Gillian Coultard hits winner as Belles reclaim Cup
Classic match report: North beats South as Doncaster Belles avenge 1985 final defeat by Fulham
Twenty-five years ago Gillian Coultard’s 60th minute goal condemned Friends of Fulham to their second successive WFA Cup final defeat, before 3,000 fans at Derby’s Baseball Ground. It was the Belles’ fourth Cup win from their seventh appearance in the season’s showpiece. Resurgent Doncaster settled a score from their 1985 defeat by the Londoners and also made up for the previous year, when a shock quarter-final defeat by Leasowe Pacific had denied them their annual Cup final outing.
Channel 4 provided coverage of this, the competition’s 20th final, with an hour-long highlights programme screened at 5.30pm the following day.
The top-flight stadium in Derby was free because Derby County men were away at Man City that day. They won 1–0 thanks to a goal from Mark Wright, who was playing his way into Bobby Robson’s Italia ’90 squad.
Back at the Baseball Ground a crowd of 3,111 showed up for the women’s final. Not spectacular, but still three times more than the paltry turnout who rattled around inside Old Trafford at the previous season’s showpiece.
Although the Baseball Ground was notorious for the often shocking state of its pitch, this match took place on a warm, sunny day with conditions dry and hard underfoot.
Neither team were clad in their traditional colours. Doncaster Belles were in royal blue shirts with white shorts, while Friends of Fulham donned a fetching “yellow and emerald” affair.
Doncaster Belles entered the final unbeaten for four seasons in their regional League. Friends of Fulham had won their sixth consecutive Home Counties League Cup two weeks before.
The teams had met in the 1985 final at Craven Cottage, when two goals in three first-half minutes from Cheryl McAdam and Cathy Hynes gave Friends of Fulham a 2–0 win to claim their first Cup. It was known as The Sempare Final after a virtuoso display by England midfielder Brenda.
Two years previously the Belles reached their first final only after a titanic semi-final with Friends of Fulham at Imber Court Metropolitan Police Ground. After Elaine Cozens had cancelled out Denise Pittock’s opener to bring Fulham level, Lorraine Hanson’s thumping header sent the Belles through.
These closely-fought previous meetings ensured that the teams approached their latest encounter with a healthy degree of mutual respect.
Road to Derby
En route to the final Friends of Fulham beat Arsenal Ladies 4–0 in the quarter-final at Enfield Town. Marieanne Spacey scored the opening goal against the Gunners, her future employers.
In the semi-final at Millwall’s Den, Friends of Fulham triumphed 3–0 over tough Lancastrian outfit Preston Rangers. Another goal from Spacey and a Brenda Sempare double did the damage. Women’s football writer and historian Gail Newsham was playing for Preston that day and still recalls with some pride her tackle on Spacey, or her “claim to fame”!
In the quarter-final, Doncaster Belles exacted crushing revenge on Cup holders Leasowe Pacific. The Merseysiders had the temerity to boot the Belles out at the same stage the previous year, but were swept aside 5–0 this time.
The semi-final game at Millwall produced an even more ruthless display, as a St Helens team in sad decline were beaten 7–0. Gail Borman and Jackie Sherrard scored hat-tricks to add to Karen Skillcorn’s strike.
England friendships on hold
Belles’ midfield general Gillian Coultard went into the 1990 final at her imperious best. Newly-installed as national skipper in the absence of crocked Debbie Bampton, she had struck the only goal as England beat Belgium 1–0 at Bramall Lane three weeks previously.
Spacey and Sempare lined up alongside Coultard in Sheffield, but old friendships were put on ice for 90 minutes while Cup winner’s medals were at stake.
England’s Belgium victory was achieved with Fulham’s Terry Wiseman on the bench, as her long-time understudy Tracey Davidson got the nod from England boss Martin Reagan. Wiseman had a cracked rib, a legacy of Friends of Fulham’s semi-final against Preston.
The friendly rivalry continued with both goalkeepers at opposite ends of the pitch for the Cup final. Both were desperate to impress, with big qualifying games against Norway and Germany coming up and the first ever FIFA-sanctioned World Cup looming on the horizon.
Derby County and England keeper Peter Shilton had an open training session with Wiseman and Davidson the day before the final. The Women’s Football Association hoped it would serve as a photo op and drum up some much-needed publicity.
