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.
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! ↩