An ‘Original’ writes

England ‘keeper Sue Whyatt: Forget me not!

1972 England goalkeeper Sue Whyatt recently got in touch with Women’s Football Archive:

Hi I am Sue Whyatt, I played goalkeeper for Macclesfield Ladies and alongside Janet Bagueley also from Maccs team. I also played for England. I was on the first England squad in 1972 and won 1 cap playing against Scotland. I was the reserve goalie. I seem to have been missed out of all the history of England Ladies. I still have my cap and a scrap book though I can’t find my picture of us at Wembley when we were issued with bags and boots, all of which we had to give back !!

That’s Sue on the right, leaning over to share a joke with Macclesfield pal Bagguley. Both sport the controversial barely there knicker-shorts issued to the squad, while a trendy platform shoe lies discarded by Sue’s foot.

Beside her, footballing ex-nun Paddy McGroarty beams as she rips open her on-loan Mitres. The late Sylvia Gore is in the corner, beside the obligatory tea urn. Young Maggie Kirkland (later Pearce) sits behind Bagguley on the floor.

Thanks for getting in touch Sue – it’s always an honour to hear from players who played their part in making the game we all love into what it is today.

Anne O’Brien, footballer (1956–2016)

Irish football great Anne O’Brien dies in Italy aged 60

Au revoir: Anne waves goodbye to Dublin and embarks on her pro soccer career in Reims

Au revoir: Anne leaving Dublin for her pro soccer career in Reims, France

Ireland lost one of its best ever sports stars with the untimely death of Anne O’Brien in August 2016. Medals and memories from a stellar pro career in France and Italy cemented her unique legacy to Irish sporting heritage. The tragedy is that she has been lost with parts of her amazing story still to be told, and without getting the proper acclaim her achievements merited.

Early days


The Dublin factory team where O’Brien played her early football was Vards, named for Julian Vard furriers.1

Vards played their home games on public pitches in the vast Phoenix Park, and took their place in the vibrant Leinster Ladies League which sprang up at the end of the 60s.

Julian Vard furriers on Harcourt Street, Dublin Photo courtesy of Dublin City Council

Julian Vard furriers on Harcourt Street, Dublin Photo courtesy of Dublin City Council

As well as O’Brien, Vards boasted the talents of prolific twins Joan and Jacinta Williams – who spelled double trouble for opposition defences.

The Williams’s honed their soccer skills on the streets of Ballyfermot with the lads – including the brothers Furey, who grew up into diddly-dee music megastars.

Joan went to a Fureys gig in Wales some 30 years later and beamed when they recognised her from those marathon childhood kickabouts. Her hard-won soccer reputation undimmed by the passage of time.

Vards’ sworn rivals were Bosco, of the St John Bosco Youth Club in Drimnagh.

O’Brien’s first serious column inches came in 1971 when she let fly at Bosco with a sensational hat-trick in Vards’ 3–2 Drumcondra Cup win at Tolka Park.

Reims come calling


The story of Reims unearthing O’Brien on their 1973 Irish tour has passed into soccer lore. But a controversial final fixture in Bray almost threw a spanner in the works…

Still smarting from a 2–1 reverse at Kilkenny dog track – reportedly their first defeat in two years – Reims’ fiery Gallic tempers boiled over at the Carlisle Grounds, Bray.

O’Brien scored once and Carol Carr twice as Ireland snapped terrier-like at the heels of their French opponents, who led 4–3.

Carr was an exceptional attacking midfielder, or inside-forward in old money, who many rated just as good as O’Brien. But she was a couple of years older and Reims passed on her.

The Irish papers relished this “past it at 20” angle and linked Carr with lucrative switches to AS Roma and Standard Liège, but it was not clear if she ever took the plunge.2

In Bray, Carr looked poised for a hat-trick when she won Ireland’s second penalty of the match. Instead it sparked an undignified free-for-all.

Non, je ne regrette rien: Pierre Geoffroy, photo from FFF

Non, je ne regrette rien: Pierre Geoffroy, photo from FFF

Raging Reims boss Pierre Geoffroy legged it onto the park, “struck” the ref and led his side off before the penalty was taken.

That led to scuffles between the players and amongst the 1000-strong crowd, who marauded onto the pitch.

Impugned local whistler Harry O’Reilly demanded satisfaction from Geoffroy in the form of an apology. When none was forthcoming he abandoned the match with four minutes to go.

Geoffroy said his beef was with the pitch having no markings and ‘homer’ O’Reilly making two nonsense penalty calls.

