Courtney Sweetman-Kirk believes Sheffield United Women making progress as FA Women’s Championship strengthens

Despite what the league table shows, Sheffield United Women have made progress this year, insists forward Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.

Blades women currently sit seventh in the 12-team FA Women’s Championship with four games remaining.

Last season they were fourth, the year before, second and just six points off the one promotion place into the Women’s Super League.

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On the face of it, it looks a backward step. But Sweetman-Kirk, the 31-year-old who cites Leicester City, Everton and Liverpool in a long list of former clubs, is unequivocal in her belief that progress is not as black and white as mere positions.

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk of Sheffield United reacts during the Barclays FA Women's Championship match between Sheffield United Women and Liverpool Women at Bramall Lane. (Picture: George Wood - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

“Without a doubt we’re making progress,” insisted Sweetman-Kirk. “A lot of that is down to the staff and to (manager) Neil Redfearn, not just on the pitch but off it as well where he’s a very process-driven individual.

“It’s easy to look at the table but there’s a lot more to it.

“When you’re looking at the points that we’ve got actually we’re not that far off. If we’d have won against Sunderland last week the table would look a lot different.

“There’s every potential we could still finish third or fourth depending on how our games go, and you’ve also got to look at the bigger picture in terms of the number of teams in the league that have gone full-time.

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk of Sheffield United believes the FA Women's Championship is getting stronger (Photo by George Wood - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

“Unfortunately we’re not full-time, so it’s not an excuse, but it does play its part. So actually we’re very similar, and still progressing, it’s just what is happening around us is different to what happened last year.

“Hopefully, eventually, the Championship goes completely full-time and that makes the transition easier for the teams that do get promoted up to the WSL.

“At the moment it’s still a sizeable gap and we need to make sure that’s sustainable for the overall sustainability for the women’s game.”

Redfearn’s Blades can prove Sweetman-Kirk’s assertion that they are not far off in their penultimate home game of the season on Saturday against Bristol City Women at Chesterfield’s Technique Stadium (12.30pm).

City are currently second, eight points behind runaway leaders Liverpool but just nine ahead of United in seventh.

“It’s obviously a big game, Bristol have gone on a five-game unbeaten run and before we lost last weekend we’d gone seven unbeaten,” said Sweetman-Kirk, whose side can climb to fourth with a win before the rest of the league plays tomorrow.

“Because we’ve got a small squad, when you take players out of that we struggle. But we’ve been on a good run because we’ve trusted in the process.

“If we’ve got everyone back this week, a full week of training, hopefully we’ll get a good result.

“The marketing team behind the scenes have been working hard, the weather’s going to be nice as well, it’s going to be a free week for the men’s team so hopefully we’ll see a good number of fans come down on Saturday.”