Sunderland AFC Ladies has completed the signing of Grace Ede.
The midfielder joins Melanie Reay’s first-team squad from the club’s Regional Talent Centre (RTC) for the remainder of the 2021-22 season, signing terms from her 16th birthday on 6 October.
The England Under-17 international will wear the number 16 shirt at the club in tribute to her signing, and bolsters Reay’s side as a homegrown addition, having previously been a mascot and ballgirl during her youth years on Wearside.
Having completed the step up from the RTC to the senior squad, Ede said: “I’m over the moon to be part of the team and to get started at this level.
“It’s a new challenge for me and I’m really excited to get started and play with the girls.
“We’ve had a good start to the season, so hopefully we can keep moving forward in the league.”
Reay also expressed her delight at securing the teenager to her side and demonstrating the potential opportunities available to the club’s RTC players, adding: “It’s really important for the girls to have that pathway.
“The RTC have done a fantastic job in terms of producing players in the past, and Grace is another excellent example. To step up at such a young age into the first-team group is a really special moment for her and her family, and we’ll continue to develop her in the most beneficial way.
“I’m a big believer that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. It’s really important I believe to give youth a chance, and for Grace to learn from the players who have previously taken that pathway will be great for her. It's also a message to everyone else in the RTC that I am monitoring them closely and if they’re good enough, they are going to get the opportunity to play.”
Jamie Wright, Technical Director of the SAFC RTC, said: “From all of the staff at the RTC and the Foundation of Light, we say a huge congratulations to Grace on her selection for SAFC Ladies.
“It is an incredibly proud moment for her and her family, made extra special that the signing is on her 16th birthday and that she is currently away with the England U17 squad.
“The Sunderland RTC has a rich heritage of developing girls’ football in the North East. We are a real powerhouse of talent, and we’re immensely proud that three of our girls were selected for U17 duty this week and eight of the current Lionesses squad have come through our programmes. Grace is one of many RTC players which we hope will continue to progress through into the first-team setup in the coming months.”