Sunderland Ladies captain Stephanie Bannon is to retire from professional football after an illustrious career spanning 15 years playing for the club.
The 28-year-old Black Cats captain now wants to focus on her life outside of the game and her career as a PE teacher.
She will play her final game for the club at the end of the WSL 1 Spring Series against Reading at Hetton this Saturday (kick off 3.30 pm).
Bannon joined Sunderland AFC as a 14-year-old and was named captain of the team when she was 18. In her time playing for ‘The Lasses’, she led the side to an FA Cup Final in 2009 against Arsenal, three consecutive National Premier League titles and a promotion to the FAWSL 1, and was also named the WPL 2012-13 Player of the Year.
She said: “Having played for Sunderland for almost 15 years I am sure you will understand it has not been an easy decision for me to make and it is not one I have just thought about overnight. But now is the right time for me to step aside and enjoy different parts of my life.
“Football is very intense and takes up a lot of nights and weekends and while I have loved each and every season with Sunderland, I feel the time is right for me to have some time off and spend time with my family and friends.
“It's been a massive commitment and very difficult at times to do both teaching and football at the high standard that is expected, and I will now be focusing solely on my teaching career. I have made some amazing friends and memories that will last a life time and of course I will continue to support both the women and men’s teams going forward.
“Sunderland is in my blood, and I guess they say, the hardest decision is sometimes the right one - all good times have to come to an end.”
General manager for Sunderland AFC Ladies, Sonia Kulkarni, said: “On behalf of everyone at Sunderland AFC, I’d like to thank Steph for the commitment she has shown Sunderland Ladies over so many years.
“What she has achieved both as a player and person in her time here is phenomenal, and the club has benefited enormously from the leadership and dedication she has shown. She will be sorely missed by everyone associated with Sunderland AFC.