Sunderland defender eyes Super future

Vicki Greenwell is congratulated on her goal at Portsmouth
Vicki Greenwell is congratulated on her goal at Portsmouth
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CONSTRUCTION site manager Vicki Greenwell is determined to build on solid foundations with Sunderland Women – but she doesn’t expect to be adding much to the club’s goal tally!

The defender has only two goals to her name in four years on Wearside, and it’s clean sheets she’s more interested in contributing to as the Lady Black Cats look to complete a hat-trick of Premier League titles.

Sunderland take on Portsmouth at Eppleton CW on Sunday, though, and the opposition brings back happy memories of her greatest “goalden” moment.

“My only goal this season came on the opening day of the season at Portsmouth,” she explained.

“It came from a corner and I was standing 30 yards out. Portsmouth cleared the ball and it dropped at my feet.

“I tried to hit it first time but a defender blocked it. The ball dropped to me again but I had my back towards goal. I did a Cruyff turn between two defenders to face the goal and then hit it with my right foot,.

“It just sailed over the keeper and into the top right hand corner. All the girls jumped on me as I don’t score goals that often.”

“It felt amazing to score the first goal to start our league campaign and put us ahead, but the best feeling was when all the girls all celebrated with me because we always have a joke about me never scoring.

“My only other goal came years ago and I think it deflected off my backside – so this was definitely one to remember!”

Sunderland won the game 4-1 and they went on to win the next five games. The subsequent six games, including some League Cup group clashes, have seen Sunderland remain unbeaten – though four of the games have been drawn.

“This season has been a bit abnormal for us,” admitted Greenwell. “We have managed to keep a great record in not losing any games, but we know as a team we are not performing to the best of our ability. It’s something that we are trying to address.”

Despite not yet finding top gear, Sunderland lead the league by five points with tomorrow’s game marking the half-way point.

Portsmouth lie second bottom at this stage with two wins from eight games, but Greenwell knows that any complacency could be punished.

“I don’t believe any game is won on paper – it always comes down to the day,” she said. “Any team is capable of winning. It just comes down to which team performs the best on the day. Portsmouth are a well-organised team and have some good quality players.

“Our manager (Mick Mulhern) prepares us well against every team we play, and that is a huge benefit to our game.”

A woman working in the male-dominated building trade is something of a rarity, and Greenwell is also keen to play a part in breaking down similar stereotypes about football.

And that includes playing a part at the top of the women’s football pyramid in the Super League, which Sunderland were surprisingly excluded from two years ago.

The league, which will expand to divisions in 2014, is televised on ESPN with other broadcasters sniffing around for a piece of the action.

“When the club missed out on the first application it was a huge shock,” said Greenwell. “Everyone was very shocked by the news as we had competed well in the top division.

“The previous season we had won the Northern Division and got to the FA Cup final where we lost to Arsenal 2-1.

“We beat Chelsea (a top division side) in the semi-finals at the Stadium of Light, which was a great day and to be involved in the final was fantastic too.

“We showed in the season in the top division how competitive we were then – we finished fifth – and we were the first team to beat Arsenal in the Women’s Premier League for many years.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of why we missed out on the Super League, but I think we are more than capable of competing in the top division.

“We have a good support system and it’s only getting bigger.

“Personally, I am really keen to play in the Super League as it’s the highest standard league in England.

“It’s just a case of waiting to see if our bid can be accepted. The club’s been preparing for the Super League for years now and we have a committee who are working extra hard behind the scenes in order to give us the best chance.

“To get the chance to train more; to have players with better conditioning would obviously improve our game – and be great for the women’s game in general.

“And to be part of it personally, would be a dream come true.”

Sunday’s game against Portsmouth at Eppleton CW kicks off at 1pm.