Northern Ireland women’s football team: A potted history

Northern Ireland Women’s Football Team – Matches

EngvNI1982small

This is a list of matches played by the Northern Ireland women’s national football team.

It is not yet complete and remains something of a work in progress because records are still very sketchy. For example, there may well have been some more low-key, cross-border matches against the Republic.

 

The politics and history of male football dictated that Northern Ireland must field its own ‘national’ team, despite not being a country.

Other factors to do with religion meant that women’s football developed even more slowly here than in Britain and the rest of Ireland. For example, all Sunday football was banned in Northern Ireland until 2007.

A female “international side of some description” took on Scotland in 1974 and were casually drubbed 11–1. There were only four women’s club teams active in the Six Counties at that time.

On 7 September 1973 a Northern Ireland team lost 5–1 to England at Twerton Park in Bath, England’s first match under floodlights.

Ireland were not represented at the Pony Home International Championship, which was fought out by England, Scotland and Wales in May 1976.

The Northern Ireland Ladies Football Association began with a meeting in the Post Office Youth Club, College Square, Belfast, November 26, 1976, where Mary McVeigh was sworn in as the first Chair.

The first “official” NILFA-sanctioned match was played in 1977 against the Republic – a 6–0 defeat.

In July-August 1982 a “Northern Ireland All Star” X1 toured America, returning the favour of the “American Thunderbirds” who visited NI in 1980.

England great Gillian Coultard “had a bad game in Belfast once, when the place got to her, the atmosphere of the troubles” according to Pete Davies’ I lost my heart to the Belles (p. 270)

The game—England’s 4–0 win in May 1983—was played at Crusaders FC’s Seaview Ground on the notorious Shore Road in inner city Belfast. A couple of years previously an IRA gunman had shot dead a member of the RUC, Northern Ireland’s militarised security force, at the stadium gates.

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Teams probably did not want to visit, due to the boneheads who, aided and abetted by the UK government, turned this beautiful part of the world into a notorious sectarian toilet.

There were exceptions, like Belgium who popped up to Ballymena after a game in Dublin in October 1980. Or the ever-neutral Swiss, who departed Belfast with a 2–0 win in June 1984.

Northern Ireland competed in the first two editions of UEFA’s ‘European Competition for Women’s Football’, in 1984 and 1987, but finished bottom of the qualifying group on both occasions.

Their coach in the first series was Tony Bell, who scored a famous Cup-winning goal for Cliftonville – Ireland’s oldest club – in 1979.

Bell’s sidekick was Paul Malone, another ‘face’ on the local soccer circuit, whose wife Evelyn was a prolific striker with MacDee Bluebirds and an experienced member of the national team panel.

Bell and Malone quit to focus on their Irish League exploits, leaving Eugene McGeehan to take the reins for the 1985–1987 cycle.

McGeehan seemed mildly surprised that England turned up for the home qualifier in May 1985. “Your courage in coming ensures a victory we can all share,” gushed his programme notes.

England’s manager Martin Reagan (ex-British Army) and striker/police officer Linda Curl, in particular, may have come under the Provisional IRA’s nutty concept of a ‘legitimate target’.

Fortunately the event passed under the Provos’ radar, as it did for all but the most dedicated women’s footy fan.

The 200 or so hardy souls who braved driving rain at Allen Park cheered a sumptuous free-kick goal from Post Office Dynamos’ Gillian Wilson, but the team had already shipped eight to their English foes.

For the 1989 tournament, UEFA’s Women’s Committee scrapped the regionalised British and Irish qualification groups. Instead Northern Ireland were drawn alongside England, Norway, Denmark and Finland, only to pull out due to a lack of financial backing.

Perhaps the top player in this era was Gill Wylie, a big centre-half who started out at Bangor-based Clucas Strikers. She graduated from Queen’s University in 1988 and joined Arsenal Ladies from Tottenham in 1991.

In I lost my heart to the Belles she reportedly informed Donny’s Karen Walker: “I’ll miss ye, mucker, so I will.”

Wylie backstopped Arsenal to a treble in 1992–93 but her knee was badly crocked at a preseason tourney in summer 1995.

She moved on to Croydon and kept piling up silverware. When the club moved to Charlton Athletic in 2000 and Debbie Bampton quit, Wylie briefly took over as gaffer.

Although the below list is incomplete, it’s clear that for most of the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s the Irish Football Association did not deign to put a team out.

This had the effect that some of the North’s better players decided to represent the Republic of Ireland. Striker Laura Hislop (nickname: “Shaka”) was one such player, who turned out for the Republic despite playing her club football for “Shankill Predators” whose moniker sounded like a loyalist murder gang!

It’s not known if these players were put under the same sort of pressure as their male counterparts like Darron Gibson and James McClean. Or if it helped provoke the Irish Football Association (IFA) into finally doing the bare minimum and resurrecting their own women’s team.

The IFA made a costly legal challenge to Northern-born male players turning out for the Republic, which eventually ended in total and humiliating defeat at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Alfie Wylie, coach of Linfield FC men and an IFA flunkey (Linfield has a traditionally cosy relationship with the governing body) was put in nominal charge of the rebooted women’s team who paid their own way to the 2004 Algarve Cup.

Soccer great Neil Lennon, whose own Northern Ireland career was ended by home crowd bigots, quietly chipped in with £250 towards goalie Christine Drain’s costs.14

At The Algarve Cup Northern Ireland were placed in Group C, a remedial group for developing women’s football outposts, and finished plum last.

But the event’s usual feeding frenzy of scouts saw several of the more able Irish players handed soccer scholarships to American Universities.

This list of matches finishes in 2005, when, as it were, normal service was resumed and the NI team started competing in competitive fixtures again.

Postscript: In November 2011 Northern Ireland suddenly threw off their long history of neglect and failure with an astonishing 3–1 home win over former European, World and Olympic Champions Norway.

Still things did not improve and Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín gave the IFA a stark wake-up call in April 2014: telling them their funding would be axed unless they stopped treating women’s football with utter contempt.

