Report: Suffragettes of Football, National Football Museum, Manchester, 7 March 2017

Or, England’s Lost Generation tells us what it was really like

Our special correspondent ‘An Audience Observer’ writes from the front line of women’s football history…

As part of International Women’s Week, the National Football Museum and the BBC teamed up to present a discussion panel with regard to the pioneers of the women’s game. The list of attendees to the panel were Pat Gregory, Carol Thomas, Liz Deighan, Kerry Davis and Rachel Brown-Finnis, ably led by the BBC’s Eilidh Barbour.

The event opened with a short BBC film outlining the early history of the women’s game including contributions from the indomitable Gregory, Sue Lopez, Sylvia Gore and the champion of the women’s game in the day in the form of Lawrie McMenemy, who coined the phrase the “Suffragettes of football”.

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Match: England 1–0 Sweden (3–4 PSO), 27 May 1984, Kenilworth Road

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

Photo from the much-missed Damfotboll.com

Women’s Football Archive Exclusive: the definitive account of England’s Euro 84 final clash with Sweden. Clunkily entitled the UEFA Competition For National Representative Women’s Teams, the inaugural continental showpiece went down to the wire in torrential rain at Luton’s Kenilworth Road. 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, two weeks previously. England’s gutsy 1–0 defeat left things delicately poised for this return match in Luton…

 

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Players: Liz Deighan

Liz Deighan: North-east football pioneer whose greatest legacy stands on Merseyside…

Deighan (left) making a splash at the Euro 84 final in Luton

Deighan (left) making a splash at the Euro 84 final in Luton

Born: c. 1953, Northumberland

Position: Midfielder

Debut: France (H) 7 November 1974

Occupation: Computer programmer (1981), electronic test engineer (1983), technical training tutor (1991)

Elizabeth “Liz” Deighan is an English soccer great. That a generation of Lionesses fans have grown up in ignorance of her footballing deeds is both a scandal and a travesty! On the pitch, midfield dynamo Deighan won 48 England caps and resembled (a scaled-down version of) her modern equivalent: fellow north-easterner Jill Scott. The lynchpin of the great St Helens team which reached four WFA Cup finals in the 80s, she also graced the Euro 84 final with England. Off the park she was a bright and innovative tactician who served as coach for the north-west region, England under-21s and the club she founded in 1989: Newton Ladies, who became Liverpool Ladies.

Playing


Deighan upped sticks from her native Northumberland to football-daft Merseyside as a teenage centre-forward, reportedly to improve her game. If that’s partly true, it might not have been the whole story. She enjoyed a high-powered career outside football and must have been about university age at the time she relocated.1

When she made her England bow in a 2–0 win over France she was 21 and playing for WFA Cup-holders Fodens. Tommy Tranter handed debuts to Deighan and future skipper Carol McCune (later Thomas) in England’s eighth official match, staged at Wimbledon FC’s Plough Lane on 7 November 1974.

Although Deighan’s early national team appearances came in attack, Lionesses team-mate Wendy Owen (2005) recalled “an excellent attacking midfielder”. It was in the engine room where Deighan was to make her mark. She was a players’ player, a driver on. Her wiry frame belied a gritty determination and a toughness rarely matched in players twice her size.

In September 1975 England were back at Plough Lane, facing a Sweden team who had handed them a first ever defeat that June in Gothenburg. Deighan had apparently moved on from Sandbach-based Fodens and was now listed as a Southport player. The Swedes’ FA records credit Deighan with England’s sole goal in a miserable 3–1 defeat.

Deighan retained the number 10 jersey for England’s next match; a 2–1 win over the Netherlands in May 1976 at Borough Park rugby ground, Blackpool. But she was absent from the list for the Pony Wine Home Championships later that month, as Tranter shuffled his pack.

In April 1977 Deighan scored in England’s 9–1 thrashing of Switzerland at Hull’s Boothferry Park. She was a late inclusion in the XI which beat Belgium 3–0 at The Dell, Southampton, before a record 5,471 fans on 28 October 1978. She wowed the watching England men’s boss Ron Greenwood, who branded her “the female Kevin Keegan”.

By this stage Deighan had moved on from Southport to St Helens, who formed in 1976. She was part of the 1980 WFA Cup-winning team who eliminated holders Southampton then beat local rivals Preston 1–0 in the final at Enfield. Hirsute Spurs icon Ricky Villa was guest of honour and handed over the trophy.

In the 1981 final on home turf at Knowsley Road rugby ground, St Helens crashed 4–2 to resurgent Southampton in a Battle of the Saints.2

Two years later, a titanic tussle with Doncaster Belles at Sincil Bank, Lincoln, was lost 3–2. Deighan’s late “neatly executed free kick” gave St Helens hope but a goal in each half by Belles founder Sheila Stocks secured Donny’s first Cup win.

Meanwhile, UEFA had belatedly organised a European Championship and wise old head Deighan was one of England manager Martin Reagan’s on-field lieutenants. The Danish FA reckon she scored the semi-final first leg winner at Gresty Road, although WFA records attribute the goal to Debbie Bampton.

