF Danielle Brown
Northern Ireland GK Alice Harkness

Former players[edit]

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


External links[edit]

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