SUNDERLAND Women manager Mick Mulhern sends his team into battle against mighty Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup tomorrow with a simple message: Have no fear – we’ve got nothing to lose!
The Lady Black Cats take on the Gunners at Eppleton CW looking to repeat their famous win last season against the country’s leading side.
On that occasion, goals from midfield partners Jordan Nobbs and Kelly McDougall left the Gunners shell-shocked as they crashed 2-1 – just their second league defeat in six years.
Tomorrow, Nobbs will not be wearing the red and white stripes, having made the switch to Arsenal at the end of last season.
And having also lost three other top players to Super League teams, Sunderland will go into the game even greater underdogs than they did last season.
But Mulhern (left) and his team are undaunted by that.
“Bring it on!” said Mulhern. “I love a challenge and the girls are up for it.
“Yes, we have lost a few players, including Jordan who was my player of the season last year but things move on.
“If we have to lose any players, then I am happy when they go to the best club in the country. It’s a feather in our cap that we are bringing through so many good players, but we have enough in our side to challenge Arsenal again.
“They are a cracking side, packed with fantastic players, and if we lose to them then I will wish them well.
“Arsenal are strong favourites – they have just gone through to the Champions League semi-finals – and have won the league title year after year. No one thought we would beat them last season, but we did.
“Can we do it again? It’s a massive test. Let’s see!”
Arsenal feature a star-studded team including the outstanding Scot Kim Little and England internationals including Rachel Yankey, Katie Chapman, Ellen White and right-back Steph Houghton, who comes from South Hetton and was another to come through the ranks at Sunderland.
Sunderland have striker Natalie Gutteridge (left) and midfielder Rachel Furness available, with both fighting back to match fitness after injuries.
And Mulhern will be glad for both to get more match action as he keeps one eye on the league campaign; with Sunderland five points clear at the top of the National Division with three games to play.
“It’s good for both girls to get minutes under their belts and it will do them good for the remainder of the season, definitely in the league ... and maybe an FA Cup semi-final.”
Tomorrow’s game at Eppleton CW kicks off at 1pm. Entry is £3 for adults and £1 for children.