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
Born: 5th June 1955
Debut: France (7th November 1974)
Last game: Republic of Ireland (22nd September 1985)
Occupation: Clerk (1974–85), Lunchtime Supervisor (1993–2001), Village Postie (2001–2013)
On 30th July 1966 football history was made at Wembley, but further north, a few days later, football history of a different kind was made. A young Carol McCune, inspired by those World Cup heroes, played her first competitive football game for a local side, BOCM. The shy 11 year old youngster started as a free scoring winger with a boundless appetite for the game. This talent was soon recognised by WFA stalwart and member of the England backroom staff, the late Flo Bilton. Flo quickly snapped up Thomas for her own team, Reckitts. After a couple of seasons, Thomas joined local rivals, Hull Brewery and it was there her career took off. She played in a variety of positions, which only served to enhance her all round knowledge and understanding of the game. Over time, it quickly became evident that those early days on the wing had seen her unwittingly assimilate the necessary skills to later become a world class full back, internationally respected throughout the women’s game.
Her blossoming career was soon rewarded with representative honours – gaining a regular place in the Hull District representative side, quickly followed by the North of England squad whilst still being a teenager. She quickly secured the right back position as her own in the Northern regional squad, playing alongside England captain Sheila Parker. In August 1974, still only 19, she was invited to Lilleshall to take part in the first coaching course for women run by England manager, Tommy Tranter. This has to be put into context. Women footballers were still usually met with derision and scepticism, but the thought of a woman football coach was not only uncharted territory but sheer heresy. Coaching was viewed as sacrosanct, being considered fairly and squarely the sole preserve of men. Thomas gained her FA Preliminary Badge, one of only three who passed, along with then England physio Jane Talbot and Pauline Dickie, thereby becoming the first women coaches in England. During the course, Tranter recognised a like-minded footballing brain, with natural ball skills and a deep understanding of the game. As a result and following a successful Regional Trials campaign, it was little surprise that Thomas was invited to join the next England squad to play France that November at Wimbledon. Thomas made her first appearance coming on as a second half substitute at right back. A second substitute appearance against Switzerland followed, before the right back position was secured. In 1976, just 18 months and six caps into her international career, Thomas was surprisingly named the new England captain, replacing the England ‘taliswoman’ Sheila Parker.
On 31st October 1978, Thomas became the first captain to lead out an England side to play on a Football League First Division ground at the Dell, Southampton FC. She introduced her England team to the England manager, Ron Greenwood. A record crowd of 5,471 then saw England beat Belgium 3–0 with Thomas providing the cross for Elaine Badrock to open the scoring. In 1981 she became the first captain to lead an England women’s team outside of Europe, when they took part in that year’s Mundialito tournament in Japan (called that year, Portopia 81). At the height of her career Thomas turned down offers of full time professional playing contracts in Italy and full time player/coach roles in New Zealand in order to maintain her true amateur status and thereby ensuring a long international career.
In her 11-year England career, Thomas became at integral part and then leader of a truly great England squad which in tournament terms has an outstanding record to this day. With one of the meanest defences in the world, during Thomas’s time as captain, in 29 tournament ties, they lost only five games (two of those on penalty shoot outs) and conceded less than a goal a game.
It is testament to her abilities, and the respect that she had gained, that she continued to captain the England side under four successive managers, Tommy Tranter through to Martin Reagan. Whilst in the early days, she played alongside the likes of Sue Lopez, Sheila Parker and Sylvia Gore, she later captained Hall of Fame inductees Hope Powell, Debbie Bampton, Gillian Coultard, Marieanne Spacey and Brenda Sempare.
Described as anything from an uncompromising fullback to cultured defender and everything in between, the truth is she was all of the above and more. Those who watched and, particularly those that coached her, knew that she was a true football thinker and intellectual in possession of that perfectly timed and fearless bone shuddering tackle. A total of 56 caps (51 as captain) were gained over a period of 11 years. Thomas only missed one international against Wales in the Isle of Man, just two days before the 1985 Mundialito – along with most of the northern-based players due to logistical and financial restraints – during that period (what would that equate to in this modern era?). She became the first ever English woman to reach the 50 caps. Indeed, Thomas actually played in 56 of England’s first ever 63 internationals.
At club level, Thomas had to follow where the footballing competition was the strongest, yet within a realistic travelling distances from her home town. The days of true amateurism: where players held down full time jobs during the week, training as many times as possible on weekday nights and playing on a weekend, paying all their own expenses!