Since Wiseman’s England career overlapped with Shilton’s she was inevitably branded his female equivalent. As a girlhood Nottingham Forest fan Davidson had idolised “Shilts”, who held England’s all-time cap record until he was surpassed by Rachel Yankey in July 2013.
Teams – Friends of Fulham
Wiseman took her place in goal but was among Fulham’s walking wounded, as a bruising season of club and international football took its toll.
The right-back was Lori Hoey, resplendent as always in her Johan Cruyff-style number 14 jersey. An experienced campaigner, she had three England caps including one from the Euro 87 semi-final defeat by Sweden. She might have had more caps but for the form of Carol Thomas and Sue Law.
Promising England under-21 cap Mandy O’Callaghan played at left-back. At centre-back Friends of Fulham named Karen Gale, a revelation since signing that season from lower-division Bracknell Ladies.
Alongside Gale was another new signing, Welsh international Deborah Fox – a seasoned campaigner who cut her teeth at Maidstone beside Wendy Owen and already boasted a winner’s medal collected with Howbury Grange in 1984.
The Fox–Gale axis at the heart of Fulham’s defence unshackled Marieanne Spacey who had spent much of the previous season playing at centre-half. Instead, her quicksilver blend of brawn and brilliance was put to use in midfield.
Fiona Curl and Brenda Sempare – the star of the 1985 final – joined Spacey in a midfield three. Record-goalscorer Cheryl McAdam and livewire youngster Livvy Hughes flanked reigning club Player of the Year Lynn Jacobs in attack. Jacobs was preferred to Republic of Ireland cap Cathy Hynes, who warmed the bench alongside utility player Terry Springett (daughter of Ron).
Since their defeat in the previous year’s final, Friends of Fulham had lost the talent and goals of Hope Powell who had returned to Millwall Lionesses. The club had also installed a new manager in Fred Brockwell, whose predecessor George Curl stayed on as a coach.
Teams – Doncaster Belles
Davidson lined up in her fifth Cup final for the Belles. She had stood in for Janet Milner in 1983, then returned to the club two years later to play in the 1986, 1987 and 1988 events. She famously saved Ali Leatherbarrow’s penalty in 1987 to help break the club’s Cup final hoodoo of three successive defeats.
Future Belles boss Julie Chipchase was at right back with high-kicking Taekwondo champ Louise Ryde in the other full-back berth.
Michelle “Mickey” Jackson and Loraine Hunt were the centre-halves. Both were bank workers who also played for England. Hunt was a stylish sweeper who modelled her game on Franz Beckenbauer and Ray Wilkins.
That did not square with her club nickname (“bone head”) which hinted at a willingness to get stuck in where the boots were flying!
England regulars Coultard and Jackie Sherrard formed a central midfield partnership of commitment, courage, stamina and skill. Football maverick Jo Broadhurst was a nominal right winger with license to get on the ball wherever possible. She was nursing a toe injury reportedly caused by falling down the stairs at home.
Diligent utility player Karen Skillcorn was deployed on the left flank. She was in the terrific form which won her a couple of England caps before a “Gazza knee” laid her low.
Striking powerhouse Karen Walker led the line alongside Gail Borman. The week after the Cup final Borman crowned her England debut with a goal, in a 4–0 win over Auld Enemy Scotland at Love Street, Paisley.
Coach Paul Edmunds risked the ire of wife Sheila by naming the club founder and two-goal hero of the 1983 win on the bench. Since their last Cup win two years previously the Belles had lost club stalwart Lorraine Hanson to retirement.
Seven minutes into the game, Coultard needed extensive treatment after being unceremoniously dumped by England pal Spacey. Broadhurst’s free kick was on target but smartly touched over the bar by an alert Wiseman.
Friends of Fulham were working like Trojans to limit the Belles’ chances, but they still relied heavily on the inspired form of goalkeeper Wiseman. England’s Euro 84 legend made notable first-half saves from Sherrard and Walker.
While Fulham were never overrun – they were much too good for that – they struggled to impose their own attacking armoury on the game. Spacey ended up marking Coultard, while Brenda Sempare could not run the show as she had in the sides’ 1985 final at Craven Cottage.
