They may be one of the newcomers to the FA Women’s Super League next season but Durham will not be there just to make up the numbers, according to general manager Lee Sanders.
It has been a meteoric rise for Durham – first created as a youth team by Sanders in 2006 before becoming South Durham & Cestria and finally Durham Women’s FC with their introduction to this year’s newly expanded WSL.
For the past few years the club has largely been made up of a talented group of students but with the level in competition stepped up again with their introduction into the second tier of the WSL, reinforcements have been brought in.
- Founded: March 2010
- Number of teams: 8
- Current champions: Liverpool Ladies
- Most times winners: Arsenal (2)
Republic of Ireland international defender Seana Cooke arrived over the winter to add to that of former Scotland U19 international Jen King.
Goalkeeper Catherine Clough, midfielder Caroline Dixon and striker Stacy Crooks have also come in as Durham Ladies look to strengthen.
And while they may be a relative unknown to many of their opponents in the league, Sanders believes his side are capable of springing a few surprises.
“We will look to consolidate. Obviously we are the underdogs but we are quietly confident. We are not going into the league just to make up the numbers,” said Sanders. “Anybody that knows me knows I don’t go out to do that at all.
“We have signed some new players, we would be naïve if we thought we could just compete with the players we have got and not bring in some experienced members.
“Some of the players that played for us last season will play in the development side as well next season which is the right place for them to learn and improve too.
“The players here have been with me a long time, a lot of them since they were nine years old and now they are 17,18 so we know each other well.
“We have always scored a lot of goals but we have never really had an out and our centre forward so hopefully Stacy can fill that gap.
“Caroline is an excellent athlete who will be a great role model to the younger girls, I believe Catherine will be a very strong keeper and then Jen and Seana both have lots of experience.”
“Obviously we are the underdogs but we are quietly confident”
Lee Sanders Durham general manager
Durham can look forward to a local derby against fellow North East side Sunderland this season while Doncaster Rovers Belles, who had played for the last 22 years in the top flight of women’s football, will also be coming to town.
And Sanders, who saw Beth Hepple become the first Durham player to represent England when she played for the Under-19 side last November – knows it has been quite a rise for the club.
“We will see how well we do in the league next year, it is obviously a bit unknown,” he added. “You’ve got Doncaster and Sunderland who are in my opinion have to be the favourites, they have got so much experience and then there is Reading and Watford.
“Two or three years ago, it would be what you dream about, being in the top league and having players represent their country. It’s what we worked hard for and it’s now paying off for us.”