Administrator: Pat Gregory

Patricia “Pat” Gregory

PatGregorysmall

Born: c.1947, London

Position: Unknown

Debut: N/A

Occupation: BBC Sport special projects manager (1993, 2005)

Pat Gregory: A lifetime dedicated to women’s football

First, an apology: until now the entire Women’s Football Archive project has been a pathetic joke. That’s because it has purported to tell the story of women’s soccer in England… with hardly any mention of Pat Gregory! This article is a small step towards putting that right.

Patricia Alice Jane Gregory
took over as WFA secretary from founding father Arthur Hobbs and later served as chairperson. Alongside Flo Bilton and June Jaycocks in a small band of dedicated volunteers, she kept the light of women’s football flickering through its dark days. She remained involved even after the FA takeover in 1993.

Gregory founded White Ribbon FC in June 1967 aged 19 and got involved in the South East of England League setup. The team debuted at the Deal Tournament at Betteshanger Colliery.

Sue Lopez’s Women on the Ball (1997) relates the tale of a schoolgirl Gregory writing to the local rag asking why women can’t play football. This sparked an influx of letters from other girls wondering exactly the same thing.

White Ribbon were named for Tottenham Hotspur – Gregory’s dad was a Spurs fan, but her brother supported Arsenal. And Gregory herself was a Chelsea fan!

As a footballing force White Ribbon never scaled the heights. Although they got out of their regionalised group in 1971’s Mitre Trophy, they were pasted 23–0 by eventual winners Southampton in the quarter-final.

While playing for White Ribbon, Gregory also took ballet dancing lessons. “I wasn’t good at either,” she lamented. White Ribbon fizzled out after eight years. It was off the field where Gregory’s mark would be made.

In Kicking Against Tradition (2005), Wendy Owen related an anecdote about touring England players hiding stinging nettles in Gregory’s bed as a mischievous practical joke.

With the unnamed culprit(s) giggling behind the door, stoic Gregory denied them their punchline: de-nettling her sheets without so much as a tut, then swiftly nodding off.

Although not much older than some of the England players, level-headed Gregory kept them in check by enforcing curfews and the like. Owen concluded that Gregory “had a wry sense of humour, which was probably just as well.”

Nae troosers: Gregory's letter to the first ever England squad

Nae troosers: Gregory’s letter to the first ever England squad, from Kicking Against Tradition (2005)

That sense of humour was in evidence again in May 1979, when England went to play a friendly in Denmark. On arrival the team trained in monsoon conditions – in what turned out to be the only kit they had brought.

Cue Gregory and her fellow WFA stalwarts frantically legging it round downtown Copenhagen in search of a launderette. England lost 3–1 in driving rain and the puny crowd of 300 or so was the lowest yet. But at least they didn’t debut a soggy, all-brown England kit.

Away from the practicalities of running a national football team on a shoestring budget, Gregory also developed a sideline in polite-but-firm letters. She fired off missives right, left and centre. Eventually, she prevailed on moderate elements within the FA – in 1970 Sir Denis Follows tore up the infamous 1921 woman ban.

A regular column penned by Gregory in the WFA’s newsletter sometimes posed bold questions, such as why were 14 of 19 regional leagues chaired by men? Pretty mild by today’s standards but radical stuff in the 70s.

Gregory was no revolutionary. She wanted the best for women’s football but her demands were modest: “Women who finish playing football should not be allowed to fade away; they are probably able to combine running a home with some administrative work for a club or league”.

Nor did she shy away from voicing inconvenient truths. Speaking to Donna Woodhouse in 2003, Gregory gave her withering verdict (“real dross”) on all too many male coaches taking up space in women’s football. This was coloured by personal experience at White Ribbon, who suffered: “a succession of appalling managers”.

On the other hand she was a long-time ally of Martin Reagan, a qualified and dedicated coach whose gracious personality was a perfect fit for the WFA.

Even the famed sense of humour had its limits. In 1988 fuming Gregory gave Linda Whitehead both barrels for unilaterally moving the WFA operation from London to Manchester.

