Sunderland Ladies’ Stephanie Roche says she will show her best in 2016

Stephanie Roche
Stephanie Roche
Have your say

Stephanie Roche says 2016 will be the year Sunderland Ladies will see the “best” of her.

The Lady Black Cats attacker has had a testing introduction to Women’s Super League 1 since her mid-season arrival from Houston Dash.

It would not be unfair to say the Irish sporting superstar has found it hard to acclimatise to English football’s top division.

But Roche has high hopes for the 2016 season, when Sunderland will be looking to build on their top-four finish from their debut WSL campaign.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” said the 26-year-old, who is still in training at the Academy of Light with the international programme still going on.

“It’s obviously been a good season for Sunderland overall.

“I’ve said it before but I think next season will be my best times with Sunderland.

“I’ll work really hard over pre-season and make sure I am fit and sharp and ready to go for 2016.”

That Roche was NOT firing on all cylinders should not have been a major shock.

The Republic of Ireland striker had been on a high when she was a finalist in the prestigious FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal in the world.

Roche was only beaten by the wonder goal from Colombia star James Rodriguez at the 2014 World Cup, though she did get the better of Dutch master Robin van Persie.

She seemed to have the world at her feet, or certainly her left foot.

However, a move to the French top flight did not work out for Roche and she left ASPTT Albi after only six months.

Hopes of reviving her fortunes then centred on a move to the USA, but Houston Dash, to her surprise and dismay, released her after just one appearance.

Enter Sunderland.

“I wouldn’t be human if I said it didn’t affect me,” said the girl from Shankhill, near Dublin.

“Probably every footballer all over the world has experienced bad stuff before.

“It’s not always all good in football, I know that.

“I’m not the first player it has happened to, it’s something that goes on.

“I was lucky that Sunderland wanted me to come and join them.

“It’s nice to be wanted and it made me feel like a footballer again.

“I’m just happy to be given the opportunity.”

And Roche says she is motivated to pay back head coach Carlton Fairweather and assistant Mel Reay for their support.

“Definitely,” she told the Echo.

“As a player you need confidence, have respect from people and feel good in yourself.

“You need all that so it’s been good for me to come and play for Sunderland.

“Carlton and Mel have treated me really well and given me an opportunity.

“I want to repay them next year by giving the best I can possibly give.”

While her Sunderland team-mates enjoy a close-season break, Roche’s year is not quite over.

She will be in action for the Republic of Ireland in their Euro 2017 qualifier against Spain on Thursday, November 26, when a victory at the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin would take them into second place in Group Two.