1970s


(Northern Ireland score is listed first)

1973:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
7 September Twerton Park, Bath (A) England 1–5 Friendly Sharon Gillespie

1974:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
30 June (A) Republic of Ireland 1–4 Friendly 2
23 November Kilbowie Park, Clydebank (A) Scotland 1–11 Friendly Lorraine Carey 1

1977:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
26 February Larne (H) Scotland 1–3 Friendly
? Dublin (A) Republic of Ireland 0–6 Friendly 3

1978:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers
13 May Inver Park, Larne (H) Republic of Ireland 1–1 Friendly Lorraine Johnston (pen.)
28 May Warout Stadium, Glenrothes (A) Scotland 1–2 Friendly Evelyn Malone

1979:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
24 February Larne (H) Scotland 1–3 Friendly
3 June Dixon Park, Ballyclare (H) Scotland 0–3 Friendly
18 July Naples (A) Italy 1–4 or 0–4 1979 Euro 4
20 July Naples (N) Norway 1–4 1979 Euro
25 November Cwmbran Stadium, Cwmbran (A) Wales 2–2 Friendly

1980s


1980:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
14 June Showgrounds, Newry (H) Republic of Ireland 2–1 Friendly
31 August Markets Field, Limerick (A) Republic of Ireland 0–0 Friendly
25 October Showgrounds, Ballymena (H) Belgium 2–3 or 0–3 Friendly 5

1981:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
? August Inver Park, Larne (H) Republic of Ireland 2–1 Friendly

1982:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
4 September Belfast (H) Scotland 1–2 1984 Euro qual. Geraldine Smyth 6
19 September Gresty Road, Crewe (A) England 1–7 1984 Euro qual. Gillian Totten
2 October Newtownards (H) Republic of Ireland 1–2 1984 Euro qual. Geraldine Smyth

1983:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
17 April Glasgow (A) Scotland 0–3 1984 Euro qual.
14 May Seaview, Belfast (H) England 0–4 1984 Euro qual.
23 October Dublin (A) Republic of Ireland 2–3 1984 Euro qual.

1984:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
28 June Ashley Park, Dunmurray (H) Switzerland 0–2 Friendly

1985:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
5 May Glenmalure Park, Dublin (A) Republic of Ireland 0–1 1987 Euro qual.
25 May Allen Park, Antrim (H) England 1–8 1987 Euro qual. Gillian Wilson
2 November Allen Park, Antrim (H) Republic of Ireland 1–1 Friendly Fiona Glendinning
23 November ‘Junior National Stadium’, Sydenham, Belfast (H) Scotland 1–9 1987 Euro qual.

1986:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
16 March Ewood Park, Blackburn (A) England 0–10 1987 Euro qual.
20 April United Park, Drogheda (A) Republic of Ireland ?–? Friendly
25 May Boghead Park, Dumbarton (A) Scotland 0–7 1987 Euro qual.
30 August Belfast (H) Republic of Ireland 0–1 1987 Euro qual.

1987:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
11 April Elland Road, Leeds (A) England 0–6 Friendly

1988:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
26 November Tolka Park, Dublin (A) Republic of Ireland 0–2 Friendly

1989:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
9 December Clandeboye Park, Bangor (H) Republic of Ireland 0–1 1991 Euro qual.

1990s


1990:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
21 April Stair Park, Stranraer (A) Scotland 1–4 Friendly O’Neill
17 March or 19 March Solitude, Belfast (H) Netherlands 0–6 1991 Euro qual. 7
22 September Sportpark Eikendijk, Kaatsheuvel (A) Netherlands 0–9 1991 Euro qual.
7 October Dublin (A) Republic of Ireland 0–4 1991 Euro qual.

1993:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
17 October Ray MacSharry Park, Sligo (A) Republic of Ireland  0–2 Friendly

1995:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
3 September United Park, Drogheda (A) Republic of Ireland  0–6 Friendly

1996:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
? October Republic of Ireland Friendly 15

1997:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
6 June Belfast (H) Wales 1–2 Friendly

1999:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
29 May Lansdowne Road, Dublin (A) Republic of Ireland 1–1 Friendly (20 mins each way) Claire Rea 16
19 July? Coleraine (H) Republic of Ireland ?–? Friendly 14

2000s


2000:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
22 September Carryduff (H) Isle of Man 6–0 or 7–0 Celt Cup 8
23 September Carryduff (H) Republic of Ireland 0–2 Celt Cup
29 November David Keswick Centre, Dumfries (A) Scotland 0–9 Friendly

2004:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
14 March Estádio de São Luís, Faro (A) Portugal 0–2 Algarve Cup
16 March Estádio Municipal, Albufeira (N) Greece 0–2 Algarve Cup
18 March Complexo Desportivo Arsénio Catuna, Guia (N) Wales 1–3 Algarve Cup Kimberley Turner
20 March Hotel Montechoro Fields, Albufeira (N) Greece 0–2 Algarve Cup 9

2005:

Date Venue Opponents Score Competition Northern Ireland scorers Notes
9 March Estádio Municipal, Paderne (N) England 0–4 Algarve Cup
11 March Estádio de São Luís, Faro (N) Mexico 0–2 Algarve Cup
13 March Estádio Municipal, Lagos (A) Portugal 2–1 Algarve Cup Stacey Hall, Ashley Hutton or Ashleen Kealey 10
15 March Hotel Montechoro Fields, Albufeira (N) Portugal 1–3 Algarve Cup Sarah McFadden 11
31 July McDiarmid Park, Perth (A) Scotland 1–2 Friendly Helen McKenna
29 October Stadionul Mogosoaia, Mogosoaia (A) Romania 2–3 2007 World Cup qual. Rachel Furness, Stacey Hall 12
10 November Showgrounds, Ballymena (H) Slovakia 2–1 2007 World Cup qual. Lisa O’Neill, Rachel Furness 13

Update 15 April 2015: Article amended with 1977 Republic of Ireland result (0–6) supplied by Mark Cruickshank of The Roon Ba forum (see comments).

Update 18 October 2015: Article amended with 1974 Scotland result (1–11) supplied by Neil Morrison of The Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (see comments).

1. Andy Mitchell’s The Scotland International Programme Guide (2008) suggested this match was staged in Clydebank, The England v NI match programme 19.9.82 suggested Larne.

2. Sue Lopez’s Women on the Ball (1997:153) said the Republic of Ireland’s first ever game was a 4–1 win over NI in 1973. Date and venue unknown. Ann Bourke’s Women’s Football in the Republic of Ireland: Past Events and Future Prospects in Hong and Mangan (2003) says the game was in 1974 and that the Republic won 4–0 before 100 spectators.

