Sunderland goalkeeper Rachel Laws is adamant her side can prove people wrong and build on a promising Spring Series when he FA WSL season kicks off this weekend.
Laws, who returns to the club after spending the recent spring competition with neighbours Durham, believes her side can surprise a few people this season, this despite some of the negative publicity the club has received concerning some changes to its setup.
It was announced recently that the club would be leaving its training facility at the Academy of Light, a facility shared with some of the Sunderland men’s youth teams, and would instead be training on Tyneside. The club will also be leaving its home ground at Hetton and will move to South Shields.
Despite this, Laws is confident the changes won’t be disruptive, and that her side will continue to defy the odds.
“Not a lot has changed to be honest, it’s a different venue but we still have great facilities,” she said.
“We’re pulling together as a club and our focus is what’s going on on the field. Everything else goes to the back of our head.”
Laws, who has lifted both the WSL 1 and WSL 2 title (WSL 1 while on loan at Liverpool), will be a key cog in the Sunderland wheel, with her experience and stints with the England squad.
That experience is all the more important following the departures of stalwarts Steph Bannon and Abby Holmes, but the Black Cats have made some useful additions.
Doncaster tough tackler Kasia Lipka joins from Doncaster, while American midfielder Zaneta Wyne has arrived from Icelandic outfit Thor. Blackburn’s Ellie Stewart comes in to bolster the backline, while Austrian forward Simona Koren has joined from German side Duisburg.
With a fairly lengthy pre-season, and the Spring Series sandwiched in the middle. Laws believes the team is in good shape, even with a number of new faces.
“We’ve had a tough pre-season with lots of running, and there are a lot of new faces who have fitted in well.
“There’s even new faces from when I was here last time. It’s different, but a good different, and everyone is working hard.”
Sunderland will be looking to build on an impressive fifth place finish in the Spring Series, which was higher than most had them finishing following the loss of the prolific Beth Mead to Arsenal and Laws to Durham.
But with the league continuing to grow, and attracting the attention of top internationals from abroad, Sunderland’s stopper is under no illusions that her club, and many others, are in for a challenging campaign.
“It’s now as competitive as ever with everyone making signings and looking to strengthen their squad and the likes of Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal adding world class players.
“All we must do is aim for as high a finish as we can and do our best. There is a lot of heart and determination in this team and we’ll look to prove a few people wrong. We’ll take it each game at a time, and take it from there.”