The real story of Eric Worthington and the Women’s FA Cup
Annual Scotland–England match trophy was repurposed as English WFA Cup
Women’s Football Archive sounds the pibroch for footballing justice
Lynda Hale: Flying winger with a cannonball shot
Born: c.1954, Southampton
Position: Right winger
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Occupation: Trainee machine operator (1972)
Most of the following info about Hale’s achievements comes from the indispensable works of her former team mates, Sue Lopez (Women on the Ball 1997) and Wendy Owen (Kicking Against Tradition 2005)…
Youngsters Hale and Davies had been blooded by coach Dave Case, first with Patstone United then in the combined Southampton team.
Lopez (1997) said of her team mate Hale that she: “had an amazing right foot that enabled her to power her way past defenders, and had, perhaps, the hardest shot of any woman.”
The work of football historian Gail Newsham means Hale can now be put into context alongside Lily Parr of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies, an earlier player who also lay claim to the hardest shot title, albeit with her left foot rather than right.
Like Parr, Hale’s rocket shot was as much to do with technique, or timing, as it was brute strength.
This was in evidence at the 1970 Deal Tournament, under the watchful eye of FA supremo Sir Denis Follows.
Sir Denis went along under his own steam and was left purring at the quality of football on show. Particularly a fizzing shot from Hale which he fondly recalled years later: “nearly broke the crossbar”.
This brought the WFA their most significant convert to the cause and a powerful ally against the more backward elements in the FA. Sir Denis played no small part part in finally getting the 1921 ban lifted. He afforded the WFA the space they needed, to not exactly thrive, but to keep plugging away.
In 1971 Southampton beat Ayrshire cracks Stewarton Thistle 4–1 at Crystal Palace to secure the first ever Mitre Trophy (also known as the WFA Cup). Hale started the match and Sir Denis and his wife were present as guests of honour.
In 1971 Hale visited Rome after befriending an Italian player when Southampton faced Sue Lopez’s Roma in a series of matches in the USA.
This was much to the fury of Southampton and the WFA, who were already whipped into a lather by a moral panic about professional Italian clubs “poaching” the top English players.
No one really knew where the money was coming from for all these pro teams and “unsanctioned” national team tournaments.
Perhaps inspired by reading The Godfather (the film came out the following year), Saints boss Norman Holloway reckoned the Mafia were involved.
Holloway’s moany letter to the WFA got a reply saying that Stanley Rous, the English president of FIFA, was personally looking into the allegations.
In any event Hale was not seriously considering a transfer to the pro ranks, according to Lopez.
Hale won the WFA Cup again in 1972 and in 1973 she scored in Southampton’s 2–0 final win over Westhorn United: “a fine strike,” said Lopez.
Before the 1973 Cup final Hale had scored 22 goals across 18 League and Cup matches that season. Not a bad return for a wide player, but over on the other wing Pat Chapman had plundered 82 (eighty-two!) in 21 matches.
The 1974 final was famously lost to Fodens, but Southampton bounced back to reclaim the trophy in 1975 and 1976.
In 1977 Hale scored “a superb solo effort”, the winner in a pulsating 3–2 League Cup final win over rivals QPR. But Southampton lost 1–0 to the same opponents in the WFA Cup final at Dulwich Hamlet.
A measure of revenge was gained in the following year’s final when Southampton’s Sharon Roberts, sister of notorious Spurs hatchet man Graham Roberts, put in an early ‘reducer’ on QPR’s Hazel Ross. QPR fell apart and lost 8–2, Pat Chapman helping herself to a double hat-trick.
Again Southampton bounced back, beating Lowestoft 1–0 to win the 1979 edition of the Cup. But the team was on the wane, and got beat by Cleveland Spartans at the quarter-final stage in 1979–80.
A last hurrah came in 1981, but by then Hale had moved on to form a nearby club called Solent. Versatile Clare Lambert later came through Solent’s ranks to emulate Hale and play for England.
In 1972, 18–year–old starlet Hale made it through a costly and gruelling set of regional trials into Eric Worthington’s first ever official England squad.
That November she patrolled the right wing berth in England’s first ever official match, a 3–2 win over Scotland at Ravenscraig Park in Greenock, near Glasgow.
With England 2–1 down in blizzard conditions, Hale beat two defenders and the goalkeeper in a race to the ball and her composed, low finish from inside the area brought England back on level terms. Jeannie Allott hit England’s winner from the other flank.
A grainy black and white photo reproduced in Wendy Owen’s book shows Hale in the squad for the 3–0 win over France in April 1973, but wearing a substitute’s sweatshirt.