3. Sue Lopez’s Women on the Ball (1997:145) said NI’s first ever game was against the Republic in 1977. The NIWFA was formed in November 1976.

4. The Italian FA say Italy won 4–0. Erik Garin’s Inofficial European Women Championship 1979 webpage at RSSSF (2000) suggested Italy won 4–1.

5. The England v NI match programme 19.9.82 suggested NI lost 3–2. Belgian FA records indicate Belgium won 3–0 and that the match was staged in nearby Ahoghill.

6. First match in UEFA Competition.

7. FIFA records indicate 17 March (St. Patrick’s Day). Dutch FA records indicate 19 March.

8. Not a full FIFA international. First win? Erik Garin’s 1st Celt Cup – Women Tournament – 2000 webpage at RSSSF (2003) suggested 6–0. NIFG webpage suggests either 6–0 or 7–0.

9. An 11th place playoff: NI finished 12th of 12 teams in the annual Algarve Cup tournament.

10. Portuguese FA and the BBC credited the second goal to Hutton. RSSSF credited it to Kealey. First senior win according to Irish FA.

11. An 11th place playoff: NI again finished 12th of 12 teams in the annual Algarve Cup tournament.

12. First competitive fixture for over 15 years. First competitive goal for nearly 20 years.

13. First win in a competitive fixture.

14. Drain had herself declared for the Republic in 1999 after playing three times for NI. But she agreed to switch back when the Northern team started up again in 2004. A Daily Mirror article from August 1999 said the last of Drain’s three caps came in a friendly versus the Republic in a curtain raiser to that summer’s Milk Cup (an annual youth tournament in NI). She and another Northern-born Republic player Nadine McGrory moonlighted as a favour to the NIWFA who were struggling to put out a team.

15. A Daily Mirror article in October 1997 said Margaret Saurin scored on her senior Ireland debut against Northern Ireland 12 months previously.

16. A curtain raiser to the men’s ‘Peace International’ between the Irish teams, raising funds for the Omagh bombing.

Administrator: June Jaycocks

June Jaycocks: WFA Footsoldier

June Jaycocks smiling outside Rediffusion's building, shaking hands with and accepting a cheque from the company's manager

Born: c.1936, Brighton
Position:
Debut: N/A
Occupation: Telephonist? (1967)

An influential player in the formation of the WFA in 1969. She served as WFA International Officer for many years and was another dedicated volunteer who kept women’s football going despite a chronic lack of funding or official support.

The personable Jaycocks always went down well with players, sponsors and the male suits at the FA. Wendy Owen (2005) recalled: “I remember June as having a warm, lively personality and a great sense of humour which made her very popular with the players.”

In Women on the Ball (1997) Sue Lopez gave Pat Gregory‘s account of Jaycocks: “June worked tirelessly for the game right from the very start in 1969. One of the enduring memories of her, though, is the way she could get through to some of the stuffy gentleman officials where others had failed – just by smiling. They’d melt at her smile every time.”

The WFA’s shoestring operation was kept afloat by the efforts of a hardy band of volunteers, with Jaycocks a key player. She was equally at home mucking in with Flo Bilton‘s endless sewing of kits and caps, or beaming for the cameras while taking cheques off sponsors. She filled various other WFA roles over the years, serving as vice–Chair and vice–Secretary.

Jaycocks quit as International Officer in 1991, following two very poorly attended friendly matches against USSR at The Dell in Southampton and Brighton’s Goldstone Ground. Genial, pipe-smoking England manager Barrie Williams also legged it as the WFA began to unravel.

Much loved husband Gerald “Jimmy” Jaycocks passed away in 2008.

It now seems barmy, but what Jaycocks and others at the WFA achieved was revolutionary. There were still many bigots who hated the idea of women playing football, and would stop at nothing to grind the whole thing into dust. The determination to hang in there and chip, chip, chip away at such hardened attitudes kept the flame of women’s football flickering in this country. Not even the FA’s disastrous Year Zero approach from 1993 could stamp out the advances fought for and won off the field by Jaycocks and her WFA comrades.

Legacy: Brighton & Hove Albion W.F.C.

Jaycocks was a player on the Brighton GPO team which formed in 1967 from workers at the Post Office’s telephone exchange. In 1969 they were founder members of the Sussex Martlet League, which Jaycocks chaired.

In 1975–76 Brighton & Hove Albion reached the Women’s FA Cup semi final, but were beaten 8–1 by Southampton WFC. They faced Belle Vue Belles (soon to be Donny Belles) in the third place play–off, oddly played immediately after the Southampton v QPR final at Bedford Town FC.

The club scooped a sponsorship deal with sports retailer Clapshaw and Cleave Sports, becoming known as C&C Sports during the 1979–80 season. In 1990 they linked up with Brighton and Hove Albion men’s club, changed their name again, and joined the inaugural National League in 1991, in Division One (South).

Julie Hemsley (England player 1982 and Assistant Manager 1993–95) played for and managed the club, while Sue Law featured before joining Millwall Lionesses in 1987. The tennis player Julie Salmon played too. In 1993–94 Brighton turned up at Belle Vue for an FA Women’s Cup match and were horsed 5–1 by the Belles. Brighton boasted the talents of Angie Banks (a striker later with Arsenal and England), while future England players Alex Cottier and Donna Smith were also in the squad.

In 2013 the club was competing at FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division level. They threw their hat in the ring for WSL 2 in 2014, but received a knock–back.

Despite that setback and the inevitable exodus of players to WSL clubs, Brighton remained ambitious to dine at the top table. Their ‘Elite Women and Girls Football Manager’ Tracy Doe had been an England international and an excellent striker in the successful Maidstone, Howbury Grange and Millwall Lionesses sides of the 80s.

Match: England 0–2 Sweden, 23 May 1989, Wembley

Wembley Stadium 23 May 1989 – England 0–2 Sweden

Old foes Sweden put one over on England AGAIN

Classic match report: The story of England women’s first football match at Wembley Stadium

Two women footballers challenge for the ball in the bottom right of the picture

In May 1989 England lost their first full match at Wembley Stadium to goals from Swedish greats Pia Sundhage (6) and Lena Videkull (58). The pesky Swedes had previously handed England their first ever defeat in 1975, beat them on penalties in the inaugural 1984 Euro Championship final and edged them out of the 1987 Euro semi-final 3–2 after extra-time.