She was also left raging at her replacement on the UEFA Committee for Women’s Football after 14 years. Following the FA takeover in 1993, Gregory still went to the meetings but found men increasingly colluded to keep women out.

The UEFA snub stung because, along with her German counterpart Hannelore Ratzeburg, Gregory had rebooted the committee in 1981. The original ran from 1971 to 1978 as an all-male affair, mandated to nip any chance of progress or development in the bud.

Ratzeburg and Gregory immediately got a Euro Championship up and running, then dug in for the long game: scrapping for every incremental improvement. Ditching Gregory for a stuffed County FA blazer was a step back to the dark ages. It was symptomatic of the FA’s disastrously high-handed approach since taking over.

Ever since the 1990s Ratzeburg’s Germany have battled the United States for world supremacy. Meanwhile, with Gregory and Co sidelined, England rapidly hit the skids: pig-headedly repeating the same mistakes, heads stuck in the sand like ostriches.

“When you trundle through life you don’t always realise that what you are fighting for will have an impact on so many others.” – Pat Gregory in 2013

In 2013 The FA presented Gregory and Linda Whitehead with a polished stone at the annual women’s football awards, to be stuck to the Bobby Moore statue outside Wembley.

Given the FA’s shoddy treatment of both the WFA and Bobby Moore when they were around, the edifice stands as truly breathtaking in the scope of its revisionism and hypocrisy.

Gregory was chuffed with the belated recognition, though: “It was a lovely event and something we could not have imagined ever happening. I couldn’t believe the number of people who came to say thank you for what we had done all those years ago.”

A letter to erstwhile FA supremo David Bernstein earlier in 2013 seemed to be behind the gesture. Warning against “whitewashing” the WFA’s achievements, Gregory had told Berstein: “It’s a bit sad and disappointing that what the WFA did for so many years has just disappeared in to the ether.”

Match: Republic of Ireland 0–5 England, 3 May 1981, Dalymount Park

Reagan’s rampant England put five past Ireland

Guerin in her later guise as a hard-bitten crime reporter

Irish soccer starlet Ronnie Guerin in her later guise as a hard-bitten crime reporter

Classic match report: Debuts for Coultard and Gallimore as England drub Girls in Green

In June 2016 England blooded two new Lionesses in the shape of Rachel Daly and Nikita Parris, who both made their debuts in a 7–0 cakewalk against hapless Serbia. Some 35 years earlier England also handed out a double debut, to Gillian Coultard and Angela Gallimore, in this match with Ireland at Dalymount Park. In their first visit to the Emerald Isle, England eased to a 5–0 win. But Ireland’s team sheet included a star name of its own: Veronica “Ronnie” Guerin wore the famous green shirt before she turned into a leading journalist, got tragically gunned down and became the subject of a Holywood blockbuster…

Ireland


In 1981 Ireland’s national team had some talented players but lacked structure, resources and proper association backing – a state of affairs which may sound familiar to fans of the 2016 Girls in Green.

Like his English counterpart Martin Reagan, coach Tony Kelly had taken over a couple of years previously. And he had a similar remit to Reagan: cobbling together a functional national team from a patchwork of regional amateur leagues, while trying to raise coaching standards across the board.

They had scored a notable 1–0 victory over Belgium in October 1980, in a controversial friendly at Dalymount Park. The scorer in that game, Grainne Cross (pronounced “Gron-ya”), left the field covered in blood after colliding with the Belgian goalie, who was stretchered off needing stitches in her chin.

IRELAND
1. Marian Leahy
2. Gabrielle Byrne
3. Mary Joyce
4. Pauline Boland
5. Janice Mooney
6. Philo Robinson
7. Grainne Cross
8. Teresa McCann
9. Debbie McGarry (out 68)
10.Barbara Kelly
11.Breda Hanlon (out 56)
Substitutes:
Catherine Fitzpatrick (in 56)
Ronnie Guerin (in 68)Coach:
Tony Kelly

With Anne O’Brien out of sight and apparently out of mind in Italy, midfielder Cross was perhaps the team’s closest thing to a star player. She spent a season in Italy herself, with Fiammamonza in 1986–87.

