Kenilworth Road 27 May 1984 – England 1–0 Sweden (3–4 on penalties)
Linda Curl’s cracker levels the tie but Swedes edge it on penalties
Classic match report: Sweden win the first ever UEFA Women’s Euro, but brave England push them all the way
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In August 1984 Italy beat West Germany 3–1 in the 1984 Mundialto Femminile final. A capacity crowd at the Stadio Armando Picchi in Jesolo saw goals from vaunted front three Carolina Morace, Rose Reilly and Betty Vignotto put the Italians ahead, before West Germany reduced the arrears in the second half through Anne Kreuzberg.
Gero Bisanz's inexperienced West Germany team were running on fumes by the time of the final – a lengthy injury list included Player of the Tournament Sylvia Neid. Notorious slow-starters Italy had lost 2–1 to the Germans in their opening Mundialito match but ran amok here to secure the silverware.
Along with several other members of the victorious Italian squad, Morace and Reilly played for Serie A champions Trani. At club level Ireland’s Anne O’Brien laid on most of the duo’s goals, but in the blue of Italy they supported Betty Vignotto. Veteran striker Vignotto had shrugged off a series of knee injuries to remain the national team’s headline act.
Footage of the entire match exists at the Calcio Donne website here (please give ’em the hits). The 3–1 result mirrored the 1982 FIFA World Cup final between the nations. Hapless Antonio Cabrini, the future Italian women’s coach, missed a penalty in that game.
1. Italy kick-off here at a packed Stadio Armando Picchi in Jesolo.
3. The hosts start well with adopted Italian Rose “Relli” to the fore. They force an early free-kick on the edge of the box but make a complete mess of an elaborate training ground routine. A candidate for worst free-kick ever?
5. German number 9 Petra Bartelmann – with a bandaged thigh and hand – hits a tired shot on the turn. Italy’s 17-year-old goalkeeping prodigy Eva Russo touches it out for a corner, but the danger soon fizzles out.
7. Some nice early touches for Germany’s keeper Feiden, who makes a brave save at the feet of Vignotto then plucks the resultant corner out of the air.
8. GOAL for Italy. Reilly’s skill on the left wing precedes a deep cross, turned in from close range by her lurking Trani club-mate Carolina Morace.
12. The Germans look to hit back as Kreuzberg wins a free-kick deep in Italian territory. It’s a lame dive by Germany’s blond number 11, who rolls around like a dying swan. The free-kick is hoofed high and wide.
17. Germany’s “sweeper-keeper” Feiden races from her goal-line to clear Marisa Perin’s long pass away from Vignotto. As a former outfielder with her club, Feiden has that in her locker.
19. GOAL for Italy. It’s 2–0 as Vignotto’s looping shot from the left crashes off the frame of the goal, only to be swept in by Rose Reilly at the far post.
23. It’s all Italy now. Morace shows great skill to step away from a couple of wild tackles in midfield. She finds rampaging winger Anna Maria Mega, who dinks the ball over the German crossbar.
27. A long stoppage here as German defenders Zimmermann and Klinzmann collide in the centre circle then languish on the deck. Number 5 Zimmermann, the sweeper, rises gingerly to her feet but treatment continues for number 3 Klinzmann who still looks groggy.
29. Penalty to Italy. Vivi Bontacchio – a diligent right midfielder in the Roberto Donadoni mould – tears down the line and fires in a cross. Morace is caught under the arc of the ball, but bumps dazed defender Klinzmann. Contact is minimal and it looks a very soft award: Italy’s ‘homer’ ref can hardly get the whistle to his lips quickly enough!
30. GOAL for Italy. Senior pro Vignotto pulls rank to take the kick: dispatching an unerring finish high down the middle of the goal. Poor Feiden has had no chance with all three Italian strikes.
32. Substitution for West Germany. Coach Gero Bisanz hooks the embattled Wolfsburg defender Christel Klinzmann and sends on number 18 Susanne Scharras. Can they stem the blue tide?
34. Curly-headed Italian goalie Eva Russo makes a great save, tipping over Degwitz’s fierce free-kick. Incredibly, the officials then signal for a goal-kick. German protests are muted – it’s just not going to be their day… Insouciant Russo trots off to collect the ball. She lets the centre-back take the kick, as is her wont.
40. More nonsense from comedy ref Zaza. He whistles for half-time exactly on 40 minutes despite the lengthy stoppages.
41. We’re back out here and Italy threaten to go further ahead: Reilly bursts through the German rearguard but drags her shot well wide of Feiden’s goal.