An efficient, well-oiled unit under coach Edmunds, Doncaster Belles favoured a high-tempo pressing game. They hunted in packs and quickly swarmed round opposition threats in twos and threes.
Karen Walker was locked in a running battle with flinty Deborah Fox, who had an excellent game. Walker’s string of neat passes and flicked headers fed Borman, whose tireless running occupied the rest of the Fulham defence.
The all-important goal came on the hour. Marauding Gillian Coultard played a one-two with Borman and hit an accurate drive into the side of the net from just outside the penalty area. Unsighted by a stray defender, Wiseman was finally beaten.
Coultard, sporting a new perm for the television cameras, was always at the heart of the action. In the second-half she returned Spacey’s first-half compliment, clattering Fulham’s club captain into a heap.
Then Springett, on for McAdam who had tweaked her Achilles tendon, decked Coultard for the second time in the match and was promptly booked by Barnsley ref Dave Phillips.
On 80 minutes Edmunds shored things up by replacing Broadhurst with defender Yvonne Bagley. The Belles held on to win the Cup although Fulham never stopped fighting and Spacey was crowded out by a packed defence in the final moments.
Outspoken former Man United boss Tommy “The Doc” Docherty hailed Coultard’s strike as one of the goals of the season.
Maureen Martin (née Reynolds): Teak-tough England defender and Cup-winning Norwich manager
Born: c.1952, Norwich
Debut: Belgium (A) 1 May 1980
Occupation: Office manager (1981), Company director (1986)
Norwich-born Maureen Reynolds made her England bow against Belgium in May 1980, a low-key 2–1 defeat at Albertpark, Ostende in Martin Reagan‘s first match.
She picked up caps against Wales and Sweden in 1980, then scored a brace in a 5–0 friendly win over Ireland at Dalymount Park, Dublin, 2 May 1981. This match was notable for the debuts of Gillian Coultard and Angie Gallimore.
Reynolds remained in the squad for the next game against Norway at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium. England’s chastening 3–0 defeat led to changes.
A “greatly concerned” Martin Reagan – always more given to reason than ranting – noted that the second goal came direct from a corner, for the first time in his two-year tenure.
Following a downturn in Reynolds’ fortunes at club level, she was not in the party picked for the next game in Kinna, Sweden in May 1982. She dropped out of the reckoning for England’s inaugural UEFA campaign in 1982–1984.
Like many of English football’s female pioneers, Reynolds’ childhood overlapped with the FA’s demented 1921 ban.
That meant she came to the game relatively late at 19. Playing, and scoring, in a friendly match for local outfit Costessey LFC saw her bitten by the bug.
It also brought her to the attention of Lowestoft Ladies, known as The Waves, the best team in the area who moved quickly to snap her up.
A host of regional baubles followed for Reynolds, starting with the 1975 East Anglian League and League Cup double. Spearheaded by England ace Linda Curl, the team also had a great knack in the All England 5-a-side Championship, winning in 1976, 1977, 1979 and 1980.
But in those days the Holy Grail for all women’s teams was the national WFA Cup. In 1978–79 Reynolds skippered ever-improving Lowestoft to the WFA Cup final at Waterlooville FC’s Jubilee Park.
There they faced the dominant Southampton WFC team of the era, who had appeared in every single final to date – this was their ninth on the trot!
Despite a Player of the Match performance from Lowestoft goalie Rita Fossey, Saints’ prolific England winger Pat Chapman’s close range goal on six minutes consigned The Waves to noble defeat.
The leadership qualities of Reynolds, an office manager in her day job, came to the fore as a tough-tackling defender and captain, but she also took an important off field role as club secretary.
The Waves made history in March 1981 when they faced Maidstone at Carrow Road, Norwich, in a double header with Norwich City men’s match against Arsenal.
Boardroom shenanigans in July 1981 saw Reynolds sensationally quit as secretary and captain, while Fossey quit as treasurer. The Lowestoft Journal breathlessly reported Reynolds was then “kicked out” of the club.
Instead, she turned out for Biggleswade LFC in 1981–82.
It must have rankled with Reynolds when Lowestoft finally scooped WFA Cup gold without her, seeing off Cleveland Spartans at Loftus Road in May 1982.
But workaholic Reynolds was already putting her next scheme in place. After quietly coaching a kids’ team at a local youth club for seven months, she deemed them ready for adult football, unveiling Norwich Ladies “The Fledgelings” in April 1982.