She was fortunate to be allowed to train with the Hull City Juniors (men’s under 18 level) alongside future professionals such as Andy Flounders and others, attaining a very high level of fitness for the then women’s game. She made occasional guest appearances for Tottenham Hotspur Ladies, and for a season played for Preston Ladies, making the trans Pennine journey on the M62 every Friday night and returning late Sunday evening after the game. Also, CP Doncaster Ladies for a number of seasons before finishing her representative career at Rowntree’s Ladies coached by former England international forward, Pat Firth.
During Thomas’s era, international competitions were unofficial, invitation or in their infancy. Thomas started her reign as captain in fine style. In the 1976 Pony Home Internationals, England ran out as comfortable winners in a three sided affair against Wales and Scotland. This set a standard for the next nine years of Thomas’s captaincy. In 1979, England were losing semi-finalists against a strong Italian side in the Unofficial European Cup. There then followed a period of transition and consolidation under new manager Martin Reagan, having been retained as captain under Reagan, the period 1982 to 1985 saw glimpses of the successes to follow.
In all, Thomas captained the England side in seven consecutive tournaments, including three ‘Mundialitos’ (1981, 1984 and 1985 as winners), three European Championships (1979 as semi-finalists, 1982-84 as runners-up and 1985-87, before retiring in September 1985) and the 1976 Pony Home Championship (as winners). 1985 saw Thomas at the pinnacle of her footballing career. After two unsuccessful Mundialito campaigns, and the disappointment of the 1984 European Championship final defeat, Thomas led her England charges to Italy and ultimate victory in that year’s Mundialito tournament.
The creation, development and establishment of the English women’s game was well and truly cemented. A side formed from a ‘disparate band of sisters’, brought together in 1972 by Eric Worthington, developed by Tommy Tranter and refined by Martin Reagan, to winners of the ultimate world trophy of its day and international recognition, in just over 12 years. Thomas had been there for 11 of those years, leading the side for nine of them.
In possession of a dry northern sense of humour, she was often heard to repeat Jack Charlton’s infamous, “the ball may get past me, the player may get past me, but never the two together!” followed by a wry knowing smile and wink.
The phrase “sports mad” became well and truly justified in 1979 following her marriage to her husband. After the wedding, Thomas had a moral dilemma: should she go on honeymoon with her new husband or join the England squad for the European games in Italy? It was no contest, in truth the ‘result’ was never in doubt. Finland and Switzerland were to suffer!! Even in retirement, Thomas often jokingly says that her eldest son is, “the only man to have played a full women’s international, without kicking the ball ………… do the maths!”
By the 1980’s her achievements were finally beginning to be acknowledged, both inside and outside the game. In 1978 and 1979 she was invited by the BBC to star in the popular sports show, Superstars. As an ambassador for the women’s game, in 1983 she received the Vaux Breweries North Sportswoman of the Year Silver Star Award. She was frequently in the local and national media (and when abroad, international media). In 1984 she became the first woman player to be interviewed on national television appearing opposite Frank Bough and Selina Scott on breakfast TV following the 1984 European Championship Final. In 1985 she was awarded the Sports Council Sports Award in recognition of her achievements in women’s football.
Post retirement her achievements were still being recognised. In 1986 she became the first woman footballer to have an entry in the Guinness Book of Records having become the first English woman to gain 50 caps, with entries to follow in subsequent years.
In 1985, having successfully led her England team to three straight victories in the 1985-87 UEFA Cup, at the age of 30 and 11 years of international football, Thomas finally retired from the international football scene to have her first child, Andrew. However, for this football fanatic, it was never going to be for long. In 1993, five years after the birth of her 2nd child, Mark, she was persuaded out of ‘retirement’ to help local side AFC Preston. The ‘Corinthian’ arrangement was quickly dropped as the football bug once again bit. On becoming a regular player, she helped with coaching and team selection and was always heard encouraging and developing those around her. Meanwhile she set up a soccer club for youngsters aged five to ten years old in her village for the local children of the surrounding area and helped her husband coach their sons from the under 7 age group to under 18 level.
Her ability and reading of the game had not been lost and was soon to be recognised again when the East Riding County FA created its first women’s representative side in 1995. Although aged 40, she was a natural selection for the captaincy of the side, she worked with the management and coaching staff and again assumed a role of helping to develop players from the ‘middle of the park’. She remained playing at this level until 2002, when a second retirement followed. In 2004 she was again asked to be involved in the building of a new side, Bransburton Ladies. In 2009, she finally hung up her boots aged 54!