Background


This match marked the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Football Association (WFA) and was played as a curtain-raiser to the men’s Rous Cup game with Chile. It was the last edition of the Stanley Rous Cup, which had been mired in farce throughout its short history. Stanley Rous was an English former president of FIFA who hated women’s football and was eventually jettisoned for his sickening pro-Apartheid stance.

Three days earlier over 80,000 Scousers had descended on Wembley for the men’s FA Cup final. For the Tuesday night match with Chile, a record low of 15,628 turned out. Those who surmounted a tube strike to get there were subjected to what The Times called a “derisory joke” of a match. England’s understrength men drew 0–0 with Chile, who were only there because numerous other nations had snubbed the invite. An out-of-his-depth John Fashanu delivering a trademark elbow-smash to a hapless Chilean defender was the nadir of a truly grim spectacle.

The Swedish FA gave an attendance figure of 3,150 for the preceding women’s match, which made for an eery atmosphere at the famous old venue. The women, though, served up much more entertaining fayre than their male counterparts. In warm sunshine beneath the twin towers, Sweden’s tough and experienced team, well drilled by pioneering female boss Gunilla Paijkull, soaked up English pressure and twice picked-off their opponents on the break.

Match


ENGLAND
1. Theresa Wiseman
2. Joanne Broadhurst
3. Janice Murray
4. Debbie Bampton (c)
5. Jackie Sherrard
6. Gillian Coultard
7. Hope Powell
8. Brenda Sempare
9. Marieanne Spacey
10.Kerry Davis
11.Jane Stanley

Substitutes:
12.Linda Curl
14.Karen Walker
15.Maria Harper
17.Tracey Davidson

Coach:
Martin Reagan

SVERIGE
Elisabeth Leidinge .1
Camilla Fors .2
Marie Karlsson .3
Anette Hansson .4
Eva Zeikfalvy .5
Åsa Persson .6
(c) Ingrid Johansson .7
Helén Johansson .8
Pia Sundhage .9
Ulrika Kalte.10
Lena Videkull.11

Substitutes:
(n/u) Marina Persson.12
Pia Syrén.13
Camilla Andersson.14
Eleonor Hultin.15
Malin Swedberg.16

Coach:
Gunilla Paijkull

England’s defence had a makeshift look. Regular right-back Sue Law of Millwall Lionesses was still recovering from a shoulder operation. Solent’s Clare Lambert and Town & County’s Jackie Slack were named in the team published in the morning papers, but neither made the starting line-up. Instead Donny Belles’ Jo Broadhurst and Leasowe’s Jan Murray—both happier playing further forward—were drafted in as wing-backs. It was ‘Psycho’ Murray’s international debut.

Kerry Davis of Napoli and Jane Stanley of Filey led the line, with Linda Curl (Norwich) and Karen Walker (Donny Belles) later emerging from the bench. Leasowe midfielder Maz Harper and second-choice keeper Tracey Davidson, of Donny Belles, were also given substitute outings on Wembley’s hallowed turf.

Ballwinners Gillian Coultard, Jackie Sherrard (both Donny Belles) and captain Debbie Bampton (Millwall Lionesses) were tasked with keeping Sweden out. Friends of Fulham trio Marieanne Spacey, Brenda Sempare and Hope Powell provided the creative flair. At the time Sempare’s skill, vision and positional sense marked her out as one of Europe’s best midfielders. Spacey had jetted back from her loan spell at Finland’s HJK Helsinki to participate.

Goalie Terry Wiseman of Friends of Fulham won her 50th cap. She was beaten after only six minutes when Pia Sundhage scored with a looping header, just as she had in the 1984 final first-leg in Gothenburg.

The report by Times correspondent Andrew Longmore describes England’s “extraordinary profligacy in front of goal”. This was duly punished when deadly striker Lena Videkull lashed in a cross from Helén Johansson on 58 minutes. Helén’s twin sister Ingrid was the Swedish skipper.

Legacy


Sue Lopez wrote in her book (1997) that the shambolic staging of this match enraged the Swedish FA and UEFA bigwig Lennart Johansson. Their complaints apparently shamed the FA in influencial circles and hastened the demise of the WFA. Lopez did not reveal what in particular about the WFA’s shoestring operation had riled the famously placid Scandinavians.

After getting humiliating public knock-backs from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Spain and a host of other names, the increasingly desperate English and Scottish FAs needed someone, anyone, to attend their flagging Rous tournament. It is easy to imagine they seriously greased the palms of the Chileans to save further embarrassment. No doubt the Chilean delegation got put up in a top hotel, given fat cigars, suitcases full of cash and fur coats for their wives. Meanwhile the Swedish FA mandarins over for the women’s fixture—still fully-fledged members of a fellow FIFA association—were curtly pointed in the direction of the WFA. If they were lucky, they might have got a couple of soggy sandwiches and some supermarket own-brand crisps!

The Swedish men’s team were in the same qualification group as England for the men’s World Cup and had been at Wembley the previous October, for another 0–0 bore draw. On that occasion it was the Swedish hangers-on who got the red carpet treatment, which probably brought the no-frills setup at this women’s match into sharp relief.

Sweden had finished runners-up to Norway in a prototype World Cup held eleven months earlier. The bulk of their Wembley team went on to compete at the first FIFA-sanctioned World Cup in China ’91, where they finished third.

England had pluckily won the 1988 Mundialito tournament in Italy. But they did not even qualify for China after being badly mauled 6–1 by West Germany in Euro 1991. With England in serious decline compared to other countries who were getting proper support from their national association, veteran coach Martin Reagan was harshly sacked after the Germany result. Reagan had spent several years telling everyone exactly what modest work needed to be done in order to keep up. Sadly those with the clout to make it happen did not lift a finger.

The England team did not evolve, partly because the stony-broke WFA shut down their under-21 team. Until 1991 there was no national league. Doncaster Belles, who supplied five of the 15 at Wembley, routinely walloped local opposition and were only tested in the later rounds of the national cup. Belles and England netminder Tracey Davidson would spend entire league games walking a dog behind the goal and drinking cups of cocoa to keep her hands warm.

The FA finally put the WFA out of its misery and took over direct control of women’s football in 1993. After many more wasted years, it was not until Hope Powell—England’s midfield schemer in this match—took the reins as coach that some painfully slow, incremental progress began to be made.