Reynolds roped in Andrew Anderson, the bloke who designed Norwich City (men’s) club badge, to create its female equivalent.
As founder-player-manager-secretary, Norwich Ladies was very much Reynolds’ baby. She used her shrewd businesswoman head to sniff out sponsorship with Robinson’s Motor Services and Photostatic Copiers.
When Lowestoft Ladies’s league collapsed and the team broke up, Reynolds buttressed her youthful Norwich side with England’s Linda Curl and Vicki Johnson. The upstarts then made light work of the East Anglian League in their debut 1982–83 season, bringing home the League and League Cup.
For 1983–84 Norwich switched to the Chiltern League in search of a higher standard of competition. They sourced a minibus for the 100-mile trek to away fixtures.
Having to enter in the League’s second division meant a year of farcically lopsided wins. This reached its nadir when Linda Curl infamously plundered 22 goals in a 40–0 drubbing of Milton Keynes Reserves on 25th September 1983. Goal-hungry cop Curl helped herself to 97 of Norwich’s 176 league strikes that season.
Disaster struck for Reynolds in the 1–0 third round WFA Cup defeat by Hemel Hempstead. Her ankle was badly broken in two places and had to be fused back together with a steel plate. That brought the curtain down on Reynolds’ glittering playing career and ended her dreams of an England recall.
With more time for coaching, Reynolds ran the league select team and assisted the Midland Region boss Richard Hanson (hubby of Donny Belles and England great Lorraine). Together they dethroned the North Region who had dominated the WFA’s regional competition.
Norwich kept improving and reached the WFA Cup semi-final in 1985, only to suffer an anticlimactic 5–0 battering by Doncaster Belles at Carrow Road.
They went one better the following year, after adding the excellent Sallie Ann Jackson to the squad. Jackson was another Lowestoft refugee who had already pocketed three Cup winner’s medals (1982, 1984, 1985).
The 1986 final at Carrow Road saw Norwich gain revenge over Doncaster Belles, edging out the Pride of Yorkshire in a seven goal thriller. Miranda Colk, Sallie Jackson, Linda Curl and Julie Bowler got the goals.
As part of a Renaissance in Norfolk football it sat alongside, and arguably eclipsed, Norwich City men’s League Cup win the previous year. In a little over four years Reynolds had led Norwich Ladies from nowhere to the promised land of WFA Cup glory.
The Cup win was the elusive third leg of a treble but women’s football in those days was a volatile business. No sooner had the champagne gone flat than seven players quit the team – after clashing with “strict disciplinarian” Reynolds.
A 2012 interview with Donna James of Village Book revealed Reynolds (Maureen Martin by marriage) has bravely battled Arthritis and Fybromyalgia in her later years.
Rightly, she remained fiercely proud of her footballing deeds. Her unwavering faith, canine companion Kinsey and the occasional white chocolate Toblerone keep her in high spirits!
A wacky tale of sex, cash, drugs, race, witchcraft, politicking, cronyism and rampant age-cheating…
The Nigerian women’s football team’s incredible journey to the inaugural 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup is an inspiring story marred by scandal and intrigue. Amidst farcical scenes and a rotating cast of surreal hangers-on, the team of plucky young women overcame tremendous odds to truly put African women’s football on the map…
Walking on the wild side: the start of women’s football in Nigeria
The Nigerian women’s football team were founded in January 1991, backed by the Nigerian Football Federation’s (NFF) youth department – at a time when few women’s teams in the world had association backing.
True, the federation’s backing only amounted to a dilapidated bus and a tiny daily allowance of 20 Nigerian Dollars for each player at the final tournament in China. But it was a start.
Originally nicknamed the Amazons, the team were eventually dubbed the Super Falcons. The violent connotations of Amazons no doubt made some nervy, so it was quietly ditched in favour of the more ladylike Falcons.
Nigeria was emerging from one of its semi–regular FIFA bans. Three male players turned up at the 1988 Olympics professing different birth-dates than those supplied at previous youth tournaments, bringing about a two-year rap for age-cheating.
Although the ban was apparently commuted, the nation was also stripped of hosting the 1991 men’s FIFA World Youth Championship as a result.