It was a storm in a teacup, albeit with elements of black farce; the sort which continued to dog the women’s game for many years to come.

Irish squad player Margaret O’Driscoll reckoned the French were fed up at facing the same seven or eight Dublin-based national teamers in every fixture.

After all, the tour matches were supposed to be against local selections in rainy outposts like Dundalk, Kilkenny, Waterford and Limerick.

Familiarity seemed to breed contempt when the piqued French party gave the post-match cuisine at Kilkenny a swerve.

But Geoffroy wanted to run the rule over all the best Irish players. O’Brien recalled many years later that she had seen out the tour being taken around as a guest of the French club.

Anne seals the deal


The contretemps in Bray was soon forgotten and Reims snapped O’Brien up for their assault on the newly-formed national league in France.

She had just turned 18 and would be trousering £75 per-week with a gig in the club owner’s leather jacket factory.

Never a big drinker, in the heart of Champagne country she would have been forgiven for quaffing a celebratory glass or two.

By 1970s standards, O’Brien had already attained women’s soccer nirvana. But Reims was only the first staging post in a footballing journey which secured her place among Ireland’s all-time greats…


Women’s Football Archive offers our most sincere condolences to Anne’s nearest and dearest, and to the extended O’Brien clan. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam / Riposi in pace.


1. The suggestion that O’Brien played for Julian Bars seems to have originated from an interview she gave in Italian to Nicholas Pascale in 2013. Pascale, a temperamental genius of women’s football history, may have misheard or may have made an assumption that a bar would be involved – based on the famed Irish proclivity for booze!

2. A Carol Carr starred for Doncaster Belles during the South Yorkshire giants’ golden age, but that was a different player who was a few years younger.

Players: Maggie Pearce

Morag “Maggie” Pearce (née Kirkland): England’s original and best left-back

Pearce with England in 1984

Pearce with England in 1984

Born: c.1957, Southampton

Position: Left-back

Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972

Occupation: Schoolgirl (1972)

Southampton WFC great Maggie Pearce is the only player to start both England’s first ever match in 1972 and the UEFA Championship final 12 years later. At 15 she was the youngest player to make it throught the trials into Eric Worthington’s inaugural Lionesses XI. Cool and unflappable, she was an essential component of two great England teams and the all-conquering Saints. Pearce formed a formidable full-back partnership with starboard-sided Carol McCune/Thomas and successfully transplanted her understanding with Southampton lefties Sue Lopez and Pat Chapman to international level. She bounced back from the birth of her first daughter to round off a 40-cap career.

Pearce was not in the Southampton WFC team which carried off the first ever WFA Cup at Crystal Palace in 1971. The full-backs on that day were Pat Judd and 14-year-old Karen Buchanan.

She was not listed in the team for the 1972 final either: Judd and Buchanan remained in the line-up, while Pauline Dickie wore the number 3 shirt.

So Pearce must have come from virtually nowhere to catch the eye of England boss Eric Worthington during that summer’s national team trials. An inter-League tournament sponsored by Lillywhites whittled down about 300 hopefuls to a provisional squad of 25 who met at Loughborough College in September.

Lionesses team-mate Wendy Owen recalled Pearce was “already an accomplished overlapping full-back” by the time of England’s debut match in Greenock. Playing behind fellow youngster Jeannie Allott, Pearce was one of four Southampton players to start England’s 3–2 comeback win over the Scots.

The following year’s return match in Nuneaton saw Scotland whupped 8–0. Margaret Miks of Coventry Bantams came in for a debut cap at right-back, giving England two Maggies as their full-back pairing.

Southampton-born Pearce lived in Weston-Super-Mare at the time of England’s 5–1 win over Northern Ireland at Twerton Park, Bath. Always hungry for a local angle, the Bath Chronicle branded her a “West Country Girl”.

A 2–0 win over France at Plough Lane in November 1974 saw Carol McCune debut as England’s new right-back. Over the following decade, Yorkshirewoman McCune (later Thomas) replicated Pearce’s consistency over on the other side of the Lionesses’ defence.

England were progressing nicely until a comprehensive 2–0 defeat by Sweden in June 1975. Pearce missed out as she was reportedly sitting her ‘O’ levels. Coach Tommy Tranter handed out another four debut caps.

Judging by the dates it seems more likely she was doing her ‘A’ levels, unless they were re-sits. In any event Tranter lamented his teenage left-back’s absence: “The inexperience told then. And with Morag concentrating on her ‘O’ levels we had little to offer at the back.”

