Sunderland players must stick together

Rachel Furness

Rachel Furness

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TEAMWORK and unity will be key factors for Sunderland Ladies in football’s big league.

That was the message from Rachel Furness just three days before the Lady Black Cats take on Liverpool in the first of just 14 games in Women’s Super League.

Last year we were one of the favourites going into the league but this time we are probably underdogs.

Furness is ‘Miss Sunderland’, the double player of the year is the sort of figure the team would not be the same without.

But the 26-year-old insists she is nothing special and it’s up to every member of the squad to perform to their utmost.

“We are all as important as each other,” the midfielder told the Echo. “It’s up to all the players to work together.

“If you take one of those links out things can fall apart, put us all in a team and each is as important as one other.

“I think the team spirit we have got us through last season in winning WSL2.

“Coming up into WSL1 that togetherness is going to be even more important, because some of the games may not go the way we want.

“But if we work hard like we did last year then that will hopefully get us results.

“I think the team has not really changed that much in the last few years, we like playing and love winning, everyone loves winning, that goes without saying.

“Last year we were one of the favourites going into the league but this time we are probably underdogs.

“For some of the girls that might take some of the pressure off, so we can go out enjoy the football and hopefully the results will come.”

The Northern Ireland international has just returned to fitness after a knee injury kept her out of the first five pre-season games.

But she featured in the 4-2 win at Durham last weekend and is hopeful of being available for selection to head coach Carlton Fairweather for Wednesday night’s visit to Liverpool, the defending champions.

Furness has been impressed by the form of the squad which has been strengthened by the signing of the versatile Tori Williams and the striker Suzanne Mulvey.

“The girls have worked hard, the player are training more than before and that is showing,” she said.

“We are stronger than last year, we’ve added to the squad and all the girls are excited by the challenge.”

There is excitement too that the first fixture will go out live to the nation on BT Sport.

Women’s football is growing in popularity and Furness says that is good for the game and Sunderland, who hope to be watched by bigger crowds at Hetton this season.

“It’s moved on dramatically,” said Furness.

“There is a lot more publicity to it and I get people who say ‘I saw it on tv’ and the like.

“The FA Cup final is going to be played at Wembley and that’s great for the profile of women’s football.

“When I was growing up I was trying to look for a girls team to play for but now there are many more opportunities for girls to play.

“Every home game we do get quite a good crowd and they come back week-in, week-out.

“Hopefully with the increased publicity we are getting we will get bigger crowds and the new people will come back to watch us too.

“Everyone loves playing in front of a crowd and trying to put in a performance in front of the people who are there supporting you.”