Players: Debbie Bampton

Debbie Bampton: Highly-decorated midfield powerhouse

Born: 7 October 1961, Sidcup

Position: Midfielder

Debut: Netherlands (A) 30 September 1978

Occupation: Cashier (1981), Selector (1982), Courier (1987), Footballer (1988), Postwoman (2005)

Right… where to start with this one!? A Hall of Famer with an MBE for services to women’s football. Six Women’s FA Cup winner’s medals, the last two won as player-manager. Doubles. A treble. Ninety-five caps for England in a 19-year international career. A top-level club career spanning parts of four decades. Impressive numbers, which only scratch the surface on the story of this English football titan…

Part One: England


England manager Tommy Tranter handed 16-year-old schoolgirl Bampton her England debut on 30 September 1978 in a friendly with the Netherlands in Vlissingen.

Bampton’s overriding memory of the event was the inordinately tight shorts supplied to England’s players. They were wholly unsuitable attire for running about on a reclaimed island on the windswept North Sea coast.

As a mere slip of a lass the offending garments did not present Bampton with too many problems. But some of her more mature, fuller-figured team-mates apparently struggled.

In Daily Mail parlance, they had to “pour their curves” into the “sultry numbers”.

Unsurprisingly, England crashed to a comprehensive 3–1 defeat, Pat Chapman scoring the goal. Bampton came off the sub’s bench for 20 minutes and hated it.

It was the typical sort of amateurish nonsense which saw several leading players quit the game in 1978 and 1979, clearing the decks for the next generation.

Bampton went to the 1981 Portopia Tournament in Japan. She hit England’s final goal in the 4–0 win over the hosts in Kobe.

Sadly, the debut micro-shorts were not to be the last sartorial scandal encountered by Bampton during her Three Lionesses career.

Trooping off after another match in Italy, she went to swap shirts with an opponent – but England boss Martin Reagan wasn’t having any of it.

His steely touchline glare had Bampton wriggling back into her top quicker than you can say: “Ciao”!

Martin was a straight-laced guy. After all, he was a product of the FA administration which picked Ron Greenwood over “Ol’ Big ‘Ed” himself, Brian Clough.

But he wasn’t scandalised by this airing of early sports-bra technology. More likely he knew the potless Women’s Football Association (WFA) could ill afford a replacement shirt!

A broken leg which washed out Bampton’s spell in New Zealand (see below) also kept her out of England’s first ever UEFA qualifiers starting in 1982.

Battling back into contention, she played a key role in the Denmark semi-final. At Gresty Road, Crewe, England edged a nervy encounter 2–1.

The WFA credited Bampton with England’s second-half winner, although Danish FA records suggest Liz Deighan did the damage.

In any event, the second-leg in Hjørring was settled by Bampton’s towering header from Pat Chapman’s corner. The team celebrated winning through to the final with an impromptu human pyramid.

The final first-leg at Sweden’s Ullevi national stadium was backs to the wall stuff. England were fortunate to escape with a 1–0 defeat, but Bampton so nearly grabbed a priceless away goal.

Collecting possession from Linda Curl, she burst into the box but flicked a weak shot agonisingly wide of Elisabeth Leidinge’s post.

When the second-leg in Luton went to penalties, Bampton showed an iron nerve to convert England’s third kick. But Curl and Hanson put theirs too near Leidinge, who, ankle-deep in mud, failed to dive out of the way.

In August 1984 the Charity Shield between Everton and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium took place in front of 100,000 fans.

The WFA was invited to stage a short curtain-raiser and plumped for a six-a-side knockabout between Bampton’s Howbury Grange, Millwall Lionesses, St Helens and a Merseyside/Wirral Select.

Billed as the first time women had played football at Wembley Stadium, Linda Whitehead hailed a major “breakthrough”.

Amidst farcical scenes, Millwall were eventually declared winners because their goalkeeper (Sue Street) had the fewest touches!

That was on the Saturday and on the Monday Bampton was basking in Venetian Riviera sunshine, as England’s Mundialito campaign kicked-off against Belgium.

A hectic schedule of Euro finals, Wembley and then the ‘little World Cup’ in Italy: it seemed women’s football was at last reaching critical mass.

Bampton was back in Italy for the following year’s Mundialito, which England won. They handily beat upstarts the United States 3–1 along the way.

She dipped out of the starting line-up during the Euro 1987 qualifying campaign. Reagan perhaps allowing two creative ‘luxury players’ Hope Powell and Brenda Sempare free reign against the outmatched Irish and Scots.

But for the big games Bampton was always in there, usually alongside Gillian Coultard in a double pivot midfield. Both featured as England lost 3–2 to rivals Sweden in the Euro 87 semi-final, after extra-time.

