Administrator: Roger Ebben

Roger Ebben

Picture courtesy of [ Pulling World]

Picture courtesy of Pulling World

Born: 1947, Southampton

Position: Press and media officer

Debut: N/A

Occupation: Restauranteur (1983), Jewellery shop proprietor (2008)

Roger Ebben: WFA PR Guru.

Of all the challenges facing the newly-formed WFA in 1969, the issue of media coverage was perhaps the most pressing. As the first England boss Eric Worthington put it on taking charge in 1972: “the thought came to me that perhaps what the Association needed most of all was a full time publicity manager rather than a team manager!”

Of course England did have a press officer, in the shape of Ebben. He was young, bright and keen, but was purely voluntary, as were the other officers at that time.

Wendy Owen’s Kicking Against Tradition (2005) remembered Ebben at an early England training camp at Loughborough in 1972. A faded black and white photo shows him in evidence at the 1976 Pony Home Championship.

Roger Kift Ernest Victor Ebben, to use his Sunday name, had been a Redcoat at Butlins Minehead in 1968. Unconfirmed reports suggest he worked for Reading FC at some stage.

In 1983 he emigrated to Aalborg, Denmark and spent a decade running the restaurant at Denmark’s Museum of Modern Art (Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum) alongside his Danish wife.

In Denmark Ebben became a tractor pulling enthusiast. No, not a euphemism, but a bona fide sport where souped-up tractors, er, pull heavy loads before enthralled crowds.

At one stage he sent tractor pulling mainstream by inking a sponsorship deal with Philip Morris tobacco. The smoking barons sorted out a TV deal in Pakistan, where tobacco advertising was legal, and the spectacle was beamed into millions of households.

He later worked as an English teacher and voice-over artist, then remarried a Chinese lady and together they ran a fashion jewellery shop in Aalborg, Smukke Verden.

In the nicest possible way, Ebben was perhaps a slightly wacky oddball. Like many of us drawn to women’s football’s strong counter-cultural aspect. His contribution in those difficult early days will never be forgotten.

Roger died on 11 July 2014 in his beloved Denmark, following complications from a heart op.

Official: Rangers better than Celtic

Fact stranger than fiction in the topsy-turvy world of women’s football

When Celtic face Rangers in the new year, the only thing in question will be the margin of The Hoops’ victory. Right? Well, yes. But also no. Over in the women’s game Celtic are starting from scratch after an exodus of top players, while ever-improving Rangers look to build from a position of strength.

Rangers Ladies of Glasgow are that rare beast in the women’s game: a club three times older than their ‘parent’!

That’s because Rangers men entered liquidation in 2012 then started a brand new Rangers club, at the bottom of the pile.

Many of the characters involved in Rangers, old and new, have a whiff—no, a stink—of criminality about them. Think “antagonist in TV’s Taggart“.

The male club died a grubby, cheat’s death. But Rangers’ vibrant women’s section proudly lives on, with much about them to admire.

Since their 2008 formation, it’s always been about the football for them. A club where all are welcome. No perma-raging riotous fans, no dodgy far-right politics, no hating Catholics. Universally respected as friends and rivals.

In other words, nothing like their deceased parent!

In this day and age, the quaint nomenclature ‘Ladies Football Club’ doesn’t always sit right. It’s just a bit twee. Celtic don’t use it anymore. In fact Celtic’s female section are so right on they won’t even use ‘Women’ to separate themselves from the male club. Which is fine … except no–one knows what to call them.

But ‘Ladies’ is a good fit for Rangers, harking back to the brown-brogued rectitude which was the old club’s self image.

This season past the Ladies were inundated with messages praising the work of young manager Kev Murphy and all at the club. The team’s star player is even named Erin – the Irish word for Ireland!

In the upcoming men’s game Celtic’s second-raters will wipe the floor with the third-and-fourth-raters playing for Rangers. That’s a given – if this version of Rangers even last that long.

