Sunderland defender ready for big challenge

Hayley Sharp

Hayley Sharp

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SUNDERLAND Ladies are enjoying their new regime as they gear up for the new Women’s Super League season.

The Lady Black Cats have a new head coach in Carlton Fairweather following the end of Mick Mulhern’s reign after their WSL2 title success.

The girls have been professional about it and understand we have a new manager.

Sunderland have upped their training programme and Hayley Sharp thinks that will benefit the side when the WSL1 programme opens at Liverpool on Wednesday.

“I don’t think the change of manager has been an issue,” said the central defender, who has played in a Cats team which has lost only once in six pre-season games.

“The girls have been professional about it and understand we have a new manager.

“We listen to him now and go by the way Carlton wants us to play.

“The girls are working well with Carlton.

“It’s been great (in pre-season). We have done more sessions and there’s been more time to concentrate on technical work.

“It’s every girl’s dream to be doing this to play against the best in WSL1.

“Even outside the main squad sessions, people are putting in a lot of individual work.

“Everyone is pushing themselves. We all have the same goal in challenging in Super League 1.

“Our main goal is to stay up, but we want to push ourselves and see what we can do.”

Sharp was a key component in last season’s WSL2 championship triumph, teaming up with skipper Steph Bannon to be a formidable central defensive pairing.

It has been a great move by Sunderland, and for Sharp, who had been a star for her hometown club, Leeds United.

“I joined in May last year and I love it,” she told the Echo.

“The players have been very welcoming, it’s such a family-orientated club. I get on really well with the girls.

“I played for Leeds United and knew most of the Sunderland players because there was a massive rivalry between the teams.

“I was travelling last year, but I’ve moved up here now, so it’s been good to commit 100 per cent.

“It’s been a new challenge but I’ve loved it.”

Sunderland’s trip to Liverpool is the opening fixture of the 2015 campaign, which will be screened live on BT Sport.

“The girls are relishing the challenge,” added Sharp.

“It’s WSL 1 champions v WSL2 champions for the first game of the season. I think we could surprise a few people.”