Her interest and involvement in the game continues to this day. She gets great pleasure in watching and encouraging her grandsons from the touchline.
Outside the game, and with a desire for that ultimate challenge, Thomas has since developed a fervent interest in long distance walking/trekking, fell climbing and mountaineering. She has completed all 214 Wainwrights, the National Three Peaks Challenge and the Coast to Coast walk twice (in both directions) in Britain.
Further afield, her long distance trekking and mountaineering has taken her to Peru, Morocco, Nepal and India. She has successfully scaled peaks in the Andes, the Atlas Mountains and five in the Everest region of the Nepalese Himalaya. In addition she has traversed numerous high passes and is regularly found at altitudes in excess of 18,000ft. She has developed a passionate interest in the people and cultures of high altitude, and in particular helping and supporting the people of Nepal especially since the tragic earthquake of April 2015.
It is not difficult to put into words her footballing achievements. In pure domestic terms, trophies were confined locally, as the national competitions were dominated by the footballing powerhouses based in the north-west and south of England. This reflects the deep loyalty she possesses with regard to the local teams and individuals she respects and to those who have helped and stood by her throughout her career. It is safe to presume that top teams anywhere in the world would have welcomed her into their ranks.
Her international achievements need little elaboration as they speak for themselves. They surpass those of any of her predecessors and of her generation but equal many of those of the modern era. During her career at international level she became the second England captain at the age of 21, widely respected and accepted throughout the women’s game as one of the best defenders in the world, gaining a number of very significant firsts in the English women’s game over an 11 year period.
It is also safe to say that many local youngsters got their first experience of organised football through her local club, whilst many women players and teenage boys benefited from her coaching and guidance both on the pitch and from the touchline.
However, it is the off field role that she perhaps had her greatest and unquantifiable impact for the women’s game, leaving a genuine but little acknowledged legacy. As captain, she was a central figure representing international and regional players (particularly the North) during the transition of the fledgling organisation created in 1972, the amateur based WFA (which was given scant respect or regard by the FA, a shoestring budget and run by a band of tireless, unpaid volunteers, administrators and unsung heroes) into the emerging, and now fully backed, properly financed, media savvy, professional organisation of the current day.
For nearly ten years Thomas was the public face of the women’s game. She promoted the game with pride, passion, dignity and no little skill through her many media and function appearances at local, national and international levels, which continue to this day. She led England with a quiet, steely determination to succeed whilst displaying tact and diplomacy in her role. With these qualities, it could be said that she provided the blueprint for every future England captain. However, above all else, she always ensured that her performances on the pitch were her most important asset, responsibility and gift to the women’s game.
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© 1974-2016, Thomas Family Archive, All Rights Reserved
Born: c.1957, Southampton
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Occupation: Schoolgirl (1972)
A 10-year-old Pearce was spotted charging about on the green in front of her house. She soon found her way to Southampton WFC, whose manager Norman Holloway saw “a little shrimp” with potential star quality.
Pearce was not in the Southampton 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’s, 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.
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.
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”.↩
Born: c.1959, Worksop
Occupation: Sales receptionist (1983, 1985), Clerk (1986)
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.
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.
LOOK at this video from the Women’s Euro 1984 final. MovementSoccer deserves thanks for posting it – as well as the whole final it came from – on YouTube here.
It was a mightily big game in English football history. It’s heady stuff but only a tiny subset of soccer anoraks will appreciate it: a niche within a niche! Pearls before swine! I get all that.
Also, poking fun at England goalie Terry Wiseman’s kicking is only a little joke. Some gentle joshing. After all, irreverence (“bantz”) is the whole currency of “teh Interwebz”. I get that too.
There is a serious point in here somewhere though. And not just the point that Wiseman produced a string of top saves in that very game. Saves that Hope Solo herself might be proud of.
Watch that whole match and fair’s fair: no-one on the pitch in 1984 could keep goal like modern great Hope Solo. Nor could they run like a Lotta Schelin, or shoot like a Lotta Schelin. Or Alex Morgan, or Christen Press.
Nobody was as half as strong as Abby Wambach. I remember the USA playing at Leyton Orient in 2011, in the tunnel pre-match they were geeing themselves up by whooping and hollering in the American style.
