Sunderland AFC Ladies Club History
Formed in 1999, Sunderland Ladies have been at the top of women’s football in the north-east for the majority of their existence.
The club was formed when East Durham Houghall Kestrels and Sunderland Ladies combined to come under the umbrella of ‘Sunderland Women’.
Prior to this, their roots lay in Tyneside with Blyth Spartans Kestrels.
Since the merger Sunderland Women have consistently performed to a very high standard; playing four seasons in the Northern Division and six seasons in the Women’s Premier League.
In their opening two seasons, Sunderland Women finished runners-up in the Northern Division, only just missing promotion to the Premier League on both occasions.
The following campaign saw Sunderland secure promotion to the Premier League, winning the Northern Division by six points and, for the first time in their history, they reached the quarter finals of the Women’s FA Cup.
After retaining their top-flight status in 2006, the Lady Black Cats were relegated after the 2006-07 campaign – resulting in multiple international stars leaving the club.
A third place finished followed in the Northern Division as Sunderland sought a return to the top-flight, a feat they would achieve in 2009.
Arguably the club’s most successful season to date followed, with the club gaining an increased local and national profile.
Sunderland Women were runners-up in the FA Women's Cup after losing 2-1 to National Premier League Champions, Arsenal.
Mick Mulhern’s side also received the E.ON Team of the Round Award twice before securing their promotion back to the National Premier League.
Mulhern won the division’s Manager of the Year award before receiving the Tesco Manager of the Year at the FA Women's Football Awards.
The Lady Black Cats achieved a respectable fifth place finish in 2009 before winning the FA Women’s National Premier League for the first time in their history whilst also reaching the quarter-finals of both the League Cup and Women’s FA Cup.
Exerting their dominance on the women’s game in the north, Sunderland won the FA Women’s Premier League for a second consecutive campaign whilst also adding the League Cup to their trophy cabinet.
Mulhern, who was the longest serving manager in the women’s game, won the Manager of the Year award for a second time.
In the 2012/13 season, the women secured their third consecutive title with striker Beth Mead winning the division’s top scorer award for a second consecutive campaign.
The Lady Black Cats finally got their break into the Women’s Super League (FAWSL) ahead of the 2014 season after a sustained effort from everyone involved with the former Club and Sunderland AFC.
In September 2013, Sunderland Women’s Football Club formally changed their name to "Sunderland AFC Ladies", a subsidiary company of Sunderland AFC and were fully integrated as part of the Sunderland AFC structure.
Sunderland Ladies won the FAWSL 2 league at the first attempt in 2014, clinching the title on the final day of the season with a 4-0 victory over Millwall Lionesses.
Former professional footballer Carlton Fairweather took charge for Sunderland's inaugural season in the top flight and led the side to an impressive fourth place finish in 2015.
The club grew their attendances by 123% in the 2015 campaign and Sunderland Ladies collected the WSL1 Club of the Year award at the FA Women's Football Awards.
During 2015 young striker Beth Mead collected a trio of awards at the annual dinner, including Vauxhall Young England Player of the Year, Players' Player of the Year and WSL1 Top Goalscorer. Mead and goalkeeper Rachael Laws both received call ups into Mark Sampson's England side having impressed in the FAWSL.
Head Coach Melanie Copeland took charge of the team in 2017, having been assistant coach for the previous three seasons in the FA WSL. Copeland, a former Sunderland player, was an outstanding striker during her playing years, winning the golden boot on many occasions.
Copeland led the team to a 5th place finish in the FAWSL Spring Series.