Sunderland Ladies set promotion target in Super League debut

Sunderland Ladies' coaching team of Claire Robinson (head coach), Mick Mulhern (manager), Mel Reay (assistant coach)

Sunderland Ladies' coaching team of Claire Robinson (head coach), Mick Mulhern (manager), Mel Reay (assistant coach)

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SUNDERLAND Ladies boss Mick Mulhern has immediately set his sights on promotion, ahead of the Black Cats’ debut in the Women’s Super League.

Three years after missing out on the inaugural WSL franchise, Sunderland make their bow in the competition on April 17 when they face local rivals Durham.

Mulhern’s side, who won won their third consecutive Premier Division title last season, have gone into the newly-created WSL Division Two, which includes the likes of Doncaster Belles, Reading and Watford.

While Sunderland are entering the unknown, Mulhern has been doing research on their rivals by watching DVDs of their pre-season schedule and he believes the Wearsiders should be among the contenders for earning a place in the top flight.

He told the Echo: “Obviously the plan is promotion. My aim is always to win every single game, otherwise what’s the point in turning up.

“I’ve ingrained that ethos in the girls over the years and that’s why we’ve been so successful. They all want to win and prepare properly.

“The difficulty is everyone else wants exactly the same thing and they’ve signed good players.

“I think there’s six teams who can win this league and we’re one of the six.

“We’ve had a few long-term injury problems, but if we can get them back, then we’ll be there or thereabouts.”

Sunderland’s exclusion from the first WSL three years ago was met with much debate and controversy in the women’s game, particularly after the Black Cats had produced England internationals Jill Scott, Steph Houghton and Jordan Nobbs.

But Sunderland are there now and, with the club working on a semi-professional basis, Mulhern is eager to get the campaign underway.

“It seems a long time since last summer when the girls started coming in doing their strength and conditioning work,” he said.

“The girls are chomping at the bit to get going now.

“Considering we had the bid turned down three years ago, it feels like a long time in the making.

“This is my 15th year now and to think how things have come on and advanced is a dream come true for everybody, I think.”

Mulhern will work alongside new head coach Claire Robinson, technical director of the club’s academy, while holding down a coaching role at Leeds, with WSL outfits forced to have someone in charge with a UEFA A licence.

Robinson already boasts one, with Mulhern midway through earning his credentials.

“One of the rules of the WSL is that the head coach has to have the A licence,” he added.

“I’m halfway through, so I’m back in August. Hopefully I’ll finish it this year and then get assessed next year.

“I can understand it. You’ve got to stick by the rules. Not a great deal changes, I’m still the manager.

“We’ve got three good coaches and, to be fair, I think that’s what we need because it’s a long season.”