SUNDERLAND Women goal-keeper Helen Alderson will bid an emotional farewell to the club tomorrow.
The 21-year-old plays her last game for the team before moving on to join Doncaster Belles in the new FA Women’s Super League – ending a ten-year stay with the club.
Premier League leaders Sunderland take on Millwall Lionesses at Eppleton CW (1pm) in their first league game since mid-November. And while manager Mick Mulhern is eager to lift the league title, he will send Alderson on her way with his best wishes.
“Helen has been a really important player for us over the years and now she feels the time is right to move on and have a crack at the FA WSL,” he said.
“I can’t deny any player that opportunity. I discussed a possible move with Helen and I was happy to support her decision – I suppose the fact that we are lucky enough to have such an excellent replacement in Rachael Laws, stopped me kicking and screaming too much!
“We have now provided FA WSL teams with four of our young stars from recent seasons (Jordan Nobbs to Arsenal, Lucy Bronze to Everton, Lucy Staniforth to Lincoln and Alderson to Doncaster).
“All of them will be missed not only for their talent on the pitch, but also their different personalities around the club, and none more so than Helen, who is a fantastic character to have around the place. Her wit, banter and happy personality will be sorely missed by everyone.
“It’s been great to have worked with Helen at Sunderland for so long. She is a quality goalkeeper who has worked hard at her game over the years, and overcame a serious cruciate ligament injury.
“It’s a brave decision for Helen to leave her comfort zone to try life at the Belles, but her bravery has never been in question on the pitch and I have no doubt the move to Doncaster will work out well for her.”
After the long break due to the bad weather, Sunderland returned to action with a shock 2-1 defeat at Southern Division Portsmouth in the League Cup quarter-finals, but bounced back by beating the same opponents 7-2 in the FA Cup last Sunday.
They go into tomorrow’s game a point ahead of second-place Reading, but with four games in hand.
Nottingham Forest, Blackburn and Leeds look more realistic challengers but Millwall, in seventh place and eight points behind Sunderland, are not ruling themselves out of the title chase.
Manager Aidan Boxhall said: “With a few wins we can climb right up there – and if we keep winning, then we can end up finishing top.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. How can you be second bottom but still have a chance of winning it? Sunderland are top but they’re only eight points ahead of us.
“We’re eight points off Sunderland, who we have to play twice. We win both of those and we’re only two points behind them.”