And finally…


This match is recorded as England’s first FULL match at Wembley because of another debacle… 1987–88 saw the Football League arrange its centenary celebrations, which for some reason were overseen by colourful Chelsea chairman Ken Bates. Mercantile Credit were roped in as sponsors but pitiful attendances saw the League clubs absorbing huge losses. The WFA lined up Holland for a friendly as part of the main event at Wembley. The Dutch FA (KNVB), when informed at late notice that their slot was only 15 minutes each-way, were fuming and wanted no part of such nonsense. Ireland, who like England lacked the support of their national FA, had no such scruples and the mini game went ahead.

Players: Paddy McGroarty

Margaret “Paddy” McGroarty

McGroartyP

Born: c.1948, Scotland?

Position: Midfield

Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972

Occupation: Booking clerk (1972)

A small and skilful but tough attacking midfielder or playmaker in England’s first national team. Like Kim Little 40 years later, she was an archetypal “tanner ba’ player” in the classic Scottish traditions.

Often hailed as “the George Best of women’s football”, McGroarty was a cousin of Best’s Manchester United teammate Paddy Crerand. Of Glasgow Irish stock, she was described as “very Scottish” by Wendy Owen (2005) who remained unsure of her pal’s qualification to play for England.1

At 24 McGroarty was one of the older players to make it through the trials into Eric Worthington’s first England team. Footage from Bisham Abbey shows a gallus number 6 charging about in what looks suspiciously like Glasgow Celtic’s hoops.

McGroarty briefly entered a convent in her youth, and was later in the British Army stationed at Bicester. Trashy tabloid The Sun dressed her up in nun garb for promo photos, infuriating the Women’s Football Association in the process.

On the bus to Greenock for England’s historic first ever match, japester McGroarty demanded her team mates produce their passports for the border. Naive teen Wendy Owen was like a cat on a hot tin roof before being let in on the gag. McGroarty started the match and helped England clinch their historic 3–2 win.

She scored twice in England’s 8–0 win over her fellow Scots at Nuneaton, on 23 June 1973. She hit the winner in a 1–0 defeat of the Dutch at Reading’s Elm Park on 9 November 1973, England’s first match on a Football League ground.

Another two goals for McGroarty followed in England’s 5–0 win over Wales at Slough Town in March 1974.

At club level McGroarty represented Cambuslang Hooverettes, Buckingham, Thame and Queens Park Rangers.

A curious one-v-one sudden death penalty shootout between Southampton’s Sue Lopez and Hooverettes’ McGroarty decided the 1970 Deal Tournament. Saints goalie Sue Buckett saved future England teammate McGroarty’s first effort and saw the second kick missed. Lopez also missed her first kick but gave Southampton their first trophy with her second.

McGroarty turned out for Buckingham Ladies after moving to the South East of England but soon left for Thame Ladies in search of a better standard of football in the Home Counties League.

At Thame she played in a WFA Cup semi-final defeat to Southampton in 1972 and a third place play-off defeat to Leicester Emgals, played as a curtain-raiser to the final.

Thame were a team on the up but they lacked basic facilities: after one blood and thunder cup tie the muddy players had to be hosed down pitchside, like barnyard animals.

Boasting the talents of McGroarty and pal “Big Wendy” (Owen), they won the final edition of the Deal Tournament in 1972.

With QPR McGroarty featured in the classic series of three consecutive WFA Cup finals against Southampton in 1976, 1977 and 1978.

She scored a free kick equaliser in the 1976 final to force extra-time but QPR lost 2–1.

The next year QPR were back and McGroarty proudly captained the Hoops to their hard fought 1–0 win in the final at Dulwich Hamlet FC.

A report in The Guardian, bearing the dubious headline Bridge of thighs, called McGroarty: “a busy little whippet… the best player on the field”.

Meeting again the following season, QPR were thumped 8–2 in the 1978 final at Slough Town. Saints’ Pat Chapman ran riot and hit a double hat-trick.

Unbridled speculation without any factual basis

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) belatedly lifted its woman-ban in 1974–75. Despite superb form McGroarty does not seem to have played for England after this.

A result of greetin’ from notoriously sleekit Scots blazers?

Sensitivity around football’s ‘Home Nations’ – a jealously-guarded carve-up – was an issue long before politics blocked Team GB’s rightful place at the 2016 Olympics.


1. Another of Paddy Crerand’s cousins, Charlie Gallagher, became the first Scots-born player to be selected by the Republic of Ireland in 1967. Gallagher had already represented Scotland at under-18 level, but remained eligible for Ireland due to his Donegal parentage.

Players: Jackie Sherrard

Jackie Sherrard: “The best pure footballer at the Belles”

Head and shoulders shot of a smiling young woman with short curly brown hair in a white t shirt with red and blue stripes

Born: 9 June 1966, Belper
Position: Centre-half, midfielder
Debut: Sweden (H) 30 October 1983
Occupation: Production clerk (1987), Clerical supervisor (1991), Materials and systems manager (1994)

A gifted all-round sportswoman who reportedly played field hockey for England at under 21 level. Turning her attentions to football, she became a key figure for England and in the classic Doncaster Belles team of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Growing up in Jacksdale, a Nottinghamshire mining village, Sherrard played street football with the boys. One lad, Tony Hill, grew up to pen a soporific memoir about his love of Manchester United: If the kids are United (1999). An otherwise forgettable tome at least had the grace to recognise Sherrard’s achievements:

I used to play football regularly with an England International, Championship and FA Cup winner. Her name was Jackie Sherrard, and we used to play on the local rec as kids. No one even questioned that she wanted to play football with the lads; she was always one of the first to be picked when selecting teams and could run rings round most of us. And of all the lads dreaming of becoming a footballer and playing in the FA Cup Final, the only one of us to make it was a girl.

Sherrard played her early club football for the prototypal Nottingham Forest then Arnold LFC, before joining Doncaster Belles in 1982. She could play as a centre-half or in central midfield.

Donny won the WFA Cup for the first time that season — seeing off St Helens 3–2 in the final at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank stadium.

In those days the route to the national team was through regional trial matches and Sherrard represented the Notts League and the Midland Region.

Martin Reagan gave 18-year-old Sherrard an England debut on 30 October 1983, in a 2–2 friendly draw with Sweden at The Valley.