Capitalising on an organic women’s football boom, Princess Bola Jegede put up the money for a national women’s Cup tournament, from which an initial 50 players were selected.
Unlike the modern scourge of pretend ‘Nigerian Princesses’ – senders of a million spam e-mails – Jegede had real wealth and was an outspoken advocate of women’s football.
A coach was found in the shape of Niyi Akande. Himself a former Nigerian international in the 1960s, he had taken his coaching badges in Durham, England during 1973.
Akande was a volatile character: at one of the first training sessions he allegedly brawled with his assistant in view of stunned players.
There was no shortage of applicants for what was a plum job.
Then as now, paid football coaching positions were rare, especially with the national association. So plenty of genuinely talented coaches threw their hat in the ring – amongst the usual freeloaders, wannabes and chancers.
With squad and coach in place, Nigeria embarked on a shambolic African qualification tournament in which half of the eight teams withdrew.
Future adversaries South Africa were still banned from all international sport due to the Apartheid regime, which was finally canned later in 1991.
The first round brought a 7–2 aggregate win over arch rivals Ghana. Uche Eucharia later recalled bagging a hat-trick in the first meeting, played in front of a capacity crowd at the National Stadium in Lagos.
After the 2–1 second leg win in Ghana, coach Niyi Akande was accused in the press of invoking “juju”, a form of witchcraft, to win the match.
Resenting the accusation, Akande penned a letter right to the very top – First Lady and Falcons patron Maryam Babangida.
This left a number of noses out of joint but ended well enough for Akande when the local warlord, General Adisa, made the issue disappear: dropping Akande as coach but letting him keep his cherished salary.
Akande suspected the juju story was concocted to get Paul Ebiye Hamilton – another former international and face on the local soccer scene – into the job.
Hamilton duly took over for the rest of the qualifying cakewalk: seven and six–goal aggregate drubbings of hapless Guinea and Cameroon.
Meanwhile Akande took a job managing top Nigerian men’s club Shooting Stars FC in 1992. In 2014 the madcap boss, 71, was in high dudgeon at his “inhuman” sacking from Crown FC.
The club gently suggested he was not sacked but had actually been “retired” in the style of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Jo Bonfrere: the Dutch master?
On the eve of the 1991 final tournament, it was Hamilton’s turn to seethe as Dutchman Johannes “Jo” Bonfrere was brought in over his head as Technical Director.
The NFF was in the habit of parachuting in foreign, white coaches for its national teams. Seemingly it felt the Westerners not only better qualified (generally true), but also inherently more astute and worthy of respect from local players (false, bizarre… quite possibly racist).
There was an unedifying whiff of colonialism about it all.
Hamilton stayed on, but it was the second such blow to his prodigious ego. He was still smarting after being deposed as Nigeria men’s national coach by the arrival of Holland’s Clemens Westerhof in 1989.
On taking over, Westerhof asked Hamilton for videos of the male team’s recent matches. Hamilton sent a flunkey to snarl: “We’re football coaches, not cameramen”.
Westerhof’s introduction proved disastrous as he alienated several leading players and derailed Nigeria’s bid to reach World Cup Italia ’90.
Cameroon’s “Indomitable Lions” qualified instead and made history by dumping holders Argentina in the opening game then giving Bobby Robson’s England a fright in the quarter–finals.
Bonfrere spent his entire 22-year playing career with unfashionable MVV Maastricht, mostly in the top division of Dutch football. He had pitched up in Nigeria as Westerhof’s sidekick after a spell out of work.
Bonfrere later presided over Nigerian football’s finest hour, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. His team of (ahem!) under-23s including Nwankwo Kanu and Taribo West carried off the gold.
A noted eccentric, bucktoothed Bonfrere subsequently quit the NFF in an ugly dispute over unpaid bonuses and meddling officials, before being enticed back as men’s senior coach for another bumper payday.
As recently as last month (April 2015) he was touting himself for another crack at the job.
Bonfrere’s treachery in taking Westerhof’s old job left the two former pals locked in a clownish lifelong feud. Westerhof recently (2014) branded Bonfrere a snake, an idiot and a crybaby.
Both men traded unseemly accusations of pocketing kickbacks on male Nigerian players’ transfers to professional European clubs. And taking backhanders to call-up prospective national team players.
None of the allegations were ever proved.
