New manager Melanie Reay is confident that Sunderland Ladies can compete in the WSL1 Spring Series – starting with tomorrow’s trip to Birmingham City.
The Lady Black Cats open the inaugural programme with a tough match at Solihull Moors’ ground (kick-off 2pm).
“We are certainly not under-estimating Birmingham, with them having beating Arsenal and Chelsea to reach the FA Cup final,” said Reay.
“They have done extremely well and will be full of confidence.”
While the Blues have been beating the two London giants, Sunderland have had a fairly low-key build-up, having played five times. They won two behind-closed-doors friendlies against Scottish opposition, played in two FA Cup ties, a 3-2 win over Aston Villa and a 5-1 defeat at Chelsea, plus a 0-0 draw at Sheffield.
“We have had a busy month since I took the job,” said Reay.
“My main priority was to get the team ready for the opening match against Birmingham.
The WSL1 Spring Series will be the stepping stone to the real thing which gets under way in September, when the top flight is staged in the winter.
Clubs will play each other only once, with the eight fixtures crammed into eight weeks ahead of the break for the UEFA European Championship in the Netherlands in July and August.
There should have been nine fixtures, only for the women’s game to be rocked by the news yesterday that Notts County had folded.
“We have sat down as a team and set some objectives about what we want to achieve over the eight games and had good discussions on how we are going to do this,” said Reay. “The players are well prepared and focused and very much looking forward to the games getting under way.”
Reay will include both of her close-season signings, German keeper Anke Preuss and Dutch midfielder Dominique Bruinenberg.