Sunderland ready for Super step up

Gemma Wilson (top) hugs goalscorer Sarah McFadden
Gemma Wilson (top) hugs goalscorer Sarah McFadden
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LONG-SERVING Sunderland defender Gemma Wilson believes missing out on a spot in the initial Super League draft may ultimately prove a blessing in disguise for the Black Cats.

Sunderland Ladies are turning their attention to a new era for the club in the second division of the Women’s Super League after clinching a third successive Premier League title last weekend.

The Wearsiders missed out on a spot in the inaugural Super League competition three years ago, despite ending Arsenal’s seven-year unbeaten domestic run and producing England internationals such as Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and subsequently Jordan Nobbs.

But centre-half Wilson says life in the Premier League has allowed Sunderland to nurture their homegrown talent and prepare for the challenge of earning promotion to the top flight of women’s football.

Wilson told the Echo: “Obviously, three years ago it was disappointing not to get in. Ourselves and a few other clubs felt we should have been included.

“In terms of playing ability and the whole club as a whole, we thought we deserved to be there, but we respected the FA’s decision.

“We know now, it could be a blessing in disguise that we have had time to grow as a squad.

“There is extra experience now, as some of the youngsters have had to step up to the mark this season.

“It will be good to test ourselves now in Super League Two and if we can progress, then we can win promotion and be playing alongside the likes of Arsenal.”

Sunderland clinched the title before the final day clash with nearest rivals Leeds United after beating Cardiff last weekend.

And the 25-year-old admits it was a relief to avoid a potential nail-biter against Leeds at Eppleton CW this Sunday.

“It means we can go into this weekend and enjoy the game,” said South Shields-born Wilson.

“There were a few nerves about on Sunday, but the early goal settled us and although it wasn’t the best performance, the character was there.

“It’s a massive achievement to win it three times in a row, only Arsenal have done it more.

“This season, we’ve had a lot of injuries and been stretched at times, but there’s been a huge effort from everyone.

“And it’s also nice to be the last club to win the national Premier League. We’ve made a bit of history.”