Fear of more big name departures to come at Sunderland Ladies as Charlotte Potts bids farewell
Sunderland Ladies were 11 points clear of second-place Derby County and unbeaten in the FA Women’s National League North before COVID-19 cut short their title chase.
The Lady Black Cats had also reached the FAWNL Cup final and were due to play Stoke City, a welcome reward for a talented young squad who had lost just once in all competitions.
That solitary loss in an otherwise unbeaten season came against Birmingham City - a team two leagues above Sunderland and boasting ex-Wearsider and England star Lucy Staniforth - in the FA Cup.
Such was their quality and discipline, Mel Reay’s side only lost by a single goal, and took pride in preventing a top division side from scoring until the 85th minute.
But the postponement and subsequent cancellation of women’s football below the Championship denied Sunderland a chance of gaining promotion, which has had consequences.
Charlotte Potts, a key protagonist in the team and central defensive stalwart, made the difficult decision to leave Wearside last week, without a new club lined up, to chase her dream of playing at a higher level.
Her experience, dedication and commitment will be missed.
Potts’ usual partner at the back, Grace McCatty, remains at the club but increased work commitments in Africa will see the former Bristol City star potentially miss games.
Understandable, then, the decision to bring defender Olivia Watt, who left in search of first-team football, back to the club.
Indeed, the pair are all but certain to link up with Reay’s new-look squad, with the latter having changed her place of work to ‘Sunderland AFC’ on Facebook.
Scarr, 20, will replace the energetic and pacy winger Katie Barker, who left to join rivals Newcastle United, her hometown club.
Talented, tricky and dangerous off the bench, Barker’s departure has been felt by the Sunderland Ladies faithful, who took to Twitter to wish the popular attacker well in the week.
Rachel Woolston - sister of former Newcastle United and current Manchester United stopper Paul - followed Barker to Tyneside, after an injury-hit spell with Sunderland.
And the feeling on Wearside is that there could be more big-name departures to come during the coming months.
One of which could be star striker Bridget Galloway – who netted 25 goals in 24 games in all competitions including a hat-trick against Middlesbrough before curtailment.
The 20-year-old ace’s representatives are keen for the talented England youth international to play at a higher level as soon as possible.
Sunderland, however, are no stranger to adversity and will once again look to build a team based on young players to complement the core group of established regulars set to stay on Wearside.
It is understood that two youngsters from the Regional Talent Club are due to make the step up to senior football, a welcome and exciting boost to a squad which has taken a numerical hit in recent weeks.
The unnamed pair will be hoping to emulate the stunning successes of last season’s graduates Neve Herron and Jessica Brown, who have both made a huge impact since signing 12 months ago.
Much looks set to change at Sunderland Ladies before the start of the new season, whenever that may be.