She started England’s fourth match, against Northern Ireland at Twerton Park, Bath, and hit two goals under the floodlights – the second a “35-yard lob”.
She was also listed on the team sheet as England thumped Scotland 8–0 at Nuneaton in June 1973, under interim coach John Adams.
But competition for places was especially fierce in Hale’s position. In the 1973 England v Possibles match, the culmination of that season’s trials, Hale’s opposite number seven was Lesley Stirling, the tough Lancastrian from Preston North End.
By November 1974’s 2–0 win over France at Plough Lane, Hale’s place on the right had been taken by QPR’s Sandra Choat, who won praise for her tricky wing play.
The match programme for England’s first ever defeat, against Sweden in June 1975, lists Hale at number 3. With no other obvious left-back in the team it seems like she was filling in.
Hale was apparently not fancied by Tommy Tranter and her England career was much shorter than some of her Southampton colleagues’.
Missing out on the 1978 Belgium game before a record crowd at The Dell must have been a particular disappointment.
But she certainly played her part: Who is to say where we would all be if Hale had not caught the eye of Sir Denis Follows and given him his Road to Damascus moment?
Or if she had not equalised and England had suffered an embarrassing draw—or even defeat—to the Scots?
Or if her Italian transfer rumours had not got the authorities’ knickers in a twist, prompting them to take tighter control of women’s football and (eventually) run it properly?
Sue Buckett: England’s original goalkeeper
Born: c.1946, Portsmouth
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Occupation: Clerical supervisor (1972), Senior project engineer (1992)
Sue Buckett is an English football great. As England women’s first ever goalkeeper she won 30 caps in a 12-year international career which took her all over Europe. In a brilliant club career with Southampton, she played in 11 WFA Cup finals and won eight of them. Those who saw her play describe a calm and unshowy presence, who made acrobatic saves and plucked crosses out of the air with minimum fuss.
Most of the following info about Buckett’s achievements comes from the indispensable works of her former team mates, Sue Lopez (Women on the Ball 1997) and Wendy Owen (Kicking Against Tradition 2005)…
In 1966 the intersection of England’s World Cup win and Southampton FC’s promotion to the top-flight kick-started a women’s football revival in the unlikely setting of leafy Hampshire. The famous Dick, Kerr’s Ladies of Preston had folded the previous year, so the lights had all but gone out on women’s football in England.
Buckett was part of a ‘new wave’ of women’s footballers, who had little in common with Dick, Kerr’s hefty northern lasses who puffed Woodbines and ate bread and drippings. Instead these well-mannered young ladies sprang from a Tory heartland and espoused a “jolly hockey sticks” ethos.
A pupil at prim Western Park Girls’ School in Southampton, Buckett was a talented netballer and came close to representing Team GB in canoeing. After getting bitten by the football bug she quit the other sports, except badminton which kept her reflexes in tune.
By necessity, she was a completely self taught goalkeeper. She admired Gordon Banks and started going to The Dell in order to study the top professional goalies at close hand.
A women’s league popped up with matches played on a Sunday at the public pitches on Southampton Common. Buckett played for Flame United, a team of office girls from Southern Gas.
Flame narrowly won the first ever league title in 66–67, then inked a sponsorship deal with local bookie Charlie Malianza. They rebranded as ‘Inter Malianza’, a tongue-in-cheek homage to Helenio Herrera’s Inter Milan, who dominated Europe in the 1960s before being laid low by Jock Stein’s Glasgow Celtic.
Buckett made her bow for the Southampton representative XI on 7 October 1967, in a 9–0 destruction of Ipswich at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley. Interestingly she played outfield, Lynn Attwood of Cunard was the original Southampton custodian.
Lopez reports that Buckett’s first game ‘between the sticks’ came on 18 July 1969, in a prestige friendly against crack Czechoslovakian outfit Spartak Jihlava at Nursling recreation ground. A 4–1 win sent Spartak back behind the old Iron Curtain with their tail firmly between their legs.
The match was attended by Welshman Ron Davies, who was the star centre forward of the male Southampton FC team recently promoted into the top-flight. He was the Rickie Lambert of his day!
In August 1967 Davies bagged a four-goal haul against Manchester United at Old Trafford, after which United boss Matt Busby hailed him the best in Europe. Sue Lopez remembers down-to-earth Davies as fantastically supportive of the women’s team’s endeavours.
At the 1970 Deal Tournament final, Buckett was party to a curious one–v–one sudden death penalty shootout between Southampton’s Sue Lopez and Cambuslang Hooverettes’ Paddy McGroarty. Buckett saved future England teammate McGroarty’s first effort and saw the second kick missed. Lopez also missed her first kick but secured Southampton’s first trophy with her second.