In the final first leg in Gothenburg, it was backs to the wall stuff. Reagan’s midfield trio of Coultard, Bampton and Deighan were compact and disciplined. The slight figure of Deighan bristled with nervous energy throughout, typifying England’s gutsy defeat.

The emergence of Hope Powell and Brenda Sempare signified the end of Deighan’s tenure as an England first-teamer. She started the Euro 1987 campaign as a squad player, coming off the bench in the opening 4–0 win over Scotland at Deepdale on St Patrick’s Day 1985. She was left out of the party for the 1985 Mundialito that August and remained two caps shy of her half-century.

Spotting the writing on the wall, Deighan told the Lancashire Evening Post:

“I don’t know how long I can go on playing. It may be my last season for England but I am also aware that manager Martin Reagan is keen to bring in younger players with a view to the future and that I might be dropped after the Preston match.”

In the 1987 Cup final at Nottingham’s City Ground, Deighan captained St Helens to another gallant defeat by Doncaster Belles. Manager John Mayer’s withering verdict on the WFA’s shambolic post-match arrangements got the club booted out of the following year’s competition.

On the subject of his skipper, Saints boss Mayer affectionately quipped in his 1987 WFA News column: “Her Geordie dialect causes many problems, nobody understands a bloody word she’s saying, we just nod and agree with her…”

Coaching


Reforms at the Women’s Football Association in 1986–87 – including league and boundary changes – proved controversial. Deighan was a beneficiary, though, as she scooped a new job as north west regional coach.

This was shortly after Pat Firth, notable as England’s first hat-trick scorer, took the Yorkshire and Humberside gig in January 1987. In doing so Firth became the first female regional coach.

Deighan had the trust of Martin Reagan and when an England under-21 team was mooted she got the nod as coach. She promptly arranged trials at Lilleshall, 3–5 July 1987: “expenses to be met by the individuals themselves, £36,” the WFA News reported.

Eight of the squad at the 1995 World Cup were products of Deighan’s successful under-21 setup. But the rudderless WFA was fast running out of time – Reagan was sacked and his replacement Barrie Williams was soon following him out the door. Deighan also lost her post to Williams’ stopgap replacement John Bilton, before the under-21 team was scrapped altogether.

Deighan was particularly miffed at this turn of events, having given up the regional job for the under-21s. Predictably, the folly had a deleterious effect on the senior national team. Under the FA things continued to drift aimlessly until 2004 (2004!) when an under-21 side was finally reinstated under Hope Powell.

In 1989 Deighan founded Newton Ladies, the team who would eventually become Liverpool Ladies. Thumbing her contact book she cobbled together some old St Helens mates and drafted in players from reigning WFA Cup-winners Leasowe Pacific. The team debuted at the pre-season Lancashire Cup and served notice of their intentions by carrying off the trophy.

Newton finished 5th and then third in two seasons in the regional NWWRL, then teamed up with Knowsley United – a now-defunct men’s non-League team – to join the inaugural national league in 1991–92. At this point 38-year-old Deighan brought the curtain down on her glittering playing career to focus on management.

Under Deighan Knowsley had a great DIY ethic: left-back Jill “Thommo” Thomas was the club secretary and forwards Viv Cutbill and Diane Woollam the press and PR officers, respectively. National treasure Sylvia Gore was club development officer.

An ambitious transfer spree in the summer of 1992 landed England stalwarts Clare Taylor and Kerry Davis. The team reached the Premier League Cup final at Wembley, played as a low-key curtain-raiser to one of the interminably dull Sheffield Wednesday versus Arsenal men’s Cup finals taking place that season.

Arsenal won and their manager Vic Akers opined that the match might have gone over better with a sceptical public if it was billed as Arsenal v Liverpool. Whether they took Vic at his word or the wheels were already in motion, Knowsley duly came under the wing of England’s most successful male club Liverpool in time for the 1994–95 season.

But by then Deighan had already had enough and quit in 1993. She brought in ex-England pal Angie Gallimore from Wigan as player-manager and moved upstairs to take a symbolic role as honorary chairperson. She told Sue Lopez in Women on the Ball (1997):

“I retired completely from the game in 1993. Managing my club was taking over my life, and was starting to jeopardise my full-time job as I was getting so many phone calls at work. I recently asked how I could become involved at a higher level again and was told to get involved locally. I’ve started helping out a bit at Preston Rangers.”

The original tie-up saw newly-minted Liverpool Ladies playing a couple of matches per season at Anfield, which helped to land a sponsorship with DHL. Since then the relationship with the male club has waxed and (usually) waned. A shake up in 2013 saw the introduction of an alleged “one club mentality” and investment in top notch players who captured back-to-back WSL titles.

At this stage a penny for founding mother Deighan’s thoughts would surely have given food for thought!

In 2015 Gill Coultard commended Deighan as the best female player currently outside the English Football Hall of Fame.