44. German coach Bisanz has switched things around for the second half, with partially-mummified number 9 Bartelmann now playing as a wing-back. Italy are unchanged.
43. Italy’s graceful libero Fery Ferraguzzi gets a last-ditch toe on the ball to deny Germany’s number 16 Rosi Eichenlaub. It’s the first we’ve seen in this match of Eichenlaub, who scored against Italy on the opening day. A big, strong outside-forward with hunched shoulders, she’s very difficult to stop when allowed time to turn and build up a head of steam.
44. Shortly after her excellent intervention, Ferraguzzi blots her copybook. She dithers on the ball and is indebted to youngster Russo who makes a great save.
44. GOAL for West Germany. Italy fail to clear their lines and Anne Kreuzberg lashes the ball into the net from the inside-right channel. Hit with pent-up frustration, it nestles in the far corner of the goal before startled Russo can react. That’s Bad Neuenahr forward Kreuzberg’s second goal on the occasion of her sixth cap.
46. Rattled by the goal, the Italian players babble and gesticulate as only Italians can.
47. Anna Maria Mega is hobbling after a hefty challenge. Another member of the Trani contingent, the left-sided tough-nut has certainly put herself about today. Looks like she’s okay to soldier on.
51. There’s been a real drop-off in the quality here. The players look fatigued which may explain the lack of movement. The game is also becoming pockmarked by niggly fouls.
53. Italy’s right-back Marisa Perin is flattened while defending a corner, but carries on while holding her ribs. She hasn’t really lived up to her terrifying nickname – the female Claudio Gentile – today. She looks a tidy full-back rather than a blood-splattered centre-half. In her day job she’s a farmer [insert gag about agricultural defending here].
55. Now Bontacchio is hurt by Zimmermann’s late tackle. Vivi is perhaps the last of the women’s football “Munitionettes”: she’s employed in a weapons factory.
60. Yellow card for West Germany. The game’s first booking had been coming. German skipper Rike Koekkoek enters the referee’s notepad for a gratuitous trip on Rose Reilly.
63. Play is held up while the German substitute Scharras seems to be in some discomfort. Looks like she might have cut her head.
64. Oh dear. Feiden spills an easy cross. The danger is averted but West Germany’s goalkeeper is having a proverbial ‘mare. She’ll go on to have much better days than this in her career, that’s for sure.
66. Substitution for Italy. Home coach Ettore Recagni looks to shore things up by replacing Rose Reilly with the more defensive Viola Langella. Yet another Trani player enters the fray.
67. West German boss Gero Bisanz will be bemused at the wilting of his midfield in this second half. He must be pondering a call-up for 16-year-old Duisburg wunderkind Martina Voss when the Euro qualifiers get back underway in October.
69. Substitution for West Germany. Big Rosi Eichenlaub’s race is run. She’s replaced with Eva Schute for the last ten minutes or so.
75. Substitution for Italy. Number 15 Ida Golin is on for Carolina Morace. Today’s opener was Morace’s fourth goal of the competition, securing her the capocannoniere ahead of prolific policewoman Linda Curl who scored three times for England.
78. Substitution for Italy. Two minutes left now and Italy are looking to run down the clock. Number 10 Betty Secci replaces Vivi Bontacchio, who takes a well-earned rest.
79. Late drama as Zimmermann hacks the ball off her own goal-line, narrowly avoiding a fourth goal for the dominant Italians.
80. Full-time. That’s it! Italy are champions of the 1984 Mundialito Femminile.
Wheelchair-bound boxer Michael Watson on the Highbury turf, surrounded by chart-toppers Aswad
December’s bumper 3,256 crowd at Brighton’s AMEX Stadium left women’s soccer stattos scratching their noggins. Was it a record? Well yes… and no. It was a record for the newly-reconstituted WPL, but definitely not an English women’s league record. That particular honour went to this epochal Arsenal–Belles clash at Highbury, which topped 18,000 way back in 1993. Arsenal’s Wylie and Ball scored either side of Coultard’s equaliser. Although beaten Donny roared back with a league and cup double the following season, this match arguably cast the die for Arsenal’s unhealthy long-term suffocation of domestic competition…
The match was staged as part of a benefit day for stricken boxer Michael Watson. Islington pugilist Watson had graced a golden era of British middleweights alongside sworn rivals Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank.
The fearless trio wrote their names in boxing lore by going at it hammer and tongs in their frequent TV bouts with each other. At White Hart Lane in September 1991 Watson was ahead of Eubank on the judges’ scorecards before being decked by a fateful uppercut at the end of the 11th round.
