Sunderland women's football team has eyes on Premier League
PUBLISHED: 12:34 29 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:48 20 February 2013
As women's football enjoys its most significant year ever, the North East's champions are feeling left out. Roger Tames explains
Hell hath no fury like a womens football team scorned, as the rest of the FAs Womens Premier League National Division can now confirm.
Sunderland WFC missed out on the whole process of the newly-formed Womens Super League, which was launched this summer, and proceeded to prove they really were good enough to compete with the best.
The women of Wearside had to bid for one of the eight places available in the new elite summer league, which has been formed to ensure female football continues its encouraging progress.
Yet, despite finishing fifth in the final year of the previous top flight, Sunderlands bid was deemed not strong enough and they were left to compete in the new second tier of the restructured womens game in this country.
Despite romping away with the league by an overwhelming seven-point margin, the Blacks Cats will still have to go and do it all again if they are eventually to achieve their aim of playing at the highest level.
The new Super League is due to consider expanding by a further two teams after its second season and we will have to re-submit our bid then, explains chairman Maurice Alderson, who realises his club will need to maintain the winning standards theyve set for themselves if theyre to win their place among the big boys (so to speak).
We were extremely disappointed when we missed out on the new league. We felt we had the infrastructure, but the FA decided our bid was not sustainable compared to the others.
We had great support from both Sunderland AFC and the University
but we didnt have the might of clubs like Arsenal or the history of Doncaster Belles. Were in our infancy by comparison, though I still think we were treated harshly.
Missing out was definitely a motivation. We wanted to show them - prove them wrong by being the best of our league. And we did that convincingly.
However, the chairman does admit that joining the new top eight isnt just about impressive results on the pitch. The Super League aims to be semi-professional while Sunderland is still very much an amateur club. Getting sufficient financial backing is probably an even bigger challenge than finishing on top of the league - again.
Alderson originally got involved with the club when his daughter became a promising player. It was the success of goalkeeper Helen that eventually underlined the ground that his club need to make up.
Sunderland lost four promising young players to the attractions of being paid to play in the Super League. England Under 23 international Helen was one of the quartet and now is between the posts for Doncaster Belles. Dad was pleased, but the chairman wasnt.
With the England team also progressing through to the knock-out stage of this summers World Cup which has been played out to really significant crowds in Germany, this is proving a watershed year for womens football in this country.
In the longer term, Sunderland are convinced - and determined - they will make their mark. The Super League is a good idea because the game had to evolve, insists Alderson.
The attitude has changed. There are talented players in the region. We have a Centre of Excellence and a lot of girls wanting to play.
Our geography is always against us but I think well get there (the Super League).
Weve certainly raised the profile of our club but we just need a partner willing to put in the money. n