Sunderland Ladies reveal two new signings as rivals Durham Women FC move to full-time training model

Sunderland Ladies have confirmed two new signings – with defender Abby Holmes and forward Nicki Gears joining from Durham Women.

The duo become the first signings of a new chapter for the Ladies, who will become SAFC Women from the 2022-23 campaign onward.

Gears, 29, said: “I’m really excited for the new challenge. I’ve loved playing at Durham for the last seven years, but I’m delighted to get started here.

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“The combination of Mel and Steph here is really exciting and we have a young, promising squad. I really enjoyed playing under Steph and working with her at Durham.

Sunderland's Academy of Light.

“Experience in this league is massive, and we have some unbelievable talent. To be able to bring some knowledge at this level can hopefully help take us to the next level and make us even better.”

Head Coach Mel Reay added: “Nicki is a player who brings vital experience of the Championship to our squad. That’s something we see as really important.”

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Gears will wear the number nine shirt.

Meanwhile, defender Holmes, 31, said: “It’s great to be back here – it feels like my career has gone full-circle – and to be back in red and white is exciting.

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“I went through all the different stages and played here for 10 years before leaving, so it’s a club and a region I love. Having spent the last four years in the Championship, I feel I can bring a lot of knowledge on what the league is about.

“Sunderland have a young squad and hopefully I can help bring some experience and leadership to the team. I’m excited to be working with Mel and Steph again having worked with them both separately before.”

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Reay added: “Abby is a great player to have both for me and for the rest of the squad. It’s vital that we brought experience here which I feel we’ve definitely done with both Abby and Nicki.”

Holmes will wear the number 24 shirt.

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Meanwhile, Durham Women FC have announced they will transition to a full-time training model ahead of the 2022-23 season.

The club will continue to train at the state-of-the-art facilities at Maiden Castle and are scheduled to return to training in early July.

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General manager Lee Sanders said: “It’s the right thing to do for the players and our staff and gives the younger players at the club the knowledge that this is something they can pursue as a career at Durham.

“Naturally, there will be some player movement as a consequence of the decision – not everyone can train during the day – and we of course will thank those players for their time spent at the club.

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“However, we are excited about new players who will come in and be announced in due course – as well as the promotion of young players from within the club pathway.”

Club captain Sarah Wilson added: “There has been so much work gone into making this happen, and I am very grateful to have the opportunity. It’s something that I’ve dreamed of being able to do since I first started playing when I was eight years old.”