Incredibly the lone ringside doc was unequipped and the ambulance which trundled through the dispersing crowd initially took Watson to the wrong hospital. It was well beyond the ‘golden hour’ for treating head injuries when Watson finally arrived at St Bart’s.
Top surgeon Peter Hamlyn battled all night to save Watson’s life but he remained in a coma and brain damaged. A slow and gutsy partial recovery took place over the following years at the family home in Chingford, under the watchful eye of mum Joan.
The fund raiser scooped around £86,000 towards Watson’s rehabilitation and he later clobbered the boxing authorities with a £1million lawsuit for their breathtaking negligence.
Admission to the “extravaganza” was a fiver, and it was pay on the gate. The day began at 12:30 with an 11-a-side celebrity match between Arsenal fans and a team of sportsmen put together by Daley Thompson.
The Arsenal supporters’ team played semi-regularly for charity and featured the likes of ‘Lofty’, from TV’s Eastenders. Prior to his injury Watson had turned out for the side.
The women took to the field at 13:30, followed by a musical interlude at 15:00 courtesy of reggae legends Aswad. Once the widespread bogle dancing had subsided, it was time for the main event: Ex-Arsenal XI v Ex-Tottenham XI at 15:30.
The veterans’ match appeared imbalanced with Spurs fielding a string of soccer wrinklies including 1961 double hero Cliff Jones. On the other hand Arsenal had some younger legs in alongside their own golden oldies like squeaky-voiced World Cup winner Alan Ball.
John Lukic, Chris Whyte and David Rocastle were all coming off a terrible season with Leeds United, while “Champagne” Charlie Nicholas was still playing for Celtic. He was 31 but inhabiting the body of a much older man.
The finale at 17:30 saw spirited Watson wheeled onto the pitch to meet his public. At 19:00 there was an invitation-only gala dinner in Highbury’s glitzy Mezzanine Suite.
For the previous decade, the best players in the south of England had been hopping around together from team to team – desperately trying to knock Doncaster Belles off their perch.
Usually constellated around Debbie Bampton, these teams would battle the Belles in the WFA Cup before the formation of the inaugural National League in 1991.
On the cusp of the FA takeover of women’s football in 1993, Bampton’s Arsenal were the latest pretenders to Donny’s crown and perhaps the most dangerous, given their comparatively vast resources.
After casting envious glances at Millwall’s groundbreaking girls’ youth academy, Arsenal had built one of their own, which soon hoovered up all the best kids. Some came from as far afield as Scotland – in the case of Michelle Sneddon.
This had already started to bear fruit for the first-team in the shape of cultured full-backs Curley and Pealling. An infusion of talent from local rivals supplemented the youngsters. North London foes Tottenham were ruthlessly denuded of star players Gill Wylie and Sharon Barber.
England keeper Shipp (later Higgs), midfield duo Bampton and Williams, sweeper Slee and frontrunner Churchman were all ex-Millwall Lionesses. As was full-back Maria Luckhurst, who began the season with Arsenal but was not getting much of a look in.
In the week leading up to the match Arsenal had nicked yet another Millwall player – Keeley Salvage – who was a no nonsense centre-half bearing the sobriquet “Well Hard”.
Arsenal had won the previous season’s League Cup, beating Millwall Lionesses in the final at Alt Park, Knowsley. But Doncaster Belles were not one of the 18 entrants when it was hastily convened in January 1992 – apparently as an afterthought.
Since being promoted from the 1991–92 National League Division One South, Arsenal had made a mockery of their 12–1 ante-post odds for the top title. In fairness, manager Vic Akers had built a truly formidable outfit.
Prolific strikers Naldra “Naz” Ball and Jo Churchman cut a swathe through the opposition, while a miserly defence shipped only 10 goals in 22 league and cup outings going into this game.
Akers’ team boasted a powerful spine in the shape of Gill Wylie the big Irish centre-half, Debbie Bampton and Welsh goal-machine Naz Ball. Each carried a potent aerial threat from set-pieces, at a time when heading was a sorely-underdeveloped skill in women’s soccer.
When Arsenal visited Doncaster’s Armthorpe Welfare FC Ground on 21 February 1993, a thumping 2–0 defeat brought an abrupt end to their season-long winning streak.
But just when it seemed that the Belles had slapped down the latest bunch of mouthy upstarts, as they had hundreds of times before, they came unstuck themselves in a shock 3–2 defeat at Wimbledon.
