RACHEL FURNESS says Reading Women’s ambition was what convinced her to leave her hometown behind and make the move down south.
Furness joins the Royals from WSL 1 rivals Sunderland Women having spent 10 years playing for the Lady Black Cats across two spells, becoming the second winter arrival following the signing of Holland captain Mandy van den Berg from Liverpool Ladies.
Apart from brief loan spells in Lincoln and a summer over in Iceland, Furness has spent her entire life in the north east with a four-year spell at Newcastle United Women separating her stints at Sunderland.
But at 28, the Northern Ireland international feels now is the right time to try something new.
“I’m really excited to get going,” Furness told The Wokingham Paper.
“I came for my medical on Friday and signed then so it’s been a quick turnaround, packing up my life at the weekend and heading down for good on Monday.
“It’s been a quick turnaround in that sense but the last few weeks I’ve been in talks with Reading and I suppose I knew I was coming down but obviously it wasn’t 100% confirmed until Friday just gone.”
She added: “I’ve had six or seven months away from home when I played football in Iceland.
“I’ve got a little bit of family down here so that’s helped but it is going to be a big change and a big move for myself.
“But why not? Why not jump out of my comfort zone and challenge myself? It will only be a good thing.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of the team and I’m taking it all in my stride and working
hard. Sunderland is not going anywhere so I might as well grab this opportunity with both hands and take it while I can.”
Midfielder Furness was a big part of the Sunderland side which rose all the way through the leagues, peaking at fourth in WSL 1 in 2015.
But with the club announcing last week that players are set to revert to part-time training, Furness is even more convinced she has made the right choice.
“The ambition of Reading is one of the things that attracted me,” she said.
“They obviously want to strengthen from last season and they’re not happy with just surviving in WSL.
“After speaking with Kelly (Chambers), the ambition of the club and wanting to get signings in, it’s very positive.”
She continued: “Sunderland will always have a place in my heart. It’s where I’m from and all the girls that have wished me all the best for Reading are some of my best friends as well.
“I had kind of already decided before that announcement from Sunderland.
“I just feel as though it was time for a change. I did want a new challenge.
“Obviously with that news coming last week, it did kind of show that it was the right decision for myself at the time. I do ultimately want to play full-time football.
“I’m very grateful that Reading have given me that opportunity.”
She continued: “I’ll try not to say a lot on it because it’s affected a lot of my close friends but it’s going to be very difficult for Sunderland to compete only being part-time coming up against full-time teams.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for them. I hope in the next 12 months that Sunderland Football Club do realise that the way forward is full-time football.”
Royals currently only have one striker on their books in Wales international Melissa Fletcher so could Furness manage to persuade 2015 golden boot winner Beth Mead to follow her down from the north east?
She said: “I know she’s still in contract at Sunderland but I obviously would love a quality striker like Beth here.
“If she did end up following me down it would only be a great thing for Reading!”