1. In a March 2017 interview with Sportsister, Deighan clarified that she did move purely for football reasons, leaving behind a job at the DSS. She had been playing for Wallsend but needed better competition after getting on the national team’s radar. Sylvia Gore helped fix her up with a job on Merseyside.

2. Women’s Football Archive hasn’t yet got the line-ups and scorers for this final, so it remains ‘a book with seven seals’. It’s of particular interest in case suspected all-time Cup final record goalscorer Pat Chapman got on the score sheet. Please get in touch if you can help!

Mundialito Femminile ’84 – The Little World Cup

Martin Reagan’s beaten Euro 84 finalists square off against Belgium, West Germany and Italy in Jesolo and Caorle

Mundialito1984

In the days before the FIFA Women’s World Cup there was the Mundialito…

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.

Results:

Group stage:

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

Third place play-off:

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)

Final:

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

Hors concours:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
27 August Monfalcone Italy 1–3 England ITA: TBC
ENG: Angie Gallimore, Hope Powell, Pat Chapman

Stadio Armando Picchi:

Some public domain snaps of the stadium in Jesolo, taken in September 2015.

Team notes:

England

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

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.

RoseReilly1984

Reilly gives her verdict to Italian TV

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.

Notes:


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!

2. Reagan never played for Liverpool, England’s most successful male club. Although he did play against them three times, twice with Middlesbrough and once with Portsmouth.

Five players NOT in the English Football Hall of Fame

…Who should be!

NFM

National Football Museum’s ‘one female’ policy reeks of tokenism


Recently retired Arsenal stalwart Faye White was named in the English Football Hall of Fame this month. While Kelly Smith and Rachel Brown are nailed–on certs to join White in the next couple of years. Who could begrudge these warriors their place in the pantheon of greats? Not Women’s Football Archive, that’s for sure. But where does that leave earlier players, already overlooked for too long? Here’s five whose bizarre exclusion makes the whole thing a JOKE…


TerryWiseman1980small

Theresa ‘Terry’ Wiseman England’s number one throughout the eighties: tritely dubbed “the female Shilton”. London-born, she guarded the nets with distinction at Spurs, Maidstone, Howbury Grange and Friends of Fulham, winning back-to-back W.F.A. Cups and some 60 England caps. Also an animator who worked on Raymond Briggs’ masterpiece The Snowman and ended up Stateside, working for Disney Pixar. A cornerstone of England’s Euro 1984 successes, she repeatedly thwarted Pia Sundhage and pals in the final first–leg in Gothenburg.


Kerry Davis Burst on the scene in 1982 with two goals against Northern Ireland in Crewe. Hit two in the Belfast return, notched the only goal in Dublin, all four in Scotland and finished England’s historic Euro 84 campaign with 11 goals in 11 games. Signed by Lazio in 1985, she spent four years as a Serie A pro, also playing for Trani and Napoli. Turned out for Knowsley (Liverpool), Croydon and Millwall Lionesses on the Premier League circuit.

A favourite of 90s England boss Ted Copeland: her time in Italy made her a diligent trainer and gave her a physical confidence often lacking in female players. Went to the 1995 World Cup as a veteran. Adroit, versatile, elusive, loyal, she plundered upwards of 40 goals for the Three Lionesses in a 16-year career.


CarolMcCune1977small

Carol Thomas (née McCune) England’s time-served skipper from 1976 to 1985 who made the Guinness Book of Records when she crashed the 50-cap barrier. A redoubtable right-back from Hull with a tigeress-ish tackle. Certifiably football-daft, she tied the knot in 1979 and went to the Euros in Italy by way of a honeymoon! Played club soccer for Hull Brewery, Preston Rangers, CP Doncaster and Rowntrees FC of York. The protégée of much-loved Flo Bilton, who loomed large over women’s football in the East Riding of Yorkshire and beyond.


Sue Buckett One of a few Southampton WFC candidates to belatedly join Sue Lopez, the sole Saints inductee, in the national Hall of Fame. Buckett was England’s first goalie in 1972, whose incredible longevity saw her playing in the Women’s National Premier League some 20 years later. She backstopped the peerless Southampton WFC side to an avalanche of silverware and won 30 England caps in a 12-year national team career.


Linda Curl Goalscoring policewoman who made her England bow at 15 and retired as the all-time record cap holder. A big game player who popped up with crucial goals for Martin Reagan‘s genuinely top class England team. Another Euro 84 hero who scored in both the semi-final and final. Curl was not slow in striking goals for her clubs either, firing both Lowestoft and Norwich to W.F.A. Cup glory before winding down her playing days with spells at Town & County and Ipswich Town.



None of these players had a central contract. They didn’t get glossy photo shoots or expenses-paid jollies to La Manga and Cyprus. But they all made sacrifices over many years to write their names indelibly in the annals of English football history. Honourable mentions go to Pat Chapman, Liz Deighan and Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb), further proof—should it be needed—that women’s football in England did not start in 1993.