That meant Arsenal would require only a point from their last game at Red Star Southampton for the title: IF they could pull off their Belles revenge mission on this big day out at Highbury…
Doncaster Belles were reigning double winners but entered the match beset by problems. Ex-Leicester City pro Paul Edmunds had returned to the managerial hot-seat, after Jo Broadhurst’s dad Brian (ex-Chesterfield) filled in the season before.
Edmunds was still without Karen “Skiller” Skillcorn as an ACL rupture sustained in Spring 1991 was misdiagnosed and then the repeatedly-delayed treatment botched. At the time, crocked players were at the mercy of the NHS waiting lists.
Similarly, key midfielder Jackie Sherrard had hurt her knee in England’s Euro defeat in Italy the previous November. She had tried to play through the pain but eventually got a diagnosis of cartilage trouble and had to go under the knife.
Matters reached a head on 14 March 1993 when the Belles sensationally crashed 3–2 at Wimbledon. Legend has it, their first league defeat in 15 years.
Playmaker Jo Broadhurst must have been feeling sheepish, having served the first of a three-match ban at Wimbledon. The team bounced back to thrash Stanton Rangers 8–0, but were staring down the barrel of two defeats in three games without their creative lynchpin.
Philosophically, the rivalry with Arsenal cast into relief a clash of cultures. Belles players and staff simply could not get their heads around Arsenal’s gamesmanship and the po-faced, win-at-all-costs mentality underpinning it.
In Pete Davies’s I Lost My Heart To The Belles (1996) Broadhurst recalled the aftermath of the match:
“Us Belles were all singing, messing around – we were disappointed obviously, but it’s a game, we’ll have another chance – and them, they were just stood there. If that had been us we’d have been out partying, we always stay together when we’ve won something – but them, they went home.”
Broadhurst may have revised her opinion, as by the time Davies’s book came out she had herself been tempted south by Arsenal – who dangled the carrot of a paid gig in the club shop. Reborn as a striker she promptly hit the goal trail and breathed new life into her England career.
Joy McQuiggan, who hit the WFA Cup final winner for Leasowe Pacific in 1989, was one of the players drafted in as cover. Aptly, she bore a boxing-related nickname: being dubbed “Barry” after near namesake Barry McGuigan.
Mandy “Flo” Lowe and Ann Lisseman – later a big cheese in the police – were also adjusting to the demands of Belle-hood, although both would prove their mettle in the following 1993–94 season.
Disaster struck for Doncaster Belles when Gill Wylie gave Arsenal the lead after just five minutes. Then the bad luck continued when elegant centre-half Loraine Hunt tore her hamstring and had to be substituted after half an hour.
Undeterred, the depleted Belles kept scrapping and skipper Gill Coultard tore up the script by hooking in an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Just before the hour mark Naz Ball delighted organisers and the 18,196 crowd by scoring what proved to be the winner. Akers unleashed livewire youngster Debbie Smith (not among the substitutes listed in the programme) for the last 10 minutes.
When local ref Bill Saville blew his whistle for full-time it left the Belles needing snookers to retain their National League title.
David Mills’ interesting article in She Kicks recently highlighted the poor record keeping which continues to blight women’s football. Mills is RIGHT that older records are “sketchy”, but WRONG when he then suggests an arbitrary ‘year zero’ cut-off point. Sketchy records can – and must – be made unsketchy!
Having said that, this article only considers matches from the formation of the first National League in 1991. Barnstorming Dick, Kerr’s Ladies famously brought 53,000 to Goodison Park, with at least another 10,000 locked outside.
An invitational tourney along the lines of the latter day Cyprus or Algarve Cups, it was a much bigger deal than these annual seaside jollies: pulling in both bumper crowds and RAI TV coverage.
In summer 1984 football-daft Italians were beside themselves with glee, having carried off the 1982 World Cup and then sealed the 1990 hosting gig in May 1984. Their semi-autonomous women’s football federation (FIGCF) teamed up with the national Olympic committee (CONI) for this joint venture. As well as the national broadcaster and local authority, backing arrived from sportswear company Diadora and La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. All the participating teams’ costs were covered in full – music to the ears of England’s hard up WFA.
CONI’s interest was down to their suspicion that Olympic medals might be afoot – bringing an attendant funding bonanza. They were lobbying hard for Olympic women’s soccer and fancied their chances if it happened. At this stage the United States had no team (they debuted at the following year’s Mundialito) while newbies West Germany had only started their own programme 20 months earlier.
Jesolo was awarded city status in 1984, for services to local tourism. Big in the 70s, its 15 miles of sandy beach was a hot destination for new-fangled package holiday tours. Later on it repositioned itself as a bit classier and more expensive, probably to dodge the sad fate of Benidorm: hordes of braying louts in Union Jack shorts and diced carrots in its gutters.
