Lucy Bronze, left, and Steph Houghton are among the former Sunderland players in the England squad.

“It was tough but we always kept our fighting spirit,” says Reay. “Keira loves Sunderland such a lot she gave up WSL contracts to remain , so, no, I never felt like quitting. Over the past 20 years this club’s produced numerous top players from the north-east; it’s important to stay on doing that.”

Tellingly, seven of the 23-woman England squad eventually summer’s World Cup in France were former Sunderland players and 6 – including Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Jill Scott – started the semi-final defeat by the USA. Now, though, there’s no WSL team north of Manchester and therefore the most northerly venues when England host Euro 2021 are Sheffield/Rotherham and Manchester. judi bola terpercaya https://www.judibolaterbaik.co

“It would are nice to possess had games over here ,” says Reay. “We’ve got the facilities.” Indeed, neglecting to utilise the Stadium of sunshine , the Riverside and St James’ Park with quick access to Europe from nearby Newcastle airport seems like something Reay has always been happily unfamiliar with: missing a sitter.

Once an utterly ruthless, positively Shearer-esque striker for Sunderland – 58 goals in 82 games – and Newcastle – 65 in 64 matches – she evidently has much in common together with her cousin; not that they need an excessive amount of chance to match notes. “I only really see Alan at family gatherings,” she says. “Life’s so busy.”

Given that the 39-year-old Reay is married with alittle son, combining her day job as head of Gateshead college’s women’s football academy with managing Sunderland doesn’t leave much spare time.

Two years ago, though, Reay couldn’t resist a call for participation to require a few of weeks off and fill the gap between Neville’s original No 2, Casey Stoney, departing for Manchester United and his current assistant, Bev Priestman, coming back from Canada.

“It was an honour,” says a Uefa A licence holder so highly regarded by Neville during a draw with Wales and win against Bosnia that she subsequently coached an England Under-23s side at a Nordic tournament and spent a part of last summer’s showpiece in France at the FA’s invitation. “I’m hospitable any longer offers,” she says.

The Lionesses’ world of luxury hotels and privately chartered planes is light years from the conflicting priorities at Sunderland, where Grace McCatty, the team’s defensive lynchpin, has flown in from Nairobi for Sunday’s tie but misses some games due to the daunting logistics of her career as an Africa programme manager for the Prince’s Trust.

Reay remains as unfazed as she once was within the penalty area. “You can only ask such a lot of players who aren’t paid,” she says. “But the unbeaten run’s a source of pride; we would like to increase it against Birmingham.”