But she was not selected for the Euro 84 final stages. Reagan kept faith with an experienced back five containing Sherrard’s club-mate Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb) and Angie Gallimore, who had played in the qualifiers.

Three years later she played for England in Euro 87 in Norway, starting the semi-final at Melløs Stadion versus Sweden in the number 7 shirt. England surrendered the lead to lose 3–2 after extra time, following a two-goal salvo from Gunilla Axén. Some sources credit Sherrard with England’s second goal.1

After their win in 1983, Donny Belles suffered three successive heart-breaking defeats in WFA Cup finals. They returned to Sincil Bank in 1984 but were beaten 4–2 by Kent outfit Howbury Grange, captained by Debbie Bampton and managed by her dad Albert.

In 1985 Donny lost 2–0 to Friends of Fulham on enemy territory at Craven Cottage. Although Hynes and McAdam got the goals, the game became known as the ‘Sempare Final’ after a legendary performance from Fulham and England midfielder Brenda Sempare.

1986 saw Donny losing to Norwich Ladies by the odd goal in seven, in another de facto away match at Carrow Road. Luckless Sherrard had started all three defeats.

Sherrard hit the opening goal in the 1987 WFA Cup final versus St. Helens at the City Ground in Nottingham. Tracey Davidson saved a penalty from Saints’ Alison Leatherbarrow before Karen Walker sealed a 2–0 win for Donny in the second half. The final whistle sparked jubilant scenes.

The Belles’ win had been inspired by the return of Prodigal Daughter Gillian Coultard from her exile at Rowntrees WFC of York. St. Helens were booted out of the following season’s competition after manager Keith Mayer slagged off the WFA’s shambolic post-match arrangements.

A year later Sherrard put Donny 2–0 up in an eventual 3–1 win over Leasowe in the 1988 final at Crewe’s Gresty Road. Future Belle Michelle “Mickey” Jackson struck Leasowe’s goal from the penalty spot.

Sherrard’s most memorable game for England was the 1988 Mundialito final, when two goals from Linda Curl overcame hosts Italy 2–1 after extra time.

She also played at England’s first full international at Wembley in May 1989 when goals from the outstanding Pia Sundhage and Lena Videkull sent England to a 2–0 defeat to Sweden, before the men’s Rous Cup game with Chile.

In the 1980s, the Belles would travel to away fixtures on wooden benches in the back of Jackie’s dad’s van. Mick Sherrard also managed the team from 1984 to 1987, and shared the role with Paul Edmunds in 1987–88.

Choosing football over hockey, Sherrard became a fixture in the successful Belles team of the era.

Donny recaptured the WFA Cup in 1990 after a shock quarter-final defeat at the hands of Leasowe Pacific in 1989. Coultard hit the only goal in a tense win over Friends of Fulham at Derby County’s Baseball Ground, with Sherrard in the number 4 jersey.2

In 1991–92 Sherrard contributed 13 goals from midfield as Doncaster Belles carried off the first ever national title, with a 100% record. They added another Cup win to seal a historic double.

She was described by Doncaster Belles manager Paul Edmunds in Pete Davies’s I Lost my Heart to the Belles (1996) as: “the best pure footballer at the club.” A remarkable tribute, considering her team-mates read like a Who’s Who of all-time greats: Coultard, Walker, Broadhurst, Borman.

Sherrard accrued 42 caps for England. She scored in a 2–0 friendly win v Soviet Union at The Dell, Southampton on 7 September 1991. A paltry 345 were in attendance to see it.

She was crocked in a Euro 93 quarter final v Italy 17 October 1992, suffering damaged knee ligaments. Goals from Walker and Spacey saw England escape Solofra with a 3–2 defeat.

After a long recovery with setbacks along the way, she played 90 minutes for the Belles reserves v Huddersfield Town at the tail end of the 1994–95 season.

Consistent defending for the Belles saw her recalled to an enlarged FA-run England squad for the friendly with Germany at Deepdale on 27 February 1997. She was not in the match day squad for England’s 6–4 defeat.


1. Swedish FA records credit England’s goals to usual suspects Kerry Davis and Linda Curl, but the UEFA programme for Euro 1997 listed Davis and “Jacqueline Sherrad” (sic) as the scorers.

2. This article originally said that Sherrard did not play in the 1990 Cup final win. It was amended on 9 May 2015 to reflect that she did: Chris Lightbown’s match report in the Sunday Times does not list Sherrard, but on closer inspection Loraine Hunt is listed twice. Sherrard was listed in the match programme and other reports so it seems she did play.

The Deal International Tournament

Fact:

The Deal Tournament (later known as the Deal International Tournament) was a women’s football competition first organised in 1967 by Arthur Hobbs, a carpenter with Deal Town Council.

Hobbs had been a decent amateur footballer in his youth and he settled in Kent after being posted there with the army in the 1940s.

A driven man possessed of great energy and focus, Hobbs became The Founding Father of women’s football in England.

Visionary Hobbs pioneered summer football for women more than 40 years before the FA WSL.

To get things moving, Hobbs reckoned a high profile tournament was in order. This would bring the top players and teams together, showcase the best the game had to offer and provide a focal point.

Held over a weekend in July, players were put up in local Bed and Breakfast establishments in Deal on the Kent coast. Wendy Owen (2005) recalled that matches were 15 minutes each way and played before decent crowds, but as far as the players were concerned, the social aspects outstripped the football.

The winning combination of women’s football and a seaside jolly would be repeated in the evolution of the sport at La Manga, Cyprus and so on.

The local male club Deal Town FC were keen to act as hosts, and even more keen to snaffle any proceeds via the “Mayor of Deal’s Appeal Fund for Deal Town FC”.

Deal Town had left the Southern League in 1966 after a humiliating season in which they won three of 46 league games.

Records indicate they pitched up back in a reformed Kent League in 1968, after languishing in the Greater London League for two seasons.

Their modest Charles Sports Ground had hosted two low-key women’s matches during 1966–67, which apparently went under the radar.

It was into 1967’s “summer of love” that Hobbs launched his tournament. He wanted to aid the development of women’s football, to give it purpose and direction.

The Kent County FA blocked use of the ground, on the pretext that 1921’s infamous ban on women remained on the FA’s dusty statute books.

To their enormous credit, Deal Town’s chairman and one other committee member immediately quit in disgust. They fired off a suitably angry broadside to the East Kent Mercury, the local rag.