Jesolo’s stadium was named for Armando Picchi, the great Inter Milan and Italy sweeper. Temporary stands brought the capacity up to a reported 6–8,000. The smaller stadium up the road in Caorle bore the name of Giovanni Chiggiato, a local landowner and worthy from the early part of the century. Matches were apparently played in the cooler evenings at 9.15pm and were 40 minutes each-way.
|Date||Venue||Team 1||Score||Team 2||Scorers|
|19 August||Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle||Italy||1–2||West Germany||ITA: Carolina Morace
FRG: Petra Bartelmann, Rosi Eichenlaub
|20 August||Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo||England||1–1||Belgium||ENG: Linda Curl
BEL: Carla Martens
|21 August||Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle||Italy||4–0||Belgium||ITA: Carolina Morace, Betty Vignotto, Rose Reilly, Betty Secci|
|22 August||Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo||West Germany||2–0||England||FRG: Silvia Neid (2)|
|23 August||Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle||Belgium||2–0||West Germany||BEL: TBC1|
|24 August||Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo||Italy||1–1||England||ITA: Carolina Morace
ENG: Linda Curl
|Date||Venue||Team 1||Score||Team 2||Scorers|
|25 August||Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle||England||2–1||Belgium||ENG: Marieanne Spacey, Linda Curl
BEL: TBC (pen)
|Date||Venue||Team 1||Score||Team 2||Scorers|
|26 August||Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo||Italy||3–1||West Germany||ITA: Carolina Morace, Rose Reilly, Betty Vignotto (pen)
GER: Anne Kreuzberg
|Date||Venue||Team 1||Score||Team 2||Scorers|
|27 August||Monfalcone||Italy||1–3||England||ITA: TBC
ENG: Angie Gallimore, Hope Powell, Pat Chapman
Some public domain snaps of the stadium in Jesolo, taken in September 2015.
Since their gutsy defeat by Sweden in the Euro 84 final shootout, England had lost three loyal campaigners to international retirement. Irish-born goalkeeper Terry Irvine, left-back Maggie Pearce (née Kirkland) and original skipper Sheila Parker (née Porter) were all footballing mums. They went out with heads held high.
Martin Reagan was also without fleet-footed Euro 84 revelation Kerry Davis and midfield terrier Gillian Coultard, who was away on holiday. That gave an opportunity to some fresh blood, including teenaged future-greats Marieanne Spacey (18, Friends of Fulham) and Jo Broadhurst (16, Sheffield).
There were also debut caps for defenders Sallie Jackson (Howbury Grange) and Jackie Slack (Norwich). Slack had skippered Lowestoft to the 1982 WFA Cup. Cup specialist Jackson played alongside Slack in that game and repeated the feat in May 1984 with Howbury Grange.
A few of England’s players had been involved in a six-a-side curtain-raiser to an Everton v Liverpool Charity Shield clash at Wembley, staged the day before the Mundialito started. The bizarre knockabout pitted WFA Cup winners Howbury Grange against national 5-a-side champs Millwall Lionesses. St Helens and a Mersey/Wirral select were also roped in, a sop to the 100,000 scousers in attendance.
The Wembley exertions might explain the sluggish start from England, who fell behind in their opening match when Belgium’s Carla Martens ruthlessly capitalised on new girl Jackie Slack’s error.
Linda Curl brought England level after running onto a Brenda Sempare pass. It was the best possible tonic for Curl, who laid to rest the ghost of her Kenilworth Road penalty miss at the earliest opportunity.
England’s next match was an inauspicious 2–0 reverse at the hands of slick upstarts West Germany. Midfielder Silvia Neid, later named Player of the Tournament, put England to the sword with two well taken goals.
It was to be 31 long years, before Fara Williams’ 2015 World Cup penalty finally ended England’s German hoodoo. Neid, by then the unified Germany manager, was rendered incredulous by her team’s extra-time defeat and failure to land a bronze medal.
In the final group match against the Italian hosts, Linda Curl put England ahead in torrential rain. Morace hit back as the teams ground out an entertaining 1–1 draw in Jesolo. According to the WFA’s one-person media operation, the incomparable Cathy Gibb, Hope Powell “won the Italian crowd over with astounding delicate skills”.
The third place play-off saw another meeting with the underrated Belgians. Spacey lashed England ahead, but profligate finishing proved costly when Jackson’s handball conceded a penalty which pegged it back to 1–1.