But far away from the noisy crowds, the cruel hilarity on one side and impotent, delusional bigot-rage on the other, the real contest is just warming up.

Next season’s Scottish Women’s Premier League will see an altogether more authentic meeting of genuine ‘Old Firm’ rivals, where good football is sure to win the day.

Rangers and Glasgow City

One of the old Rangers’ many unsavoury stunts was their orange away kit in the early 2000s.

Redolent of the Catholic-hating Orange Order (a sort of 17th Century version of the British National Party) the offending items clumsily pandered to the worst elements of the support. It was a huge seller!

Glasgow City LFC had the same kit, and just like old Rangers they knowingly smirked it was ‘tangerine’.

There is no evidence of any Scottish sectarianism at Glasgow City – ever. But questions remain over their grotesque orange kit choice. In the west of Scotland it represented a dog whistle, if not a clarion call, to knuckle-draggers.

The successful women’s club quietly dropped their ‘royal blue’ trim a few years later and replaced it with black. But the orange, now acknowledged as such, remains to this day.

Player: Linda Coffin

Linda Coffin

Linda Coffin at the Dell, 1978

Linda Coffin at the Dell, 1978

Born: c.1955, Portsmouth

Position: Centre-back

Debut: Wales (H) 22 May 1976

Occupation: Section manager (1976), Chargehand (1982)

One of England’s finest defenders who backstopped the great Southampton WFC team of her era to four WFA Cup wins.

Keen hockey player Coffin joined Southampton WFC in 1974, as an 18-year-old employed at the Plessey factory in Fareham. Her dad Noel also took over as Saints gaffer.

Southampton, winners of the first three WFA Cups, were rebuilding having been deposed by Fodens in the 1974 final.

Coffin proved a tall and elegant centre-half with good timing in the tackle and capable of playing out from the back. Her aerial ability was never in doubt.

With Coffin at the heart of their defence rejuvenated Saints recaptured the WFA Cup in 1974–75, thumping first-time finalists Warminster 4–2 at Dunstable Town.

She picked up a second winner’s medal the following year, in a 2–1 extra-time win over QPR in front of BBC cameras. Highlights were shown before the men’s final – won by Southampton FC.

Coffin’s performances had not gone unnoticed and England boss Tommy Tranter called her up to the Pony Home Championship squad in May 1976.

In the opening game against Wales at The Eyrie, Bedford, Coffin won her first cap at the age of 20. She was drafted in alongside Wendy Owen, as England’s original captain Sheila Parker dropped out.

Carol McCune (Thomas) inherited the armband. But legend Parker was far from finished and later returned to partner Coffin after Owen’s injury-induced retirement from international football.

Coffin instantly impressed, her refined style complementing the more agricultural Owen. She soon had the respect of her team-mates as England carried off the trophy.

She went on England’s tour of Italy the following month, which resulted in two bruising defeats (2–0 and 2–1) on bone hard pitches in Rome and Cesena.

Italian FA records attribute England’s goal to Coffin, but Wendy Owen’s (2005) recollection was that Elaine “Baddy” Badrock scored.

Another excellent performance in England’s 2–1 win over Wales in October 1976, saw Coffin nicknamed “The Rock” by Lionesses team-mates.

In 1977 Southampton lost the Cup final 1–0 to sworn rivals QPR. Coffin then sent shockwaves through women’s football when she sensationally quit Saints for their Cup final conquerors.

She played for The Hoops AGAINST Southampton in the 1978 WFA Cup final, but finished on the wrong end of an 8–2 worrying.

Pat Davies, the smallest player on the pitch, headed in Southampton’s opening goal from a corner. Sue Lopez drilled in a second, before Pat Chapman famously ran amok – netting a record six goals.

To make matters worse, 1978 saw Southampton finally scoop the Treble of WFA Cup, Home Counties League and Home Counties League Cup after years of trying. And they beat out Coffin’s QPR in all three!