In 1971 Southampton beat out more Scottish opposition, Stewarton Thistle this time, to secure the Mitre Trophy (also known as the WFA Cup). Ultimately Buckett played in all ten of Southampton’s WFA Cup finals and collected eight winner’s medals.
When other Southampton players started to hang up their boots, around about 1978 or so, Buckett was determined to soldier on. She had won everything it was possible to win, but as a relative latecomer she had plenty of football left in her and wanted standards kept high.
When Southampton WFC folded in 1986, Buckett was among a group of players who headed to Red Star Southampton.
Hardy perennial Buckett was still around when the inaugural National League kicked off in 1991. In the opening match Red Star hosted Merseysiders Knowsley United at their Cam Alders ground on 15 September 1991.
Irish international Geraldine Williams famously netted the League’s first ever goal to put Red Star ahead after 17 seconds. Lee doubled the advantage on seven minutes, before Knowsley’s Woollam crashed a volley past Buckett on 17 minutes.
Red Star held on to win 2–1 and finished second to all-conquering Doncaster Belles that season. They also lost 4–0 to the Belles in the 1992 WFA Cup final at Prenton Park.
Forty-seven-year-old Buckett made a record 11th final appearance, but Donny’s Karen Walker extended her record of scoring a hat-trick in every round to ensure there would be no fairytale finish for Buckett.
Sue Lopez reported that Buckett hung up her gloves in 1994 and became the club physio. These days that would mean many years of exams and poring over boring diagrams. Luckily back then you only needed basic first aid training and an ability to hold a wet sponge.
Red Star were promptly relegated, but linked up with Southampton FC men and became Southampton Saints in 1995. In Saints’ 2–0 Cup final defeat to Arsenal Ladies in 1999, Fifty-something (!) Buckett was named on the bench as substitute goalkeeper.
While coaching at the Saints Buckett unearthed promising goalie Aman Dosanj, who later signed for Arsenal and won a scholarship to the US. Dosanj made a little bit of football history when she won a youth cap and became the first British Asian to represent England at any level.
Buckett later became a more than useful golfer on the veterans’ circuit, turning out for the prestigious Royal Winchester club.
Buckett and Sue Lopez were among a handful of Southampton players in Harry Batt’s England XI, which travelled to Northern Italy for the FIEFF European Cup in 1969.
When the WFA put together an official England team in 1972, Buckett was the obvious choice at number 1. But she still had to go through the regional trials to secure her place alongside young understudy, Susan Whyatt of Macclesfield.
England team mate Wendy Owen (2005) wrote:
“Sue Buckett, at twenty-eight years old, was their highly experienced goalkeeper. Eric [Worthington] chose her to be the backbone of the England team, a role she was to fulfil for many years. She was a supremely agile shot stopper, decisive on crosses and prepared to marshal her defence with calm authority.”
In the first match at Greenock’s Ravenscraig Stadium, England went behind when Buckett was beaten by Scotland’s Mary Carr. The ball came through a ruck of players—what the Scots might call a “stramash”— and past unsighted Buckett who dived in the icy mud.
Things looked ropey when England went 2–0 down in the first half, a corner kick sailing over Buckett’s head and straight into the net. To be fair, the scorer was a certain Rose Reilly – one of the greatest players of all time. Buckett’s blushes were spared when gutsy England hit back to win 3–2.
Redoubtable centre-half Wendy Owen gave Buckett’s safe hands much of the credit for England’s success in the following years, when they saw off all comers until being soundly beaten by Sweden (1975), then Italy (1976).
England’s 3–0 win over Belgium at the Dell on 31 October 1978 was a big deal for Buckett, who had often stood on those terraces as a paying supporter.
With evergreen Buckett maintaining top form into her mid-thirties and beyond, 1980s England boss Martin Reagan nevertheless had to do some long-term planning.
Terri Irvine, the Irish-born Aylesbury stopper who found fame on TV’s It’s a Knockout, was drafted in for a few games. But Buckett’s long-term successor in England’s gloves proved to be Terry Wiseman, the footballing illustrator who eventually became a legend in her own right.
Buckett collected a total of 30 England caps from 1972–1981 and a brief comeback in 1984. She never played in a major tournament because UEFA and FIFA shamefully dragged their heels in setting them up.
Born: c.1955, Buxton
Position: Defensive midfield
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Midfield enforcer Bagguley, 17, made it through the trials into Eric Worthington’s original England squad in 1972. She also played netball to a high standard.
She was one of two Macclesfield Ladies players to be picked, alongside the 16-year-old substitute goalie Susan Whyatt.
In November 1972 Bagguley anchored the midfield in England’s famous 3–2 debut win in Greenock.