Jackson made amends by hitting a long pass to Curl, who expertly rounded Belgian custodian Annie Noë and knocked in her third goal of the tournament to win the match for England.
There was more to come as a hastily-arranged bounce game against an understrength Italian team took place the day after the final. This was just up the coast in Monfalcone, near the border with what was then Yugoslavia.
Some sources describe the opposition as an Italian “B team”, but England’s 3–1 win was notable for Jo Broadhurst’s first Lionesses appearance and Hope Powell’s first international goal. It is also thought that Sue Buckett filled in for Terry Wiseman, marking an emotional farewell between the sticks for the Southampton legend.
It its coverage of the tournament, local broadsheet La Stampa said of the English squad:
“They train running barefoot on the beach, eat in joy, stuff themselves with sweets, seem to appreciate the good Italian wine: for them this “Mundialito” is almost a holiday.”
The same article cited “Patricia Curry” and “Andrienne Powel” as England’s best players – apparently garbled compounds of Hope Powell, Marieanne Spacey, Linda Curl (?) and Pat Chapman.
Andrienne Powel was described as a professional ballerina and coach Martin Reagan as a former Liverpool player.2 Either the hack responsible was the victim of a wind-up, or they were no stranger to appreciation of the good wine themselves!
Italy had hosted previous tournaments under the auspices of rebel women’s football governing body FIEFF, which had long since been stamped out by peevish rivals UEFA and FIFA.
Mundialito organisers tenuously claimed their lineage from the 1981 International Ladies Football Festival in Japan. Even more tenuously they claimed that Italy were defending a title won at the curious, unfinished Japanese tournament.
Inevitably, the wily Italians had a couple of trump cards up their sleeves. The first was Rose Reilly. A deadly cocktail of pace and power, Reilly was already box office dynamite in Italy’s Serie A. So much so that the Italians were trying to marry the charismatic Kiki Dee look-alike into Italian citizenry.
In November 1972, aged 17, she had starred in Scotland’s first ever international fixture, against England at a frost-bitten Ravenscraig Stadium in Greenock. In the first-half Reilly scored direct from a corner to put the Scots 2–0 ahead, only for the team to somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in time-honoured Scottish style.
The Scots made a big play of getting Reilly back in the fold for the winner-take-all Euro qualifier with England at Dumbarton in October 1982. British Caledonian were lined up to jet her in, but her employers at Alaska Lecce (named for their ice cream company backers) had other ideas. Kerry Davis bagged four unanswered goals in England’s romp at the ramshackle Boghead Park ground.
Reilly gave the marriage offers a swerve, but did become an honorary Italian footballer: forming a formidable front three with Carolina Morace and Betty Vignotto.
The Italians’ second trump card was the home officials, who presided over what Cathy Gibb called: “refereeing at its worst”. They waved through three offside goals as Italy drubbed Belgium 4–0, recovering from their shock 2–1 opening day defeat by West Germany.
This set the tone for what was to follow. Some 32 years later at a Mundialito-type event in America, preposterously entitled the SheBelieves Cup, the refereeing was equally diabolical. Although this time it was female referees. And the public no longer had to take Gibb’s word for it, since live BBC television coverage beamed it into the nation’s living rooms.
In 1984 relations between the Italian Women’s FA (FIGCF) and the Italian [male] FA (FIGC) were strained. A telegramme from the Chinese FA inviting the women’s team to a Xi’an tournament in October had not been passed on. Seething, the FIGCF were left pondering whether apathy or spite had underpinned the snub.
The team did get to China but were handed a humiliating 3–2 semi-final defeat by Dallas Sting, a youth club who had been cleared by the USSF to play as the United States. Among the Sting players, mostly high school girls, was Carla Werden (Overbeck) who went on to become a “99er”, an Olympic gold medallist and a full-time professional with the Carolina Courage.
1. Women’s Football Archive contacted the Belgian FA (KBVB) to tell them they had this score the wrong way about on their website. But to date they have not replied or fixed their error. Inevitably, the German FA’s “statistik center” is correct! ↩
Remember when England whupped Germany 5–1? No, not that time. Y’know… 1970… at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa? Before Stevie G, Michael O and, er, Emile H were even born. No? Then read on…
UPDATE: See below for a November 2016 update to this article.
The Women’s Football Association gingerly began life as the ‘Ladies’ Football Association of Great Britain’ in 1969.
For a few years they remained so bogged down in ludicrous ‘steering groups’ and ‘joint-consultative sub-committees’ that nothing actually got done in terms of putting a national team out.
