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Interview with Sunderland striker MELANIE REAY
Sunderland are gearing up for one of the biggest matches in their history on Sunday when they make the long journey to London to play Charlton Athletic in the Sixth Round of the F.A.Women's Cup. The Black Cats are having an excellent season, having led the Northern Division virtually all season and achieved their longest Cup run to date, as Sunday marks their first ever appearance in the quarter finals.
Sunderland are in their third season in the Northern Division since being relegated back from the top flight, and Melanie Reay has been one of their most prominent players in recent seasons. The free scoring winger told Women's Soccer Scene that her team are really looking forward to the occasion. "I'm really excited, it's the furthest I've ever gone in the Cup," she says. "It's going to be a massive challenge but everyone at the club is looking forward to it. We've got absolutely nothing to lose and we're going to give it our all."
In the last round, Sunderland knocked out top flight opposition when beating Liverpool 2-0 and Melanie feels that this result will stand them in good stead for the game. "Beating Liverpool will be a big help for us, and it will probably make Charlton sit up and take notice! It's always nice beating sides who are the favourites, and I think we beat them quite convincingly on the day. I know that Liverpool are near the bottom and Charlton are top, but they now know we can beat teams in their division.
"It's going to be a big challenge for me to play against players of that quality, and a test for the team if we do get promotion, to see if we can play at that level."
Sunderland lead the Northern Division by nine points at present, with Wolves being the major contenders for the title. "We've still got Wolves to play at home, and it could go down to the wire," admits Melanie. "We know if we slip up, they'll be right behind us. But we've a tight squad, although not a very big squad, who have played together for a couple of years and know each other well. It's been frustrating in the last two years when we have finished second twice, teams raise their games against us because we are one the sides expected to do well."
Melanie is full of praise for the two Sunderland strikers who regularly feature alongside her on the scoresheet, one of them being a loyal club servant. "Donna Lanaghan is great - she has been at the club since day one and has seen all the ups and downs we have had. This will be the first time that she will play in the quarter finals so it will be a big day for her. Steph Houghton is a very good player who can only get better, and she is now in the England under-19s. We have a lot of good girls coming through our Centre of Excellence but Steph stood out a mile! She is lethal in front of goal.
"Carly Telford is a fine young goalkeeper who has also been with England and Jill Scott is also a player to watch, a tall player who rises like a salmon and scores a lot from my corners! Emma Redhead and Jen O'Neill have also played very well at the back."
As for Melanie, she has finished as top scorer in the Northern Division in each of the last two seasons along with Kelly Dean, and this season she jointly leads the charts once more, this time with Amy McCann of Wolves, and has scored over 50 league goals in three seasons. "Not bad for a left winger!" she laughs. Like all goalscorers, she has her eyes firmly on another possible Golden Boot award. "Once you win the top scorer award, it's your target to win it again," she says. "But as long as we get promoted at the end of the season, I don't mind."
It is perhaps inevitable that Melanie would be a goalscorer as they seem to run in the family - her cousin is Newcastle legend Alan Shearer. She remains proud to be related to someone so famous and admits: "Alan is someone to look up to. We don't play in similar positions but I do look to pick things up from him."
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