Then Abby high-fived a flunkey and damn near tore the guy’s arm off!
Eh… anyway, in 1984 these players were out there, doing it. Making the sacrifices necessary to get these tournaments off the ground.
They had the dedication to train in their own time at their own cost. Taking unpaid leave from their jobs to proudly pull on their country’s shirt.
Their reward? Often sneering derision. Sometimes even medieval ignorance and bigotry. Hostile governing bodies wishing they’d all just disappear.
The “USWNT” (if you must) didn’t start until the following year. England – Wiseman and all – bashed them 3–1 in the teams’ first meeting.
We all know the USA kicked on from there and started winning everything in sight. But remember that without the likes of Terry Wiseman this would never have happened. There’d be no tournaments to win. No-one to beat. No-one who cared enough to watch!
Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo trains full-time, has the benefit of modern sports science and is at leisure to spend all day in the gym. Of course she can kick the ball further!
Probably even a size four miniature like the one Wiseman was trying to adjust to in the vid.
Probably even on a windy day in Gothenburg (where Solo once spent a season) with the sun in her eyes.
Commercial Artist Wiseman got to the top in two careers and now lives in America herself, working for Disney Pixar. Her footballing achievements remain criminally unrecognised at home.
But for the likes of Wiseman and Elisabeth Leidinge down the other end, the ones who got the ball rolling, every incremental success that women’s football gets is part of their legacy.
So let’s lay off the mickey taking. Or if we can’t lay off it, at least give it some context.
Now look here, Hope Solo is a great champion and would have hit the big time in whichever direction she went.
But if Terry Wiseman’s generation hadn’t paved the way, who’s to say it would have been in saving soccer balls?
It might have been in chucking a ball into a hoop. Or hitting a little ball with a bat. Or leaving the ball out altogether and running round a track.
It might have come in the national sport: dressing up as a sofa and excitedly running into other people dressed as sofas.
Where, you may ask, would the USWNT be then?
The final first-leg was staged at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium; that’s the main Nya (new) Ullevi, not the smaller Gamla (old) Ullevi which the Swedish women’s national team use today.
The following year disaster was narrowly averted when Ullevi hosted a Bruce Springsteen concert. ‘The Boss’ and his E Street band whipped 64,000 locals into such a frenzy that they nearly brought the house down – literally. The owners had to shell out nearly £3m in repairs.
There was never any danger of collapse here, but the reported 5,662 crowd did represent a new record for a women’s game in Sweden. That figure looked a conservative estimate too, as the ground held 50,000+ back then and the grandstand looked pretty full.
Sweden’s national broadcaster Sveriges Television were in evidence, with commentary provided by veteran sportscaster Bengt Grive. It was a bright, clear day and the pitch was in very reasonable condition with just a few dry spots amongst the luscious green.
Beautiful big stadium, decent pitch, record crowd… “let’s play some football,” England’s players must have thought.
This was the seventh time the teams had gone head-to-head, with Sweden victorious on three occasions. One win came on a penalty shootout after a 0–0 draw. The other games also finished level, leaving England still looking for their first win.
In the first ever meeting at Ullevi in June 1975, Sweden put a stick in previously unbeaten England’s spokes to win 2–0. A gangly 15-year-old named Pia Sundhage made her debut, while Ann Jansson scored both goals.
Proving that was no flash in the pan, the Swedes visited Plough Lane, Wimbledon in September 1975 and casually drubbed England 3–1. The English Women’s Football Association were reeling after sponsors pulled out and the match left them seriously out of pocket.
The next meeting was in July 1979, a third place play-off between two demoralised teams at the unofficial (non-UEFA backed) Euro 1979. Sweden prevailed on penalties when the game in Scafati, Italy finished goalless.
In September 1980 Filbert Street, Leicester, hosted a 1–1 friendly draw. Then in May 1982 a return friendly at Viskavallen, Kinna, also finished 1–1 over 90 minutes. Swedish TV broadcast the Kinna game and awarded Player of the Match Gill Coultard a snazzy tracksuit.
