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Mick relishing challenge ahead
 Women's Football News 2 Sep 2011
Mick relishing challenge ahead - 2 Sep 2011 - Women's Football NewsSunderland manager Mick Mulhern was delighted with his team's 8-2 victory over Watford but warned his side against any complacency as they start the defence of their Premier League title. 
The Wearsiders got their defence off to the perfect start and Mick told Women's Soccer Scene: "I think the most pleasing aspect [of the win] was the instant response when Watford scored their goals. We also stuck to the game plan, believing we could get the result in the end."
This week they play host to Barnet and Mick is anticipating a hard game. "Barnet will be a tough test," he admitted. "Let's be honest, there won't be any easy games in this league for anyone. That in itself is good for the women's game as it shows all clubs are progressing and not just one or two. As for complacency, I'd be disappointed if the players were like that. I've got a good honest bunch who will work hard - if they don't, then they'll be sitting next to me soon enough as competition is fierce."
Since winning the title last season, Mick has had to make alterations to his squad due to some departures. "I've had to make a few changes due to one or two going to the WSL and Demi Stokes going to South Florida on a football scholarship," he said. "That in itself shows we are doing things properly if girls are wanted at those sort of levels.
"I've brought a few players in and we've had a good, long pre-season. We played Birmingham very early on and then went to the Keele Tournament, which was physically challenging. I've still got a few on the injured list from our pre-season so the competition for places will hopefully make for an interesting season when they are all back.
"Last season was a fantastic experience for the girls and myself. We would love to do it all again but we are aware it will be a lot harder this season for several reasons. First of all, we are an obvious target as current Champions and that's fair enough. I've also lost a few key players and they needed to be replaced.
"I'm not making any rash predictions. All we can do is our best in every game and hopefully we can be in amongst the pack when it counts."
That doesn't stop Mick having aims for the season ahead. "Yes, we have targets for the season," he replies. "Some are team goals and some are individual ones for the players but we will keep those to ourselves, though I'd be lying if I was to say the Cup doesn't matter. I have several targets, some of which are for the team and some are for each of the players. Obviously helping develop young players is the main one that comes to mind."
Mick is the longest serving manager in the Premier League but his appetite for the game is as strong as ever. "It's been 12 years and all have been eventful," he enthused. "The last few seasons have been amazing from a personal point of view. We won the Northern Division for the third time and got to the FA Women's Cup Final. We then finished fifth in the National Division when all the big hitters were in the league and we managed to beat Arsenal at home that season. To cap it all we won the Premier League last season so it seems like all the hard work is starting to pay off. Either that or I'm just lucky!
"These are all highlights and I still get a buzz from seeing ex-players who began their playing career at Sunderland doing so well in the WSL and on an international level (Jill Scott, Steph Houghton, Carly Telford, Jordan Nobbs, Lucy Bronze, Lucy Staniforth etc).
"I think the club will continue to progress and hopefully we can eventually get into the Super League. I believe that is the natural progression for Sunderland and I'd relish that challenge."

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