The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Adam Shaw

SUN­DER­LAND man­ager Carl- ton Fairweather has made four sign­ings in the close sea­son, but he be­lieves ty­ing hot-shot striker Beth Mead to the club could prove his best bit of busi­ness.

Mead took WSL 1 by storm last term, fol­low­ing Sun­der­land’s pro­mo­tion to the top flight, fin­ish­ing the sea­son with 12 goals from 14 games.

Though Eng­land have an em­bar­rass­ment of riches at the sharp end of the pitch, the 20-year-old was named in man­ager Mark Samp­son’s squad for a post-sea­son mini­tour­na­ment in China.

And Fairweather knows that keep­ing lo­cal-girl Mead in the North East is vi­tal to his team’s plans.

“It was very im­por­tant to keep hold of Beth,” he said.

“Her chal­lenge this sea­son is: can she em­u­late what she did last year? And can she kick on and get her­self in­volved in the Eng­land setup as well? Hope­fully, we can all work to­gether to help her achieve that.

“We’ve brought in four new play­ers, Kylla Sjo­man from Celtic, Lucy Stan­i­forth from Liverpool, Krys­tle John­ston from Manch­ester City and Rachel Pit­man from Amer­ica.

“Rachel ac­tu­ally played in Ice­land as well, so we’ve got a well-rounded player in her.

“We’re look­ing to get a fifth player in be­fore the trans­fer dead­line. If not, we’re pleased with what we’ve got.”

Sun­der­land put a black cat among the pi­geons last term, with an open­ing day win at cham­pi­ons Liverpool and were in the ti­tle race ahead of the World Cup.

Two points from their fi­nal five games, though, meant Fairweather’s team had to set­tle for fourth place.

And, ahead of Satur­day’s sea­son-opener against newly-pro­moted Read­ing, Fairweather is forced to ad­mit he is find­ing it tough to pre­dict what 2016 might bring.

“The main thing for us is to make sure we can stay up and that we work well in­di­vid­u­ally but also col­lec­tively,” he added.

“If we do that then, hope­fully, we can stay in the divi­sion and see where we go from there.

“Pre-sea­son’s gone very well.We’ve played a few games and we’re look­ing for­ward to get­ting on with the real thing now.

“We won’t be tak­ing Read­ing for granted, def­i­nitely not. They’re a very good side and they com­peted very well last sea­son, fin­ish­ing cham­pi­ons of WSL 2.”

Be­fore that, though, Sun­der­land take on WSL 2 side Yeovil in the FA Cup fifth round this af­ter­noon.

Fairweather’s team were knocked out in round three last term, but this time he be­lieves they are in it to win it.

“You never know what can hap­pen in this game. Could we chal­lenge for sil­ver­ware?” he said.

“Last year we didn’t ex­pect to come into the cup when we did and, hope­fully, we’re bet­ter pre­pared this time round.We’re all look­ing for­ward to tak­ing on Yeovil.

“It will be a very tough game and we will pay them ev­ery re­spect that they



MACKEM MA­RAUDER: Striker Mead took the top divi­sion by storm last year

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