Loftus Road 1 May 1982 – Lowestoft Ladies 2–0 Cleveland Ladies
Woe for Cleveland as Lowestoft’s Linda Curl and Angie Poppy put a new name on the Women’s FA Cup
Classic match report: Spartans dashed by Waves who secure 1982 WFA Cup
In May 1982 goals from Linda Curl (26) and Angela Poppy (58) gave Lowestoft their first WFA Cup, at the expense of Cleveland. The event was staged at a Football League ground for the first time, on – topically – a controversial plastic pitch at QPR’s Loftus Road in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
This was the competition’s 12th final and only the second not to feature Southampton WFC, following St Helens’ 1–0 victory over Preston North End at Enfield in 1980. Eleven of the next 12 finals were contested by Doncaster Belles.
Football League whistler Danny Vickers (Ilford) took charge of the 80-minute showpiece, which was sponsored by “TRIMTAPE”. This was an exercise audio cassette tape devised and marketed by lycra-clad dance legend Eileen Fairbane.
Kick-off was at 12.30 pm, prior to promotion-chasing QPR’s 7–1 Second Division win over Bolton Wanderers at 3pm. The men’s match attracted a crowd of 9,995.
Cleveland Ladies – The Spartans
Cleveland were formed in 1976 as Cleveland Rangers. The Middlesbrough outfit edged out Southampton in an epic semi-final, winning a replay 2–1 after the first game in Hampshire was locked at 1–1 after extra-time.
After getting a bye in the first round, they had seen off Kilnhurst (4–1), Fodens (5–2), Aylesbury (1–0) and BYC Argyle (4–0) to book their place in the semi.
In the WFA’s patchwork regional setup Cleveland had been shoehorned into the Nottingham League (Middlesbrough is nearly 130 miles from Nottingham). There they lived in the shadow of Doncaster Belles.
The club was managed by Andy Neal, the son of Chelsea and ex–Middlesbrough manager John Neal. Experienced campaigner Janet Turner, a science teacher and FA preliminary coach, also took on some coaching responsibilities.
This Janet Turner is not to be confused with her namesake and contemporary who played on the left-wing for St Helens and Crewe and was a hero of England’s Euro 1984 run.
Cleveland’s previous coach John Simms had stood in as the WFA’s England manager for 1979’s unofficial Euro championship in Italy, after Tommy Tranter had left to manage in Iceland.
Lowestoft Ladies – The Waves
Formed in 1971, Lowestoft shared Lowestoft Town men’s Crown Meadow ground and were gunning for a double. They recaptured the South East Women’s League title in 1981–82 and won through to their second WFA Cup final. “The Waves” had lost 1–0 to Southampton in 1979 at Waterlooville.
On 21 March 1981 Lowestoft made history in facing rivals Maidstone at Carrow Road, Norwich, immediately after the Norwich City v Arsenal men’s First Division match. This pioneered the ‘double-header’ and was the first women’s match to share the bill with a Football League game.
Sporting their classic 80s Bukta kit, Lowestoft accounted for Colchester (4–1), Suffolk Bluebirds (7–0), Old Actonians (2–0), Preston North End (3–1) and Doncaster Belles (4–2). Maidstone were edged out 1–0 in a tense semi-final.
Manager Stewart Reynolds had assembled a strong team, bringing in England internationals Debbie Bampton and Vicky Johnson as close-season signings from Maidstone and Spurs, respectively.
They joined local favourites Angie Poppy and Linda Curl, prolific goalscorers and also both England internationals. The match programme described Poppy, only 28, as a ‘former international’ with five caps.
Young skipper Jackie Slack, a defender, made her England debut a couple of years later at the 1984 Mundialito. Wunderkind centre-back Sallie Ann Jackson, 16, bagged consecutive WFA Cup winner’s medals in 1984, 1985 and 1986 with three different clubs then turned pro with AC Milan.
England midfield powerhouse Debbie Bampton played in this game before taking up an offer to play and coach in Auckland, New Zealand. A broken leg restricted her to coaching and she was back for England’s Euro 84 qualifying campaign.
The match exploded into life and surged from end-to-end, both teams struggling to adapt to the ridiculous conditions underfoot. QPR’s plastic ‘Omniturf’ was a very early form of the artificial turf which marred the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Lowestoft’s defence closely watched Cleveland crackshot Jane Hughes, who had plundered 22 goals that season and hit the semi-final winner over Southampton.
On 26 minutes Lowestoft’s class told and Linda Curl, one of the finest penalty-box predators English football has ever seen, scored a typical opportunist goal.
Cleveland’s tireless full-back Anna Citro, an England basketball player who toiled at Middlesbrough’s ICI factory in her day job, enjoyed a titanic struggle with Lowestoft counterpart Vicky Johnson.
Marrie “Maz” Wieczorek gave a typically whole-hearted midfield performance for Cleveland. The club’s reigning Player of the Year, she collected three caps for England in 1980 and became Cleveland’s first international player.
Gritty northerners Cleveland kept battling to stem the tide but were undone again on 58 minutes when Poppy turned in a corner from the right.
Both teams fought on with determination and aggression, with no quarter asked or given. On 69 minutes Lowestoft’s Shirley Jones was carried off on a stretcher, nursing a broken collarbone.
Former FA secretary Sir Denis Follows was on hand to present the trophy to Waves captain Jackie Slack. Women’s football lost a great friend and ally when Sir Denis died the following year.
Cathy Gibb’s match report in the WFA News said of gallant runners-up Cleveland:
Left bitterly dejected and reflecting on what might have been, the North-East losers Cleveland contributed to a game that perhaps failed to reach the capable heights of a classic cup final but in fact won the hearts of many new sporting friends in the world of professionalism.
The victorious Lowestoft team were granted a civic reception at Lowestoft Town Hall. There they were warmly greeted by Waveney District Council’s first female chair Daphne Mellor.
Romance blossomed between bearded Lowestoft boss Stew Reynolds and goalscorer Angie Poppy. Their son Carl Poppy had football in his genes and turned out for Lowestoft Town at Wembley in the 2008 FA Vase final.
This was the high-water mark for Lowestoft, who rapidly hit the skids. The team spectacularly failed to defend their trophy, being crushed 7–0 by Warminster in the fourth round of the 1982–83 competition. Instead Doncaster Belles scooped their first Cup at Sincil Bank and built a dynasty by reaching 11 of the next 12 finals.
Lowestoft Ladies reformed in 2011 and currently play in the Eastern Region Premier Division. In January 2015 the ’82 squad held a reunion at the current team’s FA Women’s Cup tie with Luton, inspiring their young counterparts to a famous 2–1 win.
At some point Cleveland formally linked up with Middlesbrough FC and became Middlesbrough Ladies. Stalwart Maz Wieczorek stayed involved and served the club for many years as manager and honorary president. She famously led the club on a historic tour to North Korea in 2010. They are currently scrapping for points in Division One (North) of the FA Women’s Premier League.
1. Cleveland’s Anna Citro (left) kicks across Vicky Johnson of Lowestoft (right) during the match.
2. Cleveland’s cup final squad. Back (L–R): Jane Laugher, Margaret Anderson, Pamela Williams, Susan Anderson, Caroline Wickham, Jane Hughes, Denise Markham, Kim Moore. Front (L–R): Teresa Murphy, Julie Hogan, Anna Citro, Janet Turner, Marrie Wisczorek, Ann Duffy (captain), Janice Elliott, Gillian Hood.
3. Jubilant Lowestoft players on their lap of honour.
4. Statuesque Lowestoft skipper Jackie Slack hoists the famous Women’s FA trophy.