Sunderland Ladies boss hails captain and leader Lucy Staniforth ahead of big Women’s FA Cup clash

Sunderland Ladies skipper Lucy Staniforth lines up a shot earlier in the Wearsiders' Women's FA Cup run.
Sunderland Ladies skipper Lucy Staniforth lines up a shot earlier in the Wearsiders' Women's FA Cup run.
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Sunderland Ladies boss Melanie Copeland says midfield dynamo Lucy Staniforth was the perfect choice as team captain.

Staniforth will lead her team-mates out at Mariners Park on Sunday (2pm kick-off) when they host mighty Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the SSE Women’s FA Cup.

And Copeland has been delighted with the 25-year-old’s contribution on and off the field after replacing long-serving skipper Steph Bannon last year.

“Lucy was the ideal choice – she was excited and proud when I asked her to take over from Steph.,” said Copeland.

“She’s a good leader on the pitch and certainly leads by example off the pitch.

“She has scored some good goals and contributed numerous assists, which is pleasing.

“She is still eager to learn and still has the ambition to represent England at senior levels, which is what motivates her to be a better player every day.”

Staniforth is in her second spell at Sunderland. In her first, she played in the 2009 FA Cup final when Sunderland went down 2-1 to Arsenal at Derby’s Pride Park.

She has had serious injuries over the years since but is making the most of her game now – and new England boss Phil Neville will surely be having a good look at her.

Neville already knows a lot about several ex-Sunderland players who are long-established in the England squad – the likes of skipper Steph Houghton, midfielder Jill Scott and left-back Demi Stokes, who are also Manchester City players.

Houghton missed England’s recent She Believes tournament in the United States, but is expected to be fit to face her old side on Sunday.

Houghton and Scott came through the ranks at Sunderland when Copeland was a senior player for the Red and Whites.

“Jill and Steph were very young players when I was playing for Sunderland,” she said.

“I think the most surprising thing was Steph was a centre-forward and has ended up as a centre-half. You don’t see many centre-forwards do that!

“I think they played at the right time and took the opportunities to progress when they arose.

“They have developed into excellent players and fully deserve the success they have had.”

Canadian Kylla Sjoman is a doubt for the game with a rib problem, but the cup clash will come too soon for Austrian striker Simona Koren.

Republic of Ireland forward Steph Roche has had big problems with the leg she broke in an international match at the beginning of the season. She has had an investigative operation this week to try to identify what is delaying her recovery.

Manchester City lost 1-0 to Arsenal in last night’s WSL Continental Tyres Cup final.