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Birmingham City v Sunderland
 Women's Football News 24 Mar 2012
 
F.A.Women's Cup - Road to the Final
Sunderland made it through to the quarter finals for the third time in four seasons after they won 5-1 away to Keynsham Town in the Fifth Round. Beth Mead scored twice and other strikes from Kelly McDougall, Natalie Gutteridge and Jordan Atkinson ended the hopes of the Somerset side and booked Sunderland a trip to play Birmingham City.
 
Birmingham City Ladies FC was formed in 1968 by a group of girl supporters and friendly games were played locally up until 1970. The late John Lines played an influential part in those early days and the club thanks him and all the players. In 1970 the Heart of England League was formed. The Blues remained in this league until 1973 and due to the restructuring of the leagues, later became known as the West Midland Regional League, formed in 1974.
 
During this period Birmingham won numerous league titles and cups, notably in the Seventies and Eighties. To this date the Blues remain the only West Midlands team to have reached the WFA Cup semi finals, in the 1973-74 and 1987-88 seasons.
 
In the early nineties, Birmingham experienced difficult times. It was decided to introduce an Academy for junior teams to become an extension of the club. It would act as a support function in strengthening from within the club's structure. Their contribution, experience and skills were instrumental in turning the club around.
 
In 1998-99 Birmingham won promotion to the newly formed Midland Combination and at their first attempt, won the league and gained automatic promotion into the Northern Division of the Premier League. The club continued this fantastic run by winning promotion to the National Division after only two seasons.
 
The hard work behind the youth policy started to come to fruition in the early 2000s. Birmingham City players started to be picked by the England selectors at Under-19 and Under-17 levels, then Laura Bassett was the first player to gain full England honours. In 2002, Charter Standard was obtained at junior level and in 2003 the Club became the first Club in Birmingham County FA to achieve Charter Club Standard at adult level. The Club was voted FA Charter Standard Club of the Year in 2003, by which time a total of nine of the playing staff were England internationals at some level, and at the 2003 UEFA Under-19 Championships in Germany, Birmingham provided one third of the squad, more than any other club.
 
In 2004, some of the biggest names in women's football were brought into the club and in the following season the senior team finished fourth in the FA Women's Premier League. Five Birmingham City Ladies players went on to represent England in Euro 2005 with the highlight being Karen Carney's last minute winner against Finland. A year later the club's junior teams joined the inaugural Centre of Excellence league in the Central Warwickshire area.
 
Birmingham won their eighth consecutive Birmingham FA County Cup in 2008 before a number of established players either retired from the game or moved on to other clubs. They began to rebuild and finished 2008-09 in fifth place (losing out on fourth place only through inferior goal difference) and have left Redditch United for a new stadium at Stratford upon Avon.
 
The club became inaugural members of the newly formed FA WSL in 2011 and came agonisingly close to winning it at the first attempt, leading for most of the campaign before being pipped at the post by Arsenal. They also reached the Continental Cup Final but once again found Arsenal in the way at Burton Albion F.C. The season was notable for the goalscoring exploits of Rachel Williams who finished as leading scorer as well as winning the FA Players' Player of the Year Award.
 
The team is managed by Dave Parker with Marcus Bignot as Football Consultant, whilst Kelly Grove and John Reeves are Physio and Goalkeeping Coach respectively. Laura Bassett returned to the club last year as captain of a strong squad which now has eight full England internationals. Rachel Williams is now partnered by Eniola Aluko who, along with Rachel Unitt, have been recent signings. Karen Carney and the versatile Emily Westwood are present as well as Jade Moore, who recently made her full England debut, and Jo Potter is a key player in midfield as well as defender Kerys Harrop who looks set for a bright future in the game.
 
The match takes place at Stratford Town FC and Birmingham will start off as firm favourites. However a year ago, Sunderland took Arsenal to extra time at this stage so write them off at your peril. 
 
Birmingham City (from): Marie Hourihan, Chelsea Weston, Kerys Harrop, Rachel Unitt, Emily Westwood, Laura Bassett, Isobel Christiansen, Rachel Williams, Eniola Aluko, Karen Carney, Jo Potter, Anna Wilcox, Jade Moore, Jodie Taylor, Hannah George, Harley Simpson, Marie Ballard, Cristina Torkildsen.

Sunderland (from): Rachael Laws, Becky Salicki, Vicky Greenwell, Steph Bannon, Gemma Wilson, Nicola Devine, Rachel Furness, Kelly McDougall, Beth Mead, Natalie Gutteridge, Keira Ramshaw, Jordan Atkinson, Robyn Chidester, Sarah McFadden, Sophie Williams, Rachel Lee.


 
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