Sunderland captain Keira Ramshaw previews new season as fans given chance to watch friendly for FREE

Sunderland captain Keira Ramshaw is confident that the club is on the right path as the new Women's Championship campaign draws ever closer.

Ramshaw was a key part of the side that finished 9th last year, an impressive thirteen points clear of the relegation zone as the club consolidated their position back in the upper tiers of the women's game.

The Black Cats play their final pre-season friendly against Nottingham Forest at Eppleton on Sunday, before attention turns to the opening-day derby against Durham next weekend.

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Fans are being given the chance to watch Mel Reay's side for free against Forest this weekend, with tickets available online at no cost for the 2pm kick off.

Ramshaw has been present throughout the club's remarkable journey in recent years, from an enforced double relegation to an eventual promotion to the second tier.

With the arrival of some Championship experienced players this summer to supplement the talented youngsters who broke through in recent seasons, the midfielder believes the future is bright for the club.

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"It feels like we've almost come full circle really," Ramshaw told The Echo.

"We've been right up at the top flight, come down and now it feels like we're on the way back up.

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Keira Ramshaw was voted player of the season by fans last year

"It's good to be where we are now, back in the second tier and hopefully we can kick on now.

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"It's been my ambition really, and that of the squad, we know what's happened to us in the past but we're not really looking at any of that anymore. We're looking to the future and we think that's bright, we've got youngsters coming through, we've added experienced players to the group this summer as well, so it really does feel like we're on the right path."

Sunderland faced a quick turnaround last summer, as their promotion application was approved not long before the new campaign.

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It made their comfortable survival all the more impressive, and there are more challenges ahead in the new campaign with a number of teams in the division turning professional.

Sunderland and Ramshaw are nevertheless hopeful that they can build on their encouraging progress last time out.

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"The main goal for us when we got promoted was to stay up, it was a massive season for us as a club because some of the girls had never played at that level before," Ramshaw said.

"They stepped up and I was massively proud of all of them for that. We exceeded our own goals internally and now we've got new ones to try and aim for this season.

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"We'll work towards them, make the tweaks we need to from last season and work towards where we need to be in the league.

"We're still a part-time team but we're putting the hours in, we're working as hard as anyone so we can compete with these teams.

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"We've had a season at the level now so our young players know what's coming, what to expect, and how hard they need to work.

"We've got that stepping stone now, and we've got to keep building on it."