In summer 1977 she tied the knot with Gordon “Gordie” Pearce, taking his surname having hitherto been billed as Maggie Kirkland. Some Programme lists shortly after the wedding spelt her new moniker ‘Pearse’ but this usage soon died out.

Gordie was fully supportive of Maggie’s soccer endeavours and was himself gaffer of local no-hopers Redbridge Rovers.1 He altered the course of football history when he interceded to get Sue Lopez back into the Southampton WFC fold in 1976.

There had been some sort of bust-up or drama behind the scenes, so – reading between the lines – Lopez had gone in a huff for a year. She still played for England, but as a Totton player.

Accordingly, Lopez doffed her cap to Gordie in Women on the Ball (1997): “I will always be grateful for the way he resurrected my Southampton career”.

“Flattering comments were often made about Maggie and none sums up her talent more than when people genuinely and complementarily said ‘she plays like a lad’.” — Sue Lopez (1997)

In the 1976 Cup final, Pearce’s Southampton beat sworn rivals QPR 2–1 after extra-time. Lopez was off the scene but later recollected that Pat Davies hit the extra-time winner.

The annotations in the ITN archive attributes the winning goal to Pearce, but the footage shows the slight figure of number 9 Davies emerging from the bottom of the celebratory pile-up.

Jeannie Allott’s departure to Dutch football in 1976 gave Southampton southpaw Pat Chapman her opportunity with the Lionesses. Renowned motormouth Chapman had sky-high standards and could be demanding to play alongside (Sue Lopez quipped she was sometimes glad to be deaf in one ear when lining up alongside Chapman).

But Pearce proved an excellent foil for Chapman’s bountiful talents and the duo soon struck up a firm understanding, to the benefit of club and country.

In October 1976 at Ebbw Vale, buccaneering Pearce punctured surprisingly stodgy Welsh resistance when her “pinpoint cross” was turned in by Droitwich’s Rayner Hadden for the opening goal. The Lionesses departed with a narrow 2–1 win.

In the 1978 Cup final, Southampton avenged their 1977 defeat by QPR with a stirring 8–2 win over the same opponents at Slough. Neat interplay down the left from Pearce and Chapman laid on the second goal for Lopez, before Chapman hit an astonishing double hat-trick.

Lopez (1997) recalled that Maggie’s proud husband Gordie Pearce was left purring: “Ten more trophies should have been made, for in fact, this was a complete team performance.”

In-form Pearce started England’s 3–0 win over Belgium at The Dell in October 1978, bouncing back after Alison Leatherbarrow had taken the left-back berth for the 6–1 win over Ireland at Exeter earlier that year.

At club level classy Lancastrian Leatherbarrow turned out for Foden, Welsh cracks Prestatyn and St Helens. She mounted a strong challenge for Pearce’s place in the national team under Tommy Tranter.

In the 1979 unofficial European Championships, Pearce was first-choice. But when she was crocked in the semi-final defeat by hosts Italy, Leatherbarrow came in for the third place play-off.

Incoming England manager Martin Reagan was apparently less taken with Leatherbarrow, who drifted out of the reckoning and later won caps for Wales as a centre-forward. But Reagan retained Pearce, impressed by her level-headed dependability.

She played in a 1–1 draw with Sweden at Filbert Street, Leicester in September 1980. But she sat out the 1981 England games and Southampton’s last Cup final due to pregnancy. While England toured Japan in September 1981, Pearce that month welcomed daughter Laura Jane.

Another bruising friendly with Sweden in May 1982, a 1–1 draw in Kinna, saw Pearce make a swift return to the team. During Pearce’s absence England had found another option at left-back in the shape of Angie Gallimore.

But for the UEFA Championship qualifiers Pearce came back in, with Gallimore moving inside to centre-half and Linda Coffin dropping out. Reagan hailed Pearce as “outstanding” – her left-footed distribution “out of this world” – in the decisive 4–0 win over Scotland in Dumbarton.

Pearce keeps tabs on Pia Sundhage in the Euro 1984 final

Pearce keeps tabs on Pia Sundhage in the Euro 1984 final

In the UEFA 84 final first-leg against Sweden, Pearce was part of a disciplined and compact Lionesses rearguard.

In the debit column, she will have been disappointed that the goal came down her side: Swedish defender Burevik lumbered forward with Pearce temporarily posted missing and measured a fine cross onto Pia Sundhage’s head.

After England’s penalty heartache in the return leg, Pearce retired from international football. She was presented with a shield by the Mayor of Preston at Deepdale on 17 March 1985, after England beat Scotland 4–0.

