Sunderland Ladies focus on league and are not thinking of relegation

Tori Williams in action for Sunderland Ladies against Arsenal ladies
Tori Williams in action for Sunderland Ladies against Arsenal ladies

Sunderland Ladies will have their sole focus on becoming a better Women’s Super League 1 side this season – and not be worried by what might happen in 2018.

That was the strident message from Tori Williams ahead of the showdown with WSL 1 champions Chelsea in their first match at their new home, at Mariners Park in South Shields tomorrow night (kick-off 7.30pm).

We have this season in WSL1 and we must make the most of it

TORI WILLIAMS

The Lady Black Cats face an uncertain future after the Football Association announced this week that only full-time professional clubs would be eligible to play in the 2018-19 WSL1.

Sunderland reverted to part-time status earlier this year, leading to several high-profile departures, including Beth Mead’s transfer to Arsenal, plus the removal of head coach Carlton Fairweather.

Despite all that upheaval, Sunderland, under new boss Melanie Reay, had a fine WSL 1 Spring Series, ending dead centre in the table.

They have made a strong start to this season, winning last weekend at Reading, where summer signing Simona Koren scored the only goal of the game.

“For us in the squad, we must focus on what we can control and that’s playing football,” said Williams. “We have this season in WSL1 and we must make the most of it. We genuinely don’t know what is going to happen.

“Our focus has to be on our football and taking it game by game and try to do better than we did in the last full WSL 1 season and in the Spring Series.

“We’re paid to play football and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing – we can’t do anything about what happens off the pitch.”

Williams says the club’s ambition is to close the gulf that exists between the elite teams like Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool, who were head and shoulders above the rest.

Reay’s side drew with the Gunners and were within seconds of a point against City, though they lost heavily to tomorrow’s opponents and Liverpool.

“Mel has spoken to us about making a conscious effort to bridge the gap,” said the defender. “We’re under no illusions about tomorrow.

“Chelsea are probably the best team out there and the signings they have made have shown their intent for Europe and the domestic league.

“There is no pressure on us. Our aim is to try to bridge the gap between us and teams like them.”