When Martin Reagan went in to bat for women’s football

Martin Reagan (1924–2016): The man who stepped up to save women’s football in England

Women’s football lost one of our own with Martin Reagan’s recent passing, but his deeds will never be forgotten

martin-reagan

In May 1984 the England women’s football team manager Martin Reagan returned from Gothenburg with a creditable 1–0 defeat for his team, and a blueprint for soccer success. Ex-pro Reagan knew exactly what England needed to do to reel in their continental rivals: copy the Super Swedes. In the days before women’s football was trendy he proudly shouted his support from the rooftops. But his sterling efforts were thwarted at every turn, by an unholy alliance of Football Association intransigence and – yes – sex bias, which was still firmly rooted in 20th Century British life.

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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’

Match: Sweden 1–0 England, 12 May 1984, Ullevi (part 2)

Ullevi 12 May 1984 – Sweden 1–0 England

Pia Sundhage’s header beats England in first leg of Euro 84 final

Classic match report: Martin Reagan’s brave England stay in touch for second leg in Luton

Terry Wiseman 1984 final

Part two in a two-part series: profiling England’s classic Euro 1984 final defeat by Sweden. England won through to the inaugural continental showpiece by beating the Danes over two-legs in the semi-final. Opposition then awaited England in the shape of formidable Sweden and star centre-forward Pia Sundhage. Playing 35 minutes each-way with a size four ball, the sides met in front of a record crowd at Sweden’s national stadium, the Ullevi in Gothenburg. England’s gutsy 1–0 defeat left things delicately poised for the return match in Luton two weeks later.

Match Report


After their last four meetings ended in stalemate, England and Sweden wore the look of two fairly evenly matched teams with a healthy respect for eachother’s capabilities.

The match started tentatively, both teams sizing eachother up. Chapman’s initial forays down the left wing fizzled out under the close attentions of Ann Jansson.

Pat Chapman closely marshalled by Ann Jansson

Pat Chapman closely marshalled by Ann Jansson

It quickly became clear that Bampton and Coultard had a tough assignment against Sweden’s tenacious midfield general Anna Svenjeby, who deservedly picked up the Player of the Match award.

When Sweden forced a succession of corners mid way through the first-half, inspirational left-back Maggie Pearce could be heard to encourage and cajole, bellowing: “We’ve gone a bit quiet girls! Come on!”

In the 18th minute debutante Lena Videkull expertly chested down a right-wing cross and thumped a fierce shot off the base of the post, with Terry Wiseman beaten all ends up.

Seconds later the ball broke to Sundhage in the box and Sweden’s centre-forward blasted straight at Wiseman, who gathered at the second attempt.

Sundhage and Wiseman continued their personal duel in the 20th minute when England’s goalkeeper made a brave diving save at her rival’s feet… three yards outside the penalty area.

It was unclear whether Dutch ref Mynheer Bakker was feeling chivalrous or had left his cards in the dressing room! Wiseman was not even spoken to and England charged down the direct free kick.

England were penned back but on 23 minutes Åhman-Svensson’s awful outswinging corner landed at the feet of Linda Curl. A swift counter attack looked likely but even before Curl got her head up she was wiped out by a rugged challenge.

Play was held up for several minutes while physio Tony Brightwell administered treatment. Curl was in obvious discomfort but hobbled to her feet and soldiered on.

Linda Curl attended to by physio Tony Brightwell

Linda Curl attended to by physio Tony Brightwell

Ten minutes before the break, speedster Davis left her marker by the corner flag with a neat turn and marauded into the penalty area. When Börjesson abruptly shut the door in her face, Davis’s dying swan dive did nothing to impress the ref. It was a big step up in class for the youngster, still a diamond in the rough.

That was it until half-time and England reemerged to play into the breeze for the second period. Terry Wiseman had dispensed with her baseball cap for the second-half but was called into action almost immediately as Sweden turned the screw.

Debutante Anette Hansson – named in place of usual outside-left Helen Johansson, struck down with myocarditis – burst past Thomas and fired in a cross.

Sundhage’s diving header drew another sprawling save from Wiseman, who was alert enough to get her fingertips on the ball when it was fired straight back in from the right.

Deighan sliced the resultant corner over her own crossbar, to the audible mirth of commentator Grive, but England clung on and scrambled the ball away.

The second-half was nine minutes old before England mounted an attack of their own. Gallimore got her head to the ball in the penalty area, but she was crowded out and could only divert it well wide.

Two minutes later overworked Wiseman made a point blank save by her post. It was Videkull’s header from another of Hansson’s left-wing deliveries. Sweden’s debutantes were proving every bit as tall, athletic and talented as their new team-mates: both went on to have long careers in the Blågult (blue and yellow).

Reagan reacted by substituting Janet Turner on for Pat Chapman on 47 minutes. Chapman gave her sore back a rest while Turner tucked in a bit deeper to try and stem the Swedish tide.

Misinformed commentator Grive announced Turner as Hope Powell, but Cathy Gibb correctly reported it was Turner. Powell – later famous as England’s martinet coach – would have to wait until the second-leg in Luton to get a crack at the Swedes.

Sundhage bears down on Terry Wiseman

Sundhage bears down on Terry Wiseman

Wiseman’s best moment of all came after 49 minutes. Sundhage galloped clear of the English defence and was completely clean through, only for focussed Wiseman to pull off a breathtaking one-on-one save.

On 51 minutes Curl fed Bampton who burst into the box but scuffed England’s golden chance agonisingly wide with the outside of her right boot.

Until then Curl’s contribution had been minimal. Perhaps feeling the effects of her first-half injury she put in a shift but lacked the spark to get any change out of Sweden’s excellent centre-halves Börjesson and Kåberg.

The match swung back down the other end and on 53 minutes Thomas incurred the displeasure of the Dutch referee with a crude hack on Svenjeby, who was turning up everywhere like fine dust.

Thomas’ tackle may have had a whiff of retribution about it, but she went unpunished when Börjesson ballooned the free kick from 20 yards.

Two minutes later skipper Thomas redeemed herself with a great headed clearance off the goal line, with Wiseman beaten. Sundhage nodded the resultant corner onto the crossbar as England’s goal continued to lead a charmed life.

It couldn’t last and Pia Sundhage broke the deadlock on 57 minutes. Burevik was afforded too much space down the Swedish right and hoisted a perfectly measured cross into the danger area.

Wily Sundhage stole between the centre-halves, flashed across Hanson and headed powerfully into the bottom left-hand corner of Terry Wiseman’s goal from six yards out.

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

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

On 64 minutes Tony Brightwell was called into action again, this time for Gillian Coultard, who took a heavy knock while effecting a booming clearance. She accepted culprit Hansson’s apology but, sensibly, was in no rush to get up.

Four minutes from full-time, England’s hearts were in their mouths again. Sundhage’s scooped close range shot from a narrow angle bobbled right across the goal line and hit the far post.

Gallimore thwarted Videkull with a desperate sliding challenge in the goalmouth, but Pearce’s tired clearance only reached the edge of the box. Eva Andersson lashed a powerful shot just wide. It was all hands on deck!

Somehow it stayed out and, at 1–0, England lived to fight another day. A second would have been curtains: a two-goal deficit to this Swedish team surely irretrievable.

“Physically we gave everything but we can’t complain about a 1–0 defeat,” was Martin Reagan’s understated verdict.

Swedish goalscorer Pia Sundhage saw the second leg as a mere formality, assuring women’s soccer nut Thorsten Frennstedt: “We won’t miss that many chances for two games in a row”.