By the time of England’s 3–0 win over Belgium at the Dell on 31 October 1978, Coffin was a Southampton player again.

She got her mitts back on the WFA Cup that season when Southampton edged out Lowestoft 1–0 at Waterlooville.

1980 was the first time that the WFA Cup final didn’t feature Southampton — the tenth year of the competition.

Coffin made amends the following season as Southampton won back their crown in style, beating 1980 winners St Helens 4–2 at a hostile Knowsley Road.

She was selected by Martin Reagan for England’s historic 1981 tour of Japan, starting both of England’s games in the Far East.

When England began their first UEFA campaign, against Northern Ireland at Crewe on 19 September 1982, Coffin had 28 caps.1

Coffin and striker Tracy Doe were dropped for the game in Belfast on 13 May 1983, for what Reagan dubbed “experimental reasons”.

This meant she did not feature in either of England’s semi-finals versus Denmark or the final defeat by Sweden.

When Southampton WFC folded in 1986, Coffin was among an exodus of players to Red Star Southampton.

She was not listed as part of the 1991–92 Red Star team who finished runners-up to Donny Belles in that season’s WFA Cup and inaugural National League.

Sue Lopez’s women’s football bible Women on the Ball (1997) reported that Coffin was still with Red Star (by then rebranded as Southampton Saints) as late as 1996.


Coffin executes a blockbuster challenge against France in Longjumeau, February 1977. Note the French player resplendent in official Adidas kit, as worn by Platini and pals at the following year’s World Cup in Argentina.

England’s kit was donated to the Women’s Football Association by Banbury Sportswear — it bore no relation to the natty Admiral kit worn by the FA’s underachieving men.

1. According to the match programme. A Millwall Lionesses match programme versus Red Star Southampton on 25 September 1994 listed “Lynne Coffin” with 19 England caps and six FA Cup winner’s medals.

Administrator: Linda Whitehead

Linda Whitehead

Linda Whitehead ensconced at WFA HQ

Linda Whitehead ensconced at WFA HQ, 1980

Linda Whitehead: A lifetime’s dedication to women’s football in England

The smiling public face of the Women’s Football Association from 1980 to 1993, who later served Millwall Lionesses and Arsenal Ladies with distinction. Whitehead is a diligent and well-regarded sports administrator. With her contribution stretching across four decades, icon Whitehead is often hailed the greatest living authority on English women’s football.

In late 1980 a Sports Council handout let the Women’s Football Association hire its first paid employee: an ‘Administrative Assistant’. Blackburn’s bright and ambitious Linda Whitehead swept into the WFA’s swanky Westminster offices, wowed the interview panel and got the job.

In her 2013 interview with the estimable Girlstalkfooty website — delivered in flat vowels betraying her North West roots — Whitehead admitted her surprise at getting the gig.

Whitehead’s CV boasted a football background through short spells as PA to the commercial manager at Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers. After quitting teacher training college, she also spent a year on Mothercare’s management development programme and worked as a secretary for an engineering firm in Blackburn.

A football fan (Blackburn Rovers, with a soft spot for Birmingham City), Whitehead never played the game herself – her genius is for sports administration. On occasions when a ball came near her, she would even pick it up and chuck it back instead of kicking it.

Up against it from the start, Whitehead and the WFA operated in an extremely hostile environment for women’s football. Loons would send in rambling letters about Deuteronomy 22:5. Others found outlets for their antipathy which, while not as overtly deranged, were no less dangerous. Whitehead also copped some internal flak as the only salaried employee in what was always a completely voluntary organisation.

She must have needed thick skin and – at times – sharp elbows. But Whitehead quickly shored up her power base and by 1982 was the WFA’s secretary as well as administrator.

Life at the WFA was never dull. In April 1988 the Football League held a ‘Mercantile Credit Football Festival’ at Wembley and told the WFA to get a friendly organised. Holland had already been pencilled in when the organisers announced that the slot was only 15 minutes each-way.