The rest of the time she played for local teams in Limerick, including Krups, De Beers and Greenpark United. She was reportedly one of FIVE sisters to play for Ireland, which must be some sort of record. Two other Cross sisters turned out on the Limerick League circuit.

Grainne later played rugby union for Old Crescent RFC.

After the Belgium match Ireland came back to earth with a bump in their next game, being hammered 5–0 at home by Scotland in March 1981. Goalkeeper Marian Leahy played exceptionally well to avert an even more embarrassing rout.

Leahy was another product of the Limerick League, who won a debut cap in Ireland’s first meeting with England; a 6–1 reverse at Exeter in May 1978. An IT professional, she captained Ireland in later games after becoming a buccaneering full-back, including the first women’s international to be held at Wembley in April 1988.

Like many Irish soccer fans of a certain vintage, Leahy keenly followed the Arsenal side graced by Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton. Even the floodlights at Dalymount Park, then Ireland’s national stadium, were hand-me-downs from the Gunners’ old Highbury ground.

There was another, more direct, link to Arsenal too: Frank’s footballing sibling Helena Stapleton was in the 20-strong squad for the match, having made her debut in the Scotland defeat.

Helena played for Dunseedy, a club based in the Raheny area of Dublin. There she formed a potent attacking tandem with her pal, a strong-willed youngster named Ronnie Guerin.

Ireland’s squad also included Denise Lyons, who was English-born but grew up in Waterford. She found success at college level in the United States; playing for Keene State Owls from 1986 to 1989 and then starting a long and glittering spell as head coach in 1992.

Philo Robinson also starred for Keene State Owls, from 1988 to 1991. She was from Dublin and orphaned at a cruelly early age. Like Lyons she was later named in Keene State’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Janice “Jan” Mooney was playing for the Suffragettes club in 1981, but later moved to London and went on to captain the Wembley LFC team which spawned Kelly Smith.

Included in the 20, but not – for some reason – in the team, was experienced skipper Linda Gorman. She was a veteran of Ireland’s first national team matches in 1973 and went on to become the national team’s first female boss in the 1991–92 season.

Tensions


In February 1980 a brace from Irish-descended Kevin Keegan settled a Euro qualifier in England’s favour, but men’s matches between the two nations were politically charged and relatively rare.

With “the troubles” at their height, many Irish citizens were still smarting over 800 years of British oppression, while the IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain had unleashed rampant Hibernophobia.

On the day of this match, the Irish revolutionary (and sometime left-back) Bobby Sands MP slipped into a coma on the 64th day of his hunger strike. His death two days later sparked riots all over Ireland.

Events took a turn for the worse when a second hunger striker, Francis Hughes, died the following week. A furious crowd tried to ransack the British embassy in Dublin.

The men’s home nations tournament was promptly cancelled when Northern Ireland’s opponents refused to travel.

But the two women’s associations forged very friendly relations, shared it seems by the players and staff on both sides.

England


At the time of this match, Martin Reagan’s ambitious revamp – introducing interregional fixtures as a route to the England team – had yet to bear fruit. In 1980 he won one, drew one and lost one of his three games in charge.

ENGLAND
Terry Wiseman .1
(c) Carol Thomas .2
Angie Gallimore .3
Sheila Parker .4
(out HT) Linda Coffin.5
(out HT) Linda Curl .6
Debbie Bampton .7
Liz Deighan .8
(out 54) Tracy Doe.9
Eileen Foreman.10
Janet Turner.11
Substitutes:
(in HT) Maureen Reynolds
(in HT) Gillian Coultard
(in 54) Christine HutchinsonCoach:
Martin Reagan

This was England’s first visit to Ireland and was a rather belated return fixture to the 6–1 win at St James’ Park, Exeter in May 1978.

Uncapped players Gillian Coultard and Angela Gallimore were drafted in ahead of this match, as Reagan began carefully crafting the side which went all the way to the inaugural European Championships final in 1984.