Meanwhile, hard-headed realist Harry Batt got on and made things happen. Like all the best drivers of early women’s football he acted without waiting for permission.
Batt was the manager of Chiltern Valley Ladies, where his formidable wife June had played, and had taken it upon himself to put together an England national team.
Meanwhile an independent world women’s football governing body, FIEFF, had been formed as the brainchild of a group of Italian businessmen. Among them was Marco Rambaudi, furniture magnate and owner of the Real Torino women’s football club.
Martini & Rossi, purveyors of sickly fortified wines – popular in the pre-alcopop 70s – were the group’s main sponsors.
A Coppa Europa involving Batt’s England had proved to be a money-spinner for FIEFF in 1969. Thumbing their nose at FIFA, the Italian impresarios put together an even more ambitious eight-team Coppa del Mondo in 1970.
Another invitation winged its way to Batt, while teams from Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and West Germany were also rounded up. Czechoslovakia pulled out at late notice when they were refused visas.
Plans to invite Brazil were scuppered when it turned out women’s football there was not only banned – as it was in most places – but actually illegal.
Martini ponied up for a massive ornate trophy, to be collected by the tournament winners.
England’s star players Sue Lopez and Dot Cassell ultimately earned moves to full-time football in Italy off the back of their performances for Batt’s team.
Here the Italian press reported that Lopez had a distant relative in the Mexican squad, due to the great-granddad who had bequeathed her Iberian moniker.
Sue’s copious memoirs rather skirt over this 1970 tournament. It was apparently a bit naughty of her to take part: she was, after all, the nascent WFA’s assistant secretary.
Batt was said to be sweating on Cassell and Lopez turning up – they made their own way to Italy after starring for Southampton in the Deal International Tournament.
Sue Buckett, the great Southampton goalkeeper who became a fixture in the WFA’s England team, was in the team lists published by La Stampa on the morning of the match, with Everitt on the bench. But in the following day’s match report it was Everitt between the sticks with Buckett nowhere to be seen.
There were a few other interesting names in Batt’s line-up, which might suggest his team was stronger and more representative than it has often been given credit for.
Briggs and Seymour jump out: Joan Briggs and Jean Seymour were veterans of the big Northern works teams who dominated England’s domestic scene in the pre-WFA era.
Seymour had moved down to play for Southampton, while Briggs turned out for Leicester side EMGALS and was one of the last players to be cut from Eric Worthington’s 1972 England team. Briggs later became a Tory Councillor in the East Midlands (Boo! Hiss!)
Denmark proved too strong in England’s next match, winning 2–0 at a canter in Milan.
Neither Cassell or Lopez were in the England team which lost the third place play-off 3–2 to Mexico in Turin. Batt’s girls never recovered from a sensational early goal by Alicia Vargas, perhaps the Marta of her day.
The Germans did not set up an official women’s team until 1982. So the invite for this tournament was taken up by Heinz Schweden, coach of club team SC Bad Neuenahr.
The Rhine Valley outfit made headlines in 2000 when they signed former Southampton Saints and Reading frontwoman Sarah Stainer, making her the first English player in the Frauen-Bundesliga.
Like Batt’s England, the Germans bolstered their ranks with guest players. Captain Margaretha Holl joined from Bellenberg. Sieglinde Schmied and Anneliese Probst came in from Ludwigsfeld and Gannertshofen, respectively.
The Bad Neuenahr team had a youthful spine: Maria Nelles (later Breuer) was the 17-year-old goalkeeper and Elisabeth “Fritzi” Schuhmacher the midfield hub. Prolific 15-year-old Martina Arzdorf (later Hertel) was charged with leading the line and getting the goals.
England and West Germany both trained at Genoa’s impressive stadium on the day before the match, with Batt and Schweden soon at loggerheads over alleged spying!
The spat foreshadowed the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup – where the Chinese hosts subjected their opponents to creepy surveillance, involving bugged dressing rooms and two-way mirrors.
In its quaintly shambolic way, the bickering proved that the stakes were high. Batt and Schweden were contrary characters. They needed to be, too: by running their “unofficial” national teams they constantly shrugged off threats of dire consequences from football’s powers that be.
A crowd of around 3,000 were in place for the half nine kick-off, after which England quickly seized control of the match.
Briggs blasted an early two-goal salvo, inside the first minute and then on nine minutes. Stockley knocked in a penalty on 25 minutes, awarded by fussy Italian ref Loffi. Cross’s goal on the half hour mark gave England a commanding 4–0 half-time lead.
Germany’s Schmied reduced the arrears with an eye-catching solo goal on 49 minutes, before – who else? – Sue Lopez lashed in a fifth to make the game safe on 61 minutes.