The November 1984 edition of WFA News carried a warm tribute from Martin Reagan:

“Maggie Pearce always appears to have things under control, and few can suspect the fighting temperament there is under that calm exterior. A very cultured left foot, one of the best in women’s football, made her a difficult player to beat. […] One of Maggie’s greatest delights was to score a goal in a practice match, with her right foot. The determination of this young lady, was typified when she retired to give birth to her daughter, and then took up the game again and fought her way back to the top.”

The 1984 Mundialito tournament in Italy saw a first call-up for Norwich’s Jackie Slack, an excellent left-sided defender in her own right, who had to bide her time for a chance with England.

Maggie’s younger sister Heather Kirkland was also a Southampton player. Heather started out as a full-back like big sis, but was repurposed as a forward when Southampton’s fortunes began to wane.

The WFA News of June 1985 congratulated Pearce and Gordie on the recent birth of their second daughter. Pearce was not among the exodus to the Red Star club when Southampton WFC folded in 1986, instead she focused on coaching her other great sporting love, netball.

Pearce was later (2010) a primary school teaching assistant and made the local press when trapped in the Costa del Sol by unpronounceable Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull.

Women’s Football Archive Verdict:

It’s always poor form comparing women players to the top men. That’s why Lorraine Hanson‘s article contains no mention of her illustrious forerunner in the centre-back/centre-forward stakes, John Charles.

But in this case the Southampton WFC players themselves widely acknowledged their debt to England’s heroes of ’66. So it’s not gratuitous to say Ray Wilson’s calm demeanour was reflected in Pearce’s play.

In football’s family tree Rachel Unitt was perhaps Pearce’s god-daughter, Claire Rafferty and Alex Greenwood her impetuous grandchildren.


1. Not to be confused with the fictional team of the same name in the recent Craig Cash television comedy “Rovers”.

Players: Lorraine Hanson

Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb): Belles and England great

Hanson lines up for England in 1984

Hanson lines up for England in 1984

Born: c.1959, Worksop

Position: Defender/Forward

Debut: 1975?

Occupation: Sales receptionist (1983, 1985), Clerk (1986)

Considering Lorraine Hanson was such a brilliant footballer for Doncaster Belles and England, there is next to nothing about her on the internet. After starting out in her native Nottinghamshire with Carr Fastener and Nottingham Rangers, she joined Doncaster Belles in 1977 and became a key part of one of the most successful English club teams ever assembled. Equally capable at centre-forward or at centre-half, Hanson made around 30 appearances for England and played in the 1984 UEFA Championship final.

A Worksop-born Sheffield Wednesday supporter, Hanson cut her teeth in street football with the boys in a Nottinghamshire mining town, much like future team-mate Jackie Sherrard.

As a bright prospect with Carr Fastener (a factory team from Stapleford) she made Tommy Tranter’s England squad for the 2–0 win over France at Plough Lane, Wimbledon, on 7 November 1974.

She sat on the substitute’s bench alongside Carol Thomas and Liz Deighan, who came on to make the first appearances of their illustrious Lionesses careers.

At just 14 years old Hanson was there for the experience. But if she did make it on the pitch she must be England’s youngest ever senior player.

The programme for England’s match against Sweden at Ullevi on 15 June 1975 listed ‘Loiraina Dobb’ at number 7. The Swedes won 2–0 to inflict England’s first defeat.

Hanson’s opposite number Ann Jansson hit both goals in the game played over 30 minutes each-way before a Swedish WNT record crowd of 2,963.

Fifteen-year-old Pia Sundhage debuted for Sweden, the first of many duels Hanson fought out with the all-time great. Hanson later put on record that Sundhage was the best player she ever faced.

At the 1976 Pony Home Championships, schoolgirl Hanson was attached to Nottingham Rangers. She joined Notts League rivals Doncaster Belles in 1977.

In the 3–0 win over Belgium at The Dell, Hanson won a 14th cap. It was England’s first match on a top tier ground and attracted a record crowd of 5,500.

Hanson then quit England duty for a spell. She snubbed the unofficial 1979 Euros, being described as “retired” in Sue Lopez’s Women’s Football magazine report (Lopez’s scare quotes).

A few England players drifted away at this stage, disgruntled at the sport’s lack of progress. UEFA’s women’s sub-committee (all-male) had folded, so the prospect of proper tournaments receded.

In 1979 Eileen Lillyman of Bronte was drafted in as a replacement sweeper, but broke her leg the following year.