England boss Martin Reagan betrayed his military background with a brilliantly matter-of-fact match report in the WFA News:
On Tuesday May 25th, our party consisting of fourteen players, Officer-in-charge Sheila Rollinson, Physio Tony Brightwell and I assembled at Heathrow for an 11 a.m. departure for Sweden. On arrival at Gothenburg (2 p.m. Swedish time) we then travelled 12 miles to our hotel on the outskirts of Gothenburg…
Tracy Doe hit both England’s goals in these two friendlies, the one in 1980 was her third in three caps. For some reason Doe wasn’t included in the squad for this 1984 final but was listed in Howbury Grange’s line-up the previous week, alongside Bampton and Wiseman, as the Kent team outclassed Doncaster Belles 4–2 in the WFA Cup final at Sincil Bank, Lincoln.
Another friendly in October 1983 finished honours even. Two-all this time, at Charlton Athletic’s The Valley, in south-east London.
More generally, Sweden were enjoying something of a cultural renaissance: the week before the final had seen Herrey’s Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley triumph at the Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg. Great Britain’s effort, Love Games by Belle & The Devotions, was mercilessly booed and limped home in seventh place.
England were unchanged from the Denmark semi-final. Howbury Grange goalkeeper Terry Wiseman, her hair in trademark bunches, won her 18th cap. Skipper Carol Thomas (née McCune) of Rowntrees in York started at right-back, with Southampton’s vastly experienced Maggie Pearce (née Kirkland) at left-back. According to the return match programme Pearce won a 39th cap, while Thomas was credited with a 44th.
Angie Gallimore of Broadoak Ladies in Manchester formed a centre-back pairing with Doncaster Belles’ Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb), who had a heavily strapped left thigh. Gallimore sported a Marouane Fellaini-style perm and had been the left-back until switching inside to accommodate the return of Pearce from childbirth. As a callow 15-year-old, Pearce had been England’s first ever left-back against Scotland in November 1972. She returned to the fold in May 1982.
Versatile Hanson often played as a striker for the Belles so neither her or Gallimore were archetypal British centre-halves. That seemed to suit Reagan’s system as both could play out from the back, or if Swedish dangerwoman Pia Sundhage dropped deep they could go with her. Hanson won her 26th cap and Gallimore her 13th.
Much was asked of the midfield in Reagan’s flexible 4–3–3, which comprised Debbie Bampton, Gill Coultard and Liz Deighan. Nominally the central, holding midfielder, Bampton had just captained Howbury Grange to WFA Cup success. She was on the comeback trail after a bad injury and picked up the 12th cap of a long and glittering career.
Tigerish tackler Coultard won her 15th cap. Although synonymous with Doncaster Belles, she was playing for Rowntrees at the time: the works team from York’s big confectionery factory. She also played hockey for Rowntrees, even after going back to the Belles.
Liz Deighan was the third member of England’s midfield trio and, at 30, the oldest member of the starting XI. A slight but sinewy figure, bristling with energy, North-easterner Deighan played for St. Helens and collected a 35th cap.
On the left wing, Southampton’s Pat Chapman shrugged off a back injury to win her 28th cap. She’d been crocked in the Denmark semi-final, but also laid on the cross for Bampton’s winning header in Hjørring. Linda Curl of Norwich Ladies wore number 9 and won her 31st cap at the age of just 22.
Kerry Davis of Crewe Ladies started on the right, but with license to roam. An exceptional 21-year-old athlete with pace to burn, Davis clearly had the raw materials to reach the top in any sport. It was unusual in those days for football to win out, given the lack of rewards on offer. But England were sure glad it did: livewire Davis won her tenth cap and had already blasted 11 goals.
England’s substitute’s bench combined youth with experience. Friends of Fulham’s Brenda Sempare and Millwall Lioness Hope Powell, aged 22 and 17 respectively, were the young Tyros. Both midfielders debuted in the 6–0 rout of Ireland at Reading the previous September and had three caps apiece.
At the other end of the career spectrum was England’s original skipper Sheila Parker (née Porter), who had 30 caps. Parker began her career with Preston Ladies (the famous Dick, Kerr’s. Yes: Dick, Kerr’s, if you please!) Her astonishing career was a thread of continuity running through the different eras of women’s football in England. Along with Deighan she’d played for St. Helens in their 1983 WFA Cup final defeat and had moved on to Chorley.
Completing the squad was six times capped Terry Irvine, 32, Wiseman’s goalkeeping understudy who played for Aylesbury. And Janet Turner, a specialist left-winger who had also been in St. Helens’ 1983 Cup final team but had recently joined Kerry Davis at Crewe. Turner was the only sub to be used in Gothenburg and she collected a 12th cap.