The match made a small ripple in the West German press. Abendzeitung sports hack Veit Mölder, piqued at the Germans’ thrashing, instead focused on the players’ looks.
Scoffing at the Brits’ “tree-truck calves”, Mölder seedily branded the German teens “die schönere Elf” (the beautiful eleven). Well, it was the 70s!
Meanwhile the sweaty-palmed, dirty raincoat-wearing snappers trained their long lenses on German number 4 Helga Waluga. The same treatment was meted out to England’s own blond bombshell Jeannie Allott a couple of years later.
It would be 45 long years before Fara Williams’ trusty right boot gave England victory over Germany again, at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Italian preparations for the tournament were marred by internal politics and internecine strife.
The team was selected by FICF, who were based in Viareggio and then Turin. A rival Rome-based association, FFIGC, banned its players from taking part.
FFIGC league champions Gommagomma noisily bragged that they would thrash the FICF national team. The Milan outfit may well have done too – their 16-year-old striker was the legendary Betty Vignotto.
The Italians still put out a strong team, containing captain and golden girl Elena Schiavo and excellent goalkeeper Wilma Seghetti. As holders of FIEFF’s 1969 Coppa Europa, they were looking to underline their dominance in their own backyard.
Notorious slow starters, the Italians edged out the Swiss 2–1 in Salerno. Then Schiavo booked their place in the final, grabbing a double to see off highly-fancied Mexico in Naples.
Top club team Femina BK were invited to represent Denmark, as they had in the previous year’s Coppa Europa. They wanted to go one better having finished runners-up to their Italian hosts on that occasion.
The Femina ranks boasted a couple of talented Czechs in the shape of Jana Mandikova and Maria Sevcikova, a legacy of the club’s 1968 tour behind the old iron curtain. Sevcikova was already in the sights of Italian clubs and had been on trial at Real Torino alongside Sue Lopez.
Things got off to a rocky start when the hamper containing Femina’s iconic white kits failed to materialise. Suspicion fell on the Russian travel agents. Undeterred, the Danes sourced a job lot of AC Milan replica kits at a local sports shop and wore those instead.
Femina opened their campaign with a 6–1 win over West Germany, who were tired out by their England defeat and an exhausting train journey from Genoa to Bologna.
Two goals from Evers disposed of England in the semi-final in Milan – setting up a mouthwatering final rematch with Italy in Turin.
The match was staged at Turin’s Stadio Communale (now the Stadio Olimpico after it was refurb’ed for the 2006 Winter Olympics).
Ex-Juventus custodian Giovanni Viola was in evidence, later making measured and sensible comment about the quality of football on show.
24,000 ticket sales went through the books, but the actual number inside the ground was reckoned at more than 40,000. Marco Rambaudi and pals made a killing but rubbed FIFA up the wrong way.
The crooks at the world governing body felt quite strongly, then as now, that their own noses should always be first in the trough on such occasions.
After an even bigger, better FIEFF World Cup in Mexico the following year, FIFA redoubled their efforts. High-level interference blocked a tournament in fascist Spain after which FIEFF fizzled out.
On the pitch, Denmark duly took revenge on Italy with goals in either half from Hansen and their irrepressible Czech Sevcikova.
Femina returned home in triumph having scooped the world title. But there was something rotten in the state of Denmark: their civic reception turned into a damp squib when the team caught an earlier train and missed the festivities.
The club inked a big sponsorship deal with the FAXE brewery off the back of their “World Champions” tag. But the peevish Danish FA (DBU) did everything in their power to stamp Femina out altogether over the following couple of years.
An article in the Southern Evening Echo makes it clear that Sue Lopez and the Southampton players pulled out of the squad on the eve of the tournament and DID NOT take part, after all.
Quotes from Lopez indicate a mooted transport strike on the continent dissuaded the Southampton players from setting off at 8am the day after their Deal heroics. They were also wary about being seen to undermine the WFA.
The 2–0 semi-final defeat by Denmark in Milan was followed by unsavoury scenes, as players fled in terror from exuberant Italian fans invading the pitch. Batt insisted, not entirely convincingly: “The crowd did invade the pitch but the did not touch my girls. I can surely deny this. They may have been jostled a bit but nothing more.”
It seems Seymour in the England team was not Jean (née Gollin), the Mancunian veteran of Corinthians and Dick, Kerr’s Ladies, but Janice Seymour – a team-mate of Louise Cross of Patstone United.
Thanks to Neil Morrison of The Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation for additional info.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.