Hanson was recalled by England boss Martin Reagan in May 1982 for a friendly with Sweden in Kinna. Reagan made changes after seeing his side horsed 3–0 by Norway at Cambridge in October 1981.

She formed a front three with Tracy Doe and Janet Turner as England took credit from a bruising 1–1 draw.

Swedish FA records attribute England’s goal to Hanson, but Reagan’s report in the WFA News is clear that Doe did the damage.

Lorraine married Belles gaffer Richard Hanson on 20 November 1982 at Worksop Priory Church. On the first day of their honeymoon she played for the Midland region vs South East region at Leicester!

Romance had blossomed when her car broke down and Richard swooped with the offer of a lift to training and matches.

That season she put the Belles in their first ever FA Cup final, heading the winner in a tense 2–1 semi-final win over Friends of Fulham at Imber Court Metropolitan Police Ground.

The programme for the 1983 Cup final at Lincoln’s Sincil Bank named Hanson as the only England player in Donny’s squad.

She wore number 9, leading the line in the Belles’ 3–2 victory. But for England she nailed down a spot at centre-half during the Euro 84 qualifying campaign, alongside Angie Gallimore.

According to Cathy Gibb’s match report, Hanson conceded a “dubious” penalty in the Euro 84 semi-final at Crewe, despite her “faultless” performance.

England centre-backs Hanson (left) and Gallimore (right)

England centre-backs Hanson (left) and Gallimore (right)

Hanson played well in the final but suffered heartbreak when her kick was stopped by Elisabeth Leidinge in the Lionesses’ shoot-out defeat at Kenilworth Road, Luton. It was her 27th cap.

She scored both Donny’s goals in their 2–4 1984 final defeat by Howbury Grange. She was denied a hat-trick by a “last minute despairing Sallie Jackson tackle”.

In 1985 she played in the final at Craven Cottage, but England midfielder Brenda Sempare led the Belles a merry dance in Friends of Fulham’s 2–0 win.

Hanson started England’s first two Euro 87 qualifiers, but was absent from the 85 Mundialito. She also missed the Belles’ 1986 Cup final defeat by Norwich, as she was three months pregnant.

After welcoming daughter Jenna, she came back in 1986–87, only to find Kaz Walker installed at centre-forward. Walker promptly hit the goal trail, and didn’t let up for 20 years!

Doncaster Belles recaptured the Cup in 1987 at the City Ground and retained it the following year with a 3–1 over Leasowe at Gresty Road, Crewe.

Hanson left Donny after 12 seasons in 1989 and is believed to have hung up her boots.

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.

Match: Italy 3–1 West Germany, 26 August 1984, Stadio Armando Picchi

Hosts Italy crush West Germany to claim Mundialito

Picture from the excellent History of Women's Football on Facebook

Picture from the excellent History of Women's Football on Facebook

Classic match report: Three first-half goals secure Italy’s win over patched-up West Germany

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.

The teams:


ITALIA
1. Eva Russo
2. Marisa Perin
3. Tiziana D’Orio
4. Maria Mariotti
5. Paola Bonato
6. Feriana Ferraguzzi
7. Viviana Bontacchio (out 78)
8. Carolina Morace (out 75)
9. Betty Vignotto (c)
11.Anna Maria Mega
16.Rose Reilly (out 66)

Substitutes:
10.Betty Secci (in 78)
13.Viola Langella (in 66)
15.Ida Golin (in 75)

Coach:
Ettore Recagni

DEUTSCHLAND
Marion Feiden .1
Elke Richter .2
(out 32) Christel Klinzmann .3
Monika Degwitz .4
Ingrid Zimmermann .5
Sissy Raith .6
(c) Rike Koekkoek .8
Petra Bartelmann .9
Anne Kreuzberg.11
Marie-Luise Gehlen.14
(out 69) Rosi Eichenlaub.16

Substitutes:
(in 69) Eva Schute.17
(in 32) Susanne Scharras.18

Coach:
Gero Bisanz

Clockwatch: Italy 3–1 West Germany as it happened


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.

Italy's teenage stopper Eva Russo

Italy’s teenage stopper Eva Russo

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!

Penalty! Klinzmann and Morace on the turf

Penalty! Klinzmann and Morace on the turf

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.

German netminder Marion Feiden (later Isbert)

German netminder Marion Feiden (later Isbert)

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.

To the victor the spoils: the Mundialito trophies

To the victor the spoils: the Mundialito trophies

Winning captain Betty Vignotto with sinister Bride of Chucky-style mascot 'Paulina'

Winning captain Betty Vignotto with sinister Bride of Chucky-style mascot ‘Paulina’