The fiasco drew a stinging response from the Dutch FA: “women’s football is not a circus”. Whitehead took a more considered line, telling the Football League that the cancellation knocked a potential 5,000 fans off the event’s puny attendance. The 15 minutes each-way match went ahead though, with plucky Ireland standing in at late notice.

Barnsley-supporting women’s football historian Donna Woodhouse (2003) reported that Whitehead controversially moved the WFA’s offices from London to Manchester’s Corn Exchange in 1988.

To Whitehead it was a no-brainer to leave behind the Big Smoke’s exorbitant rents and life as a small fish in a big pond. But it put her at loggerheads with the other WFA officers, who were said to be hopping mad.

The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Awards, the brainchild of pioneering sportswriter Sue Mott, made Whitehead their 1989 Administrator of the Year.

In 1986 Whitehead had invited the Football Trust’s Richard Faulkner (later Baron Faulkner of Worcester) into the WFA. A Labour Party grandee and quango regular, it was a major feather in the WFA’s cap to have someone of that calibre in the ranks.

Little did Whitehead know then that she had signed the WFA’s death warrant. Faulkner promptly set about rerouting Sports Council and Football Trust funding through the FA. In 1991 he deliberately nobbled the WFA by quitting as chairman, leaving them high and dry and making his goal of an FA takeover inevitable.

Many men view attempts by women to take up playing the game as tantamount to an invasion of privacy — Linda Whitehead, 1988

The potless WFA then spent a year or two drifting, rudderless. In an unguarded moment Whitehead’s frustrations boiled over: “it’s always the men who cause the problems,” she snapped. Woodhouse (2003) reported that the FA already had sneaky tentacles in women’s football since at least 1990, through their competitions department.

When the FA finally stepped in and wound up the WFA in 1993, Whitehead was made redundant. A folly which enraged the managers of the leading clubs, set things back many years and made the FA look profoundly clueless. Sadly, the pattern was set.

It speaks to Whitehead’s dignity and character that she stayed on as unpaid secretary of the National League in 1993–94.

When the FA took over direct running of the Women’s National League in 1994–95, an influx of County FA blazers dominated the new management committee. Much impetus was lost and progress stifled.

Although Whitehead and one or two other stalwarts remained, they were marginalised and not allowed to rock what became quite a cushy boat. Chairman and vice Chairman Peter Hough (Dorset) and Ray Kiddell (Norfolk) are still snoozing through meetings and munching complementary sandwiches 20 years later!

Football’s loss was athletics’ gain as Whitehead was soon snapped up by the South of England Athletic Association (SEAA), which remains her day job. A confirmed workaholic, she considers it a perk that the SEAA later let her carry on her football commitments in her own time.

Football was in her blood and in 1998 Whitehead was installed as Millwall Lionesess secretary. She had a tough act to follow: replacing Sue Prior who had been ousted in the most shameful episode in the great club’s long history.

In 2001 Arsenal Ladies boss Vic Akers headhunted Whitehead for a match day administrator and UEFA co-ordinator role. She became a valued part of the club’s expensive off-field operation and scooped an FA Special Achievement Award in 2007. In recent seasons Arsenal hit a slump and failed to qualify for Europe, scaling back Whitehead’s involvement somewhat.

She proudly attended Buckingham Palace in 2013 as one of 150 volunteers to be honoured as part of the FA’s 150th anniversary. Also that year Whitehead and Pat Gregory were presented with a commemorative stone at the FA Women’s Awards, belated and inadequate recognition of the WFA’s achievements against all the odds.

When England debuted at the new Wembley in November 2014, being horsed 3–0 by Germany, Anna Kessel’s pre-match article in The Guardian said of Whitehead:

The answer to almost every question regarding the history of women’s football since 1980 is “You’ll have to ask Linda Whitehead for that”.