Coultard was 18 but had apparently been held back from senior international football to aid her development. Some four years earlier she had been playing in the old Probables v Possibles trials match (for the Probables).

It was the worst kept secret in women’s football that tough-tackling Doncaster Belle Coultard was already one of the best in the country. But Reagan made “keep it simple” her mantra in order to harness her fantastic talent for the team’s benefit.

Gallimore played for the Broadoak club, based in the Middleton area of Manchester. A defender who was strong in the air and possessed a wand of a left foot, she too went on to enjoy a fine England career, before a knee injury wrecked it after 35 caps.

Theresa “Terry” Wiseman had taken over as first-choice goalkeeper from Sue Buckett. It was reported in the Irish newspapers that Wiseman was a Londoner with green roots, as one of her parents hailed from County Cork. Presumably Martin Reagan and Liz Deighan could also boast of Irish heritage somewhere in their own family trees.

England were without Pat Chapman, so St Helens-born winger Janet Turner played on the left flank.

The match


After eight minutes England took the lead. Right-back Gabrielle Byrne, a Kells LFC player from Drogheda, inadvertently turned the ball into her own net under intense pressure from Janet Turner.

Ireland were outmatched but scrapped for a foothold in the match during the first half. Teresa McCann was prominent in midfield as the Girls in Green worked hard to shut down the wide open spaces of “Dalyer”.

Disaster befell Ireland on the stroke of half time; Tracy Doe’s fine cross was headed powerfully into the net by her strike partner Eileen Foreman.

The two-goal cushion persuaded Reagan to roll the dice at the interval. Coultard was brought on for Linda Curl, who at that stage was a fixture on the right of England’s midfield three.

That gave England their second debutante of the day. Gallimore had impressed after starting at left-back.

Inspired by what the Irish Independent called a “wonderful performance” from Coultard, England went further ahead on 50 minutes. Half-time substitute Maureen Reynolds of Lowestoft got the goal.

The fourth goal came from Christine Hutchinson on 58 minutes, five minutes after she entered the fray as England’s final substitute.

A tough Geordie with a talent for arm-wrestling, Hutchinson’s playing career took in Wallsend, Percy Main and Whitley Bay. But she was also a PE teacher and successfully got girl’s football on the timetable in 1986.

As Ireland ran out of steam Reynolds’s second goal made it 5–0 on 65 minutes.

The decidedly blunt match report in the now-defunct Irish Press blamed: “a blatant lack of stamina coupled with an extremely shaky defence”.

Reagan showered his squad with praise, taking the same 16 players to Japan later that year, insisting they had grabbed: “a host of friends and admirers and were a great credit to England”.

With one or two minor tweaks (and the addition of prolific young striker Kerry Davis) this squad formed the basis of the side who pushed Sweden all the way to penalties in the Euro 1984 final.

Coultard ruled England’s midfield roost for the next 19 years, famously becoming the first female England player to scoop a century of caps.

Veronica Guerin


With his Ireland team 5–0 down and the match ebbing away, coach Tony Kelly handed his impetuous substitute Ronnie Guerin a debut cap.

During her short cameo Dunseedy striker Ronnie failed to make any impression on an English defence led by vastly-experienced Sheila Parker – a holdover from the classic Dick, Kerr’s Ladies era.

Young Ronnie grew up into Veronica Guerin, the fearless investigative journalist, immortalised in celluloid by Cate Blanchett.

Her 1996 murder by netherworld drug lords led to an outpouring of national grief and sweeping new laws which sent Dublin’s gangsters scuttling away overseas.

A year before her killing Guerin was shot in the thigh. She was saved from more serious injury when her femur stopped the bullet, a feat attributed to her soccer-toughened bones.

Sports nut Guerin also played basketball for Ireland, before destiny marked out a greater and more noble path than any ball sport.

In a world where “legends” and “heroes” are ten-a-penny, this is a genuine case. And the wider women’s football family can proudly claim her as one of our own.