Bampton’s toughness and famed aerial prowess meant she could also fill in at centre-half, like she did after the successful Angie Gallimore–Lorraine Hanson axis was broken up by the latter’s pregnancy in 1986.

Influential Bampton remained an England regular throughout the 1980s. When Carol Thomas (née McCune) retired in 1985, she was the natural choice to inherit the captaincy.

She clocked up her 50th cap in England’s 4–0 win at Love Street, Paisley on 6 May 1990 and was presented with a handsome silver plate.

An ill-timed injury during a period of upheaval saw Bampton lose the England captaincy. Barrie Williams – the WFA’s replacement for sacked Martin Reagan – handed Coultard the armband during his short time in the hotseat.

When the FA took over running the national team in 1993 Coultard was still captain, only to be publicly demoted by Ted Copeland on the eve of the 1995 World Cup.

Bampton was back as captain for the tournament in Sweden but the squad was riven with factions. There was no beef with Coultard, though, who remained Bampton’s room-mate.

The World Cup showed England were being left behind by other nations. This reached its nadir in May 1997 during back-to-back thrashings by the United States: 5–0 in San Jose then 6–0 in Portland.

Bampton, the sweeper in England’s ultra-defensive formation, toiled in the heat – and she wasn’t the only one.

Frequently moving as though wading through treacle, with a proverbial piano on her back, she was still among the better performers in England’s forlorn attempts at damage limitation.

Full-time athletes like Olympic superstar Mia Hamm were by then on a completely different planet to England’s enthusiastic but aging amateurs.

That was not the players’ fault of course. It was a result of chronic developmental failures, compounded over many years – as Bampton herself had long been saying.

Bampton’s 19-year, 95-cap England service came to an abrupt halt the following month.

She was unceremoniously bombed-out by Copeland, who had left it up to her whether she travelled to Norway for another meaningless friendly in June 1997.

Stressed by playing for and managing Croydon, she took Copeland up on his offer to sit the game out, but was never called upon again.

No thanks, no fanfare, no nothing!

Unimpressed Bampton later branded Copeland a decent coach but “too insensitive to work with women”.

Part Two: Club


Dad Albert and mum Ann played a key role in Bampton’s career and at many of her clubs. Sister Lorraine also dabbled in football, but not as seriously as Debbie.

A childhood judoka, Bampton recalled honing her football skills in time-honoured tradition: in the back garden with her dad.

Wendy Owen (2005) recalled Bampton as a highly-promising young team-mate at Maidstone. A crocked neck meant Owen’s own best days were well behind her by then.

But with Albert as manager, Debbie as captain and free-scoring Tracy Doe up front, Maidstone were soon a force to be reckoned with.

The Kent outfit reached the 1981 WFA Cup semi-final but were defeated by the holders, St Helens, at Maidstone United’s Athletic Ground.

Silverware-hungry Bampton switched to ambitious Lowestoft in 1981 and won the 1982 WFA Cup in her first season, playing in the final at Loftus Road.

She was chosen to play and coach in New Zealand with Auckland WFC from May to September 1982, alongside Audrey Rigby of Notts Rangers and Caroline Jones of Manor Athletic.

Rigby, a member of England’s 1976 Home Championships squad, thrived Down Under. She was their 1985 Player of the Year and won 14 caps as a NZ international.

Bampton endured a less enjoyable trip, consigned to the sidelines as a broken leg restricted her to coaching instead of playing.

Back in Blighty, Bampton captained Howbury Grange in the 1984 WFA Cup final at Sincil Bank, Lincoln. She collected her second winner’s medal as Doncaster Belles were seen off 4–2.

A black and white photo of two women footballers running after a ball

At some point in 1984–85 Bampton signed for Millwall Lionesses who were developing their pioneering link with the Millwall men’s club community department.

The Lionesses were beaten by Doncaster Belles in both the 1986 and 1987 WFA Cup semi-finals.

In 1987 Bampton was playing for Millwall and worked delivering mail for the Department of the Environment, when she left for Serie A club Trani.

She visited Trani’s Kerry Davis for a holiday and trained with the Italian giants, who promptly offered a two-year pro deal.

Like Denis Law and Jimmy Greaves a generation earlier, Bampton found performance-related pay taken to extremes in Italy.

That was okay for Davis, who had gone all-in. But for Bampton – trying to keep commitments ticking over at home – it proved unworkable.

She enjoyed the football: forming a formidable midfield duo with Viviana Bontacchio, having crossed swords with the tireless little Brescian while on England duty.

Trani lost the Cup final 2–1 to Modena and finished second in the league, twelve points behind Lazio. But Bampton had already decided to bail when Trani went bust on the eve of the 1988–89 campaign.

Back at Millwall Lionesses, Bampton was part of an ever-improving team. This culminated in claiming the 1991 WFA Cup at Prenton Park against Doncaster Belles.