Downmarket tabloid The Sun branded Bagguley: “this charmer from Cheshire who has been called the Nobby Stiles of ladies’ soccer.” But the journo conceded that she was better looking with more teeth!
Friend and contemporary Wendy Owen (2005) characterised Bagguley as: “Hard as nails and a ferocious tackler”.
Owen recalled the formation of a card school with the younger members of the squad: fellow ladettes like Bagguley and Jeannie Allott.
On 31 May 1974 unbeaten England thrashed the Netherlands 3–0 in Groningen. The report in the local Leeuwarder Courant paper credited the first goal to Sue Lopez, but Dutch FA (KNVB) records give it to Bagguley. Pat “Thunder” Davies hit the other two.
Controversially, Bagguley and the other members of the card school gave their WFA handlers the slip after the match and spent the day tearing it up in Amsterdam’s red-light district.
In September 1975 Bagguley was named on the bench for England’s match with Sweden at Plough Lane, Wimbledon. The game finished 1–3 — the second of two chastening beatings administered by the Swedes that year.
Bagguley started another win over the Netherlands at Borough Park, Blackpool on 2 May 1976, in the number 6 shirt. England won 2–1, but she was not included for the Home Nations tournament later that month.
Sue Lopez (1997) wrote that Bagguley was among several leading players who drifted out of football around 1978, frustrated with a general lack of direction and leadership.
UEFA women’s committee – an obstructionist sham composed entirely of male blazers – collapsed that year and properly organised international competitions seemed further away then ever.
The WFA’s Pat Gregory and Hannelore Ratzeburg from Germany eventually set up a proper UEFA committee which got things up and running.
It came too late for the likes of Bagguley, lost to the game in her early 20s.
Born: c.1957, Crewe
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Occupation: Schoolgirl (1972)
Featured in the Sports Illustrated ‘Faces in the Crowd’ column in the 29 November 1965 issue:
Jean Allott, 8, a Crewe, England schoolgirl, scored two goals in her debut at center forward for the Wistaston Green Primary School boys’ soccer team. Said her headmaster, “She passes intelligently with her left foot and goes into the tackle as hard as any of the boys.”
Sue Lopez described “a phenomenally fast, strong, tricky left-winger.”
Allott had reportedly been playing for Fodens for eight years when selected to the first England team in 1972, but was only 16. Branded “a real livewire” character by Wendy Owen, she was the team’s joker.
Some sources credit a goal to Allott in England’s famous 3–2 debut win in Greenock. The footage shows Allott collecting a partly-cleared corner and hoisting an effort from the left hand angle of the penalty area, which is spilled over the line by Scotland goalkeeper Janie Houghton. Pat Davies was also in close attendance but the England players ran to congratulate Allott.
It is now thought Allott was only 15 at the time of England’s first match.
Original England boss Eric Worthington told the FA News in March 1973: “This girl has it all, she’s good with her head, she has perfected the chest trap and her work rate is unbelievable.”
Worthington also claimed that Frank Blunstone (who knew a thing or two about outside-lefts) had tried to sign Allott while back in his native Crewe taking in a schools match. Only to be told: “He’s a girl!”
In England’s fourth match, under the floodlights at Bath City’s Twerton Park, Allott scored the first in a 5–1 win over Northern Ireland. She swept home Pat Firth’s cross after six minutes.
Allott was part of Fodens’ famous 1974 WFA Cup winning team, beating Southampton 2–1 in the final. She was always the journo’s favourite with photogenic long blonde hair.
She continued her footballing education in signing for Dutch outfit Zwart-Wit ’28 Rotterdam in 1976. Southampton’s Pat Chapman took over on England’s left wing.
In the 1987 Women’s FA Cup final programme, Doncaster Belles’ Lorraine “Polly” Young name-checked Allott as the best women’s player she had ever seen.
February 2017 update:
In the Netherlands Allott found League and Cup success with KFC ’71 during the 80s.
She made such an impression that Oranje boss Bert van Lingen handed her a national team call-up.
Inevitably, she was brilliant and hit eight goals in 12 caps from 1985 to 1987.
Allott stunned France with the only goal in her March 1985 debut. Then blasted a hat-trick in the return match that October, as the Dutch left Cambrai with a 5–3 win.
Six of her 12 caps came in Euro 87 qualifiers, so it is not clear if UEFA were unaware of her earlier appearances for England, or had granted dispensation.
Shortly before crossing the North Sea, Allott played against the Dutch in England’s 2–1 win at Borough Park, Blackpool, in May 1976.
The birth-date on her Dutch FA (KNVB) records suggest she had turned 16 the day before her England debut in 1972.