Undaunted, Hobbs was backed to the hilt in his quest by David Ennals, later Baron Ennals, the great Labour Party statesman who was the local MP.

It is sometimes overlooked that women were banned from football not only by the FA, but also, notionally at least, by the Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR; now the Sport & Recreation Alliance), the Government’s Department of the Environment (now part of DEFRA) and the Sports Council (now Sport England).

Kent’s famously militant miners1 came to Hobbs’ rescue and the first tournament went ahead on the playing fields of Betteshanger Colliery in Deal.

Politically savvy and always with an eye on the bigger picture, Hobbs knew he could not be seen to be funding the miners’ latest strike. Instead proceeds went to British Empire Cancer Campaign (BECC), which merged into Cancer Research UK in 2002.

Sue Lopez (1997) wrote that all teams for the inaugural edition were sourced from local workplaces or youth organizations. Staff from St Augustine’s Hospital in Canterbury, a lunatic asylum which later became notorious for its abuse of patients, also took part. Dover’s GPO (general post office) scooped the title.

For the second tournament in 1968, teams came from far and wide. The legendary Manchester Corinthians carried off the title.

Getting Corinthians involved was something of a coup for Hobbs. The Manchester outfit had drawn massive crowds all over the world, raising over £275,000 for charities like Oxfam and the Red Cross. Their veteran Secretary Manager Percy Ashley had also compiled a contact book fatter than Donald Trump’s wallet.

By 1969 52 teams entered the burgeoning tourney. Some of the more exotic entrants included Start Praha and Slavia Pramen Kaplice from Czechoslovakia, Austrians LFU from Vienna and Scottish champions, Cambuslang Hooverettes.

David Ennals MP presented the Cup to Corinthians, who retained their trophy by seeing off Deal Hockey Club in the final.

On 6 July 1969 after another successful tournament, Hobbs triumphantly announced the formation of “The Ladies Football Association of Great Britain”, which became the WFA.

In the 1970 final Southampton battled to a 0–0 draw with the Hooverettes. After normal time, a curious one-v-one sudden death penalty shootout between Southampton’s Sue Lopez and Hooverettes’ Paddy McGroarty decided the tie in the English team’s favour. Saints goalie Sue Buckett saved future England teammate McGroarty’s first effort and saw the second kick missed. Lopez also missed her first kick but gave Southampton their first trophy with her second.

1971 saw Ayrshire crackshots Stewarton & Thistle win, inspired by the incomparable Rose Reilly.

1972 was the final edition of the tournament, as the “Mitre Trophy” (WFA Cup) had started, while Hobbs stepped back from women’s football as his health failed. An upwardly mobile Thame Ladies team featuring Wendy Owen and Paddy McGroarty won the last ever title.

The second WFA Newsletter reported that 10 teams took part in 1972: Thame, Hooverettes, Southampton, Aston Villa, Willie Walker Wonders (later Watford LFC), FC Davo, Deal, Emgals, Fodens and Crystal Palace. By then, thanks to the hard work of Hobbs and others, Deal Town’s Charles Sports Ground was the venue.

Owen said that Thame’s run to the semi-finals of that year’s WFA Cup had qualified them for the Deal Tournament.

In 1975 Hobbs died after a heart attack on the Deal seafront he loved. He wrote his name in the stars. The success of the game today stands as a living, breathing monument to Arthur Hobbs’ vision.

When Team GB beat Brazil in front of a packed Wembley Stadium in the 2012 Olympics, it is tempting to imagine that Hobbs was looking down with a broad smile on his face.

Year Winners Score Runners–up
1967 Dover GPO
1968 Manchester Corinthians
1969 Manchester Corinthians Deal Hockey Club
1970 Southampton 0–0 Cambuslang Hooverettes
1971 Stewarton & Thistle
1972 Thame Fodens

Opinion:

By the end of the swinging 60s the FA’s 1921 ban of women’s football was an anachronism. Like one of those quaint but ridiculous English laws which remain on the statute book long past their sell by date.

Y’know, like the one allowing the murder of a Scotsman within York’s walls, so long as it is with a bow and arrow.

Or the one giving a pregnant woman carte blanche to pee ANYWHERE. Even—it is said—in a policeman’s helmet.

The previous summer, England’s male footballers threw off their perennial loser status to win the 1966 World Cup at Wembley Stadium.

That sent legions of England’s little girls scurrying outside with a football, eager to emulate the figures on their grainy black and white television sets.

Then an unwelcome intrusion from the distant past arrived with a thuddering jolt. The local FA pathetically tried to ban the Deal event, pointing to the FA’s 1921 “quite unsuitable for females” edict.

In doing so Kent’s blazers marked themselves out as surely the thickest and most reactionary of all the county FAs.

But scarily they were by no means alone. This was the awful situation Hobbs’ journey started out in.

Bigotry held no truck with Hobbs. His revulsion was the motor which drove the formation of the WFA and kick-started women’s football in England.


1. A few of the more incorrigible lads had even been out on strike during World War Two!

Players: Linda Curl

Linda Curl

Smiling woman with brown shoulder-length hair in a white t-shirt with blue and red stripes

Born: c.1962, Norwich

Position: Striker

Debut: Switzerland (H) 28 April 1977

Occupation: Policewoman (1988)

The Lioness of Arco: a long-serving striking legend with an insatiable appetite for goals.

Norwich police officer who was a player for the big occasion—with the medals to prove it—and a loyal servant to the English cause.

Tommy Tranter gave youthful Curl her England debut on 28 April 1977 in a 9–1 win over Switzerland at Boothferry Park, Hull.1

Her next England appearance was much less auspicious, a 2–1 defeat to the Scots at Downfield Juniors FC ground, near Dundee, on 29 May. It would be the Auld Enemy’s first ever win over England, and their last for 34 years, until the 2011 Cyprus Cup.

On 18 September Curl was involved as England returned to winning ways by hammering Wales 5–0 in Warminster, all the goals coming in the second half.

She collected a fourth cap in the 1–0 win over Italy at Plough Lane, Wimbledon on 15 November 1977. Lowestoft Ladies starlet Curl started the match in a midfield role wearing number 6. Sheila Parker, wearing number 10, struck the winner.

On 28 October 1978, Curl added to Elaine “Baddy” Badrock’s double as England beat Belgium 3–0. Played at Southampton FC’s The Dell, it was England’s first match at a top level ground.