When the WFA formed a National League in 1991, the Millwall team broke up and Bampton headed to London rivals Friends of Fulham, who were re-branding as Wimbledon.

The team started brightly, with a flurry of goals from Bampton’s England team-mate Marieanne Spacey, but never recovered from a 5–1 home thumping by Doncaster Belles in November 1991.

In 1992–93 Bampton played for newly-promoted Arsenal. As a self-confessed “Gooner” she was proud to collect a historic treble in her first season.

Vic Akers’s well-resourced Arsenal franchise made a mockery of the bookies’ questionable pre-season odds (12–1!) in the National League.

The 1993 WFA Cup final at Oxford’s Manor Ground saw Bampton inadvertently hospitalise her old friend and adversary, Doncaster Belles’ Gillian Coultard, after a first-half collision.

That coincided with Arsenal scoring twice in first-half stoppage time, in their eventual 3–0 win. Bampton pocketed her fourth winner’s gong from her fourth final.

A trophyless 1993–94 season with Arsenal preceded a move into player-management with Croydon, the club formed as Bromley Borough in 1991 by a few of Bampton’s old Millwall Lionesses pals.

In 1995–96 the team overcame a monster end of season fixture pile-up to beat the Belles to the title on goal difference. Despite being out on their feet, they also beat Liverpool on penalties in the Cup final at The Den.

Pete Davies’s I Lost my Heart to the Belles (1996) – unashamedly a lovelorn paean to Doncaster Belles – portrayed Bampton in the role of cartoon villain.

That was poetic licence by Davies. But Bampton’s brand of straight-talking did not endear her to everyone.

It possibly went against her when the FA appointed under-qualified Hope Powell, her Croydon skipper, over her head as England manager in 1998.

Forthright Bampton was never one to shirk a confrontation. Especially about complacency, for which she reserved a special loathing.

Steeped in football, Bampton’s intimate knowledge of the game meant she could wring the best out of her charges.

She balanced a relatively small squad and valued the – ahem – footballer’s footballers who played alongside gifted artisans like Hope Powell and Jo Broadhurst.

As well as dad Albert, ex-Millwall Lionneses boss Alan May was involved with the coaching. Broadhurst’s dad Brian also helped out but Bampton retained overall control, even while playing.

Tactical team talks were given via the medium of Subbuteo, much to the players’ hilarity.

This all fostered amazing team spirit at Croydon, who went unbeaten in the league for two years. Although they did develop an irksome habit of losing Cup finals to Arsenal.

Croydon recaptured the League title in 1998–99 and the squad cheekily went along to the Cup final, to cheer on Arsenal’s opponents Southampton Saints.

Arsenal gaffer Vic Akers was left seething after finding a boozy a capella rendition of “Where’s Yer Treble Gone?” on his answerphone messages. The culprit was never found, although Bampton naturally fell under suspicion!

Another double was secured in 2000 when Doncaster Belles were controversially edged out 2–1 in the Cup final at Bramall Lane in Sheffield.

When Croydon were franchised to Charlton Athletic in summer 2000, Bampton sensationally quit.

By all previous indications, Bampton was not averse to a tie-up with a bigger men’s club, which had been on the cards for a while.

But something about the way it was handled did not sit right. Bampton had her principles and voted with her feet. Even with vastly improved resources, the club never enjoyed success on the same scale.

Postponing retirement yet again, Bampton’s next destination as a player raised eyebrows: Doncaster Belles.

Not only is Doncaster 200 miles north of Croydon, but Bampton’s club career was hitherto defined by numerous ding-dong battles against the Belles, over some 20 years.

On the opening day of the 2000–01 season, Donny faced Premier League new girls Barry Town in Wales. A goal down after 79 minutes, they roared back to win 3–1 with 38-year-old Bampton notching the second.

On her induction to the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2005, Bampton could proudly say: “By the time I finished I had achieved everything I wanted in the game”.

Bampton played on for a few years with Eastbourne Borough in the lower divisions, under – who else? – dad Albert. She also held brief coaching assignments at Whitehawk and Lewes.

Players: Sue Law

Sue Law: Gutsy England defender who carried the fight off the pitch

SueLaw1992

Born: 25 April 1966, Rochford

Position: Defender

Debut: Wales (N) 17 August 1985

Occupation: Sport Development Officer (1989), FA Head of Equality (2015)

Defender Sue Law played around 40 times for England and represented Pelynt, Brighton, Millwall Lionesses and Bromley Borough with calm assurance. But she is perhaps best known as that rare thing: a brainy footballer! The old stereotype says any player with two ‘O’ Levels must be nicknamed “the professor”. But Law is in a different league altogether. After injuries took their toll she hung up her boots but vowed to move women’s football forward from the inside.

