NEW SUNDERLAND Ladies head coach Claire Robinson hopes the Black Cats’ incorporation into the Women’s Super League will see the club keep hold of their homegrown talent.
Sunderland will begin their first campaign in the WSL Division Two next month after being controversially left out of the competition during the first three years of its existence.
The likes of Jordan Nobbs and Demi Stokes both moved to pastures new after being omitted from the WSL, following in the footsteps of England internationals Steph Houghton and Jill Scott, who began their careers at Sunderland.
But Robinson believes Sunderland, who have signed Bekki Bass from Leeds this summer, will be a more attractive proposition for players now they are in WSL, particularly if they can win promotion to WSL Division One.
“I think it was a massive disappointment to miss out on the first Super League,” said Robinson, who will work alongside manager Mick Mulhern this season.
“Obviously, I wasn’t part of that bid and it’s still a big challenge to get into WSL1.
“But I think this area needs it.
“If you look at the players that have come through and where they are at now - Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Jordan Nobbs and Debbie Stokes - these are well-established players, who’ve had to move on.
“They had to leave in terms of England and their central contracts.
“But if we are back in WSL1, who knows.”
Sunderland’s involvement in the WSL has already made a big difference to the Black Cats squad.
The players are now training five times a week and have a far greater support network after being incorporated by the men’s club.
Robinson herself is part of the changes after leaving her coaching role at Leeds to work with Mulhern.
She added: “It’s a dramatic change for the players. We’re seeing them five times a week, while many of them have full-time jobs too.
“Training in the barn at the academy is a big support, while we can do strength and conditioning at Gateshead College.
“There’s a lot more in terms of conditioning support, so the players are getting nutritional and lifestyle advice.
“And we’re there to give them technical and tactical work to make sure they are ready for the WSL.
“The affiliation really does help because now you can say SAFC Ladies and that’s a big one.
“I know they’ve been established for so many years, but to have the men into that as well, you get all the different support, plus the marketing and things like that.”