Lowestoft Ladies, the team from the easternmost town in the UK, reached the 1979 Women’s FA Cup final. But Curl’s team were edged out 1–0 by Southampton, the dominant team of the era, at Jubilee Park, Waterlooville.

England went to an unofficial European Championship in July 1979 and dispatched Finland and Switzerland in Sorrento during group play. That gave them a crack at hosts Italy in the semi-final staged at the San Paulo, Naples. Curl equalised Betty Vignotto’s first half opener, but England wilted in the heat and lost 3–1.

In September 1981 Curl was part of the England party who toured Japan for the Portopia ’81 tournament. She finished 1981–82 with a WFA Cup winners’ medal, Curl and Angie Poppy scoring in Lowestoft’s 2–0 final win over Cleveland Spartans at Loftus Road. It was the first time the final was held on a Football League ground.

Lowestoft disbanded in the aftermath of that success and Curl joined up with Norwich Ladies, “The Fledgelings” who had been formed by Maureen Reynolds in April 1982.

In 1983 Curl ran in 22 goals in Norwich’s farcical 40–0 Chiltern League demolition of Milton Keynes Reserves. Representing a record of sorts,2 it made English women’s football look stupid, exposing a serious dearth of structure and quality outside the top teams. Boffins Williams and Woodhouse (1991) branded it “damaging and embarrassing” and asked “who could take women’s football seriously?”

As a world-class striker Curl deserved a better stage for her talents. In those days the best players gravitated to Italy’s semi-pro league but Curl’s cop career seems to have kept her at home.

After 1979, it took dozy UEFA chiefs five more years to finally organise a proper Euro Cup. The regionalised qualifying tournament gave England a free pass to the finals, with substandard Scottish and Irish opposition swatted aside. Livewire youngster Kerry Davis burst on the scene and formed an effective front two with Curl.

Although England did not have it all their own way: Kerry Davis got them out of a tight spot in Dublin, scoring the only goal against ‘the fighting Irish’.

In the first leg of the semi, versus Denmark at Gresty Road in Crewe, Curl put England ahead four minutes before half time. Danish great Inge Hindkjær hit back in the second half but Liz Deighan gave England a priceless 2–1 lead to take to Denmark.3 Three weeks later in Hjørring, Debbie Bampton’s thumping header settled the tie.

The Euro 84 final saw England battered by Sweden in the first leg, but escape Ullevi stadium with a 1–0 defeat thanks to doughty defending and the heroics of goalkeeper Terry Wiseman.

Curl levelled the tie by scoring in the second leg at a boggy Kenilworth Road in Luton. She had England’s first kick in the resultant penalty shootout saved and had to watch Pia Sundhage slot past Wiseman to give the Swedes the trophy.

1984 teammate Hope Powell recalled in a May 2009 interview with The Guardian‘s Tony Leighton that Curl “went ballistic in the showers” to puncture the post match gloom and get the other players smiling again.

Norwich Ladies won the 1986 WFA Cup, beating Doncaster Belles in a 4–3 thriller at Carrow Road. Team captain Curl scored her customary goal but must have been injured shortly afterwards because she returned in 1986–87 to Norwich after a “very bad knee operation” (club secretary Eve Bedson in WFA News Jan 87). In characteristic fashion Curl plundered 13 goals in her first game back.

In June 1987 Curl’s England were back at the Euros in Norway, after rattling in 34 goals in six qualifying matches against more feeble Scottish and Irish opposition.

She started the semi–final at Melløs Stadion, Moss, versus Sweden in the number 11 shirt. Some sources suggest Curl scored,4 but England lost 3–2 after extra time, following a two-goal salvo from Gunilla Axén. A pitiful 300 fans were in attendance.

July 1988’s Mundialito (“little World Cup”) tournament in Trento, Italy, was Curl’s finest hour. She was the competition’s top scorer with four goals. The Times reporter Sue Mott wrote that England’s “leading striker” was away attending a family wedding,5 so a teenaged Karen Walker was drafted in and given a debut.

At the final in Arco, the “suspiciously awful” (according to Sue Mott) Italian referee Antonio Cafiero was an unrepentant homer. Curl put England ahead with ten minutes to go, but Cafiero played on and on while a gutsy and patched up England were knackered. Inevitably, home favourite Carolina Morace scored right at the death to force extra time. The irrepressible Curl popped up with another goal two minutes before penalties and England’s walking wounded bravely held out against the wily and sinewy Italians.

The team had paid their own way there, and at Luton Airport on the way back jubilant WFA secretary Linda Whitehead allowed herself a gentle dig at the FA: “At least when we go abroad,” she said, “we don’t come back empty-handed.” Despite massive resources England’s male team had flopped yet again at their Euro 88.

Curl’s feat won England the prestigious Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Award for Team of the Year.

That was the high watermark for England, whose next match was a chastening 2–0 defeat in Klepp, Norway. UEFA had scrapped the home nations qualifiers for Euro 89 and England finished a distant third behind Norway and the Danes.

At club level Curl moved on to Ipswich Town in summer 1988, from Town & County, whom she had previously joined from Norwich Ladies. It is not clear if she was still with Ipswich when the first National League was formed in 1991–92.

In May 1989 Curl graced Wembley’s hallowed turf as a substitute in England’s first full international there. Goals from the outstanding Pia Sundhage and Lena Videkull sent the Lionesses to a 2–0 defeat to Sweden, before the men’s Rous Cup game with Chile.

Curl’s England swansong came in a 4–0 win over Scotland at Love Street, Paisley on 6 May 1990. It was reported as her 60th cap. She hit England’s first goal on three minutes, a close range finish off a cleverly worked short corner routine. She retired as England’s record cap holder.


1. Curl was reported to be 16, but birth records indicate a Linda J Curl registered in Norwich in 1962. If this is correct she must have been even younger.

2. It made The Guinness Book of Records. The 1991 edition said the match took place on 25 September 1983 and also listed Curl as England’s record cap holder with 59.

3. The Danish FA credit England’s second goal to Liz Deighan, Cathy Gibb’s WFA News report credits Debbie Bampton.

4. Swedish FA records credit England’s goals to Davis and Curl, but the UEFA programme for Euro 1997 listed Davis and Jacqueline Sherrad (sic) as the scorers.

5. This must refer to either Kerry Davis or Marieanne Spacey?