Players: Nigeria’s 1991 World Cup squad
The squad was allegedly an average of 18.6-years-old – still in its salad days and comfortably the youngest in the competition. Pictures suggest suspiciously tall and powerfully built 16 and 17-year-old girls.
Thirty-three year old centre-half Edith Eluma was supposedly fully 14 years older than the next oldest squad member.
But as the competition had no upper age limit, this obviously wasn’t age-cheating.
If anything it suggested that, rather than trying to gain an advantage with all their other age-cheating antics down the years, the Nigerians are simply not that big on record keeping.
Indeed, a few bright prospects were left out after being deemed too young, including “Marvellous” Mercy Akide and Yinka “the Gentle Giant” Kudaisi. Their day would come in later tournaments.
Another feature of the squad was its careful composition of exactly 50% Igbo athletes. This was a political hot potato in Nigerian football at the time.
Iconic goalkeeper Ann Chiejine (née Agumanu) took her place between the sticks.
Uche Eucharia (née Ngozi) went on to play at the 1995 World Cup and coached the Super Falcons at the 2011 edition in Germany. A born-again Christian, before the latter tournament she made a song and dance about booting lesbians out of her squad and was told to shut up by FIFA.
Uche was sacked later in 2011 when lightly-regarded Cameroon beat Nigeria to a place at the 2012 London Olympics.
The 1991 squad also contained controversial athletics ace Chioma Ajunwa, reigning African 200 metres champ. The enfant terrible of Nigerian sports, she quit soccer in a huff shortly after the World Cup, then got clobbered with a four-year drugs ban from 1992–1996.
After joining the Nigerian police force, she sensationally returned to scoop an Olympic gold medal at Atlanta ’96 in the long jump, posting a monster first round effort of 7.12 metres.
She also boasted a different birth date on her Olympic documents to the one supplied to FIFA.
Declared a “Member of the Order of Niger” by despot Sani Abacha and made a chief by her tribe, the irrepressible Ajunwa gave birth to triplets in 2012.
A tale of two skippers: Omagbemi and Okosieme
Florence Omagbemi, 16, was the original captain but was replaced by university-educated Nkiru Okosieme in the run-up to the 1991 finals. Okosieme – nicknamed “the headmistress” after imparting several crucial goals with her noggin – was deemed the better public speaker.
Omagbemi later branded Jo Bonfrere clueless, saying his appointment caused “all kinds of drama,” in a squad already riven by “cultural differences, financial issues, welfare and so on.”
In time, Omagbemi recaptured the armband when loquacious Okosieme was herself stripped of the captaincy. Okosieme’s crime? A TV interview which slated the federation’s equally ludicrous preparations for the 1995 World Cup in Sweden.
Final tournament: Nigeria at the 1991 Women’s World Cup
Prior to the tournament, Bonfrere whisked his charges off for a month’s training at the Dutch FA’s plush Sittard HQ in his native Limburg.
On arrival in Guangzhou, they found Chinese authorities had packed the stadia with massive but bewildered crowds. Unlikely candidates as football fans, they went nut-nut every time the physio ran on.
On the other hand, goals were greeted only with general hubbub – like the inside of a giant Wetherspoons pub.
Reality arrived with a jolt when Germany (who had qualified as West Germany – crushing England en route) sworded Nigeria’s motley collection of youngsters 4–0 in Jiangmen.
A gutsy showing in the second group game saw Italian great Carolina Morace break Nigerian hearts, hitting the only goal 12 minutes from time.
The third game was lost 2–0 to Taiwan, whose wily playmaker Chou Tai-ying – a veteran of the German Bundesliga – pulled the strings and notched the killer second goal.
They fared marginally better than the Ivory Coast team who went to China for the 1988 FIFA prototype World Cup and shipped 17 goals in their three reverses. Although Ivory Coast at least managed a goal.
Beyond that, there was not much else for an African team to live up to. Zambia had been pencilled in for the 1985 Mundialito (‘Little World Cup’) in Italy, but failed to materialise.
Despite the lack of on-field success, the Nigerian party reportedly managed plenty of scoring off the pitch.
A 2001 BBC article reported: “When he [Bonfrere] took the national women’s team, Super Falcons, to the inaugural World Cup in China in 1991, the side returned with defeats and tales of salacious sex romps between officials and players.”