Club


Essex-born Suzanne Law knew she wanted to play football for England when she was seven years old. As a pupil at Plymouth High School she sought out 5-a-side footie with Prince Rock LFC and soon graduated to the 11-a-side ranks with Pelynt LFC.

While taking a degree in Sports Science from Brighton Polytechnic, bright spark Law played for Brighton (then known as C&C Sports due to a sponsorship deal).

In 1987 she joined Millwall Lionesses. The London outfit were fiercely ambitious after losing two consecutive WFA Cup semi-finals to Doncaster Belles.

Millwall were in the market for decent players, after half a dozen regulars quit for the Italian Serie A over the preceding year or so.

It cost Law £20 a week to go back and forth from her Peacehaven base to train and play with the Lionesses. But she loved the set-up in South London, declaring:

“I needed the best possible training and play to secure my England place. No one else in women’s football had developed a whole structure of coaches, and youth and reserve sides, let alone things like the physiotherapy we get from Millwall’s physio. Millwall have done the work for women’s football that the FA should have done in this country.”

In 1991 Law was part of the great Millwall Lionesses team who finally wrested the WFA Cup away from Doncaster Belles, after a titanic tussle at Prenton Park, Birkenhead.

That season Law proudly served as team skipper, since club captain Raeltine Shrieves could not always crack an increasingly competitive first XI.

In the aftermath of that success the team broke up. Along with Hope Powell and coach Alan May, Law was part of the faction which set up Bromley Borough, the team which later became Croydon, then Charlton Athletic.

As a new club Bromley Borough started out at the very bottom: in the muck and nettles of the South East Counties League.

This meant lopsided scorelines, which became even more pronounced when silky England midfielder Brenda Sempare joined Bromley for their second season.

Law hung up her boots after a 1992–93 WFA Cup semi-final defeat by treble-winning Arsenal at Cambridge. Bromley gave a good account of themselves but succumbed to second-half goals from Arsenal’s Debbie Bampton and Naz Ball.

England


Martin Reagan handed 19-year-old Law her England debut in August 1985, in a 6–0 win over Wales staged on the Isle of Man.

As a promising right-back she had big boots to fill: ultra consistent Hullensian Carol Thomas had performed the role with distinction for over a decade.

In the Euro 1987 semi against Sweden, Law’s quick free-kick set up Kerry Davis to put England 2–1 up, but the Swedes hit back to win 3–2 in extra time.

Law’s finest hour as an England player came in the 1988 Mundialito (little World Cup) win. The “Lioness of Arco” Linda Curl bagged both England’s goals in a brave final win over hosts Italy.

Law shrugged off an injured ankle to repeatedly shut the door in the Italians’ faces.

Sue Mott of The Times quoted Law after the match: “We all had cramp, our muscles were knotting and still the referee played on and on in the hope that Italy would equalise. It was incredible.”

“We’re treated wonderfully abroad,” said Law. “Funnily enough, it’s just at home we’re snarled at and laughed at.”

Law sat out England’s historic 2–0 defeat by Sweden at Wembley in May 1989, still recovering from a shoulder operation. She graced the hallowed turf a year later, as England stuffed Scotland 4–0 in a short “demonstration” before the Man United v Crystal Palace FA Cup final.

In November 1990, Law was absent from the squad who lost heavily to ruthless Germany and missed out on a place in the inaugural 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

After that disappointment Martin Reagan was sacked and replaced with eccentric former schoolmaster Barrie Williams. The new boss reckoned his charges were incapable of playing a flat back four so switched to five at the back.

That suited Law who had played as a centre-half for Millwall. Although she was now plying her trade in the basement divisions with Bromley Borough, she retained her England place for the Euro 93 campaign.

Barrie Williams quit after six months as the WFA went into meltdown. He was replaced by his goalkeeper coach John Bilton.

Sue Lopez’s Women on the Ball (1997) detailed the “ignominious end” to Law’s international career, which came in the second leg of the Euro 93 quarter-final with Italy at Rotherham United’s old Millmoor ground:

“Law played bravely, despite agonising back pain, probably not helped by a vigorous pre-match fitness test with shoulder charges from the solid six-footer John Bilton.”

It was the last ever England game under the WFA. Law scored an own goal and Lou Waller was red carded for deliberate handball in a 3–0 defeat. Italian star Carolina Morace picked off England who were forced to chase a 3–2 deficit from the first leg.

Despite her battles with injury, loyal servant Law made around 35 to 40 appearances for England, depending on whether matches like the shortened curtain-raisers are included.

Post playing career


Persistent injuries forced Law’s premature retirement from playing before she was 30. But she had already made her mark off the field as a proselytiser.

In the November 1986 edition of the WFA News, Law was already seeking out alliances and asking questions years – if not decades – ahead of their time:

“We would like to know why women’s football is not taken seriously? Why we don’t receive media coverage we feel we deserve?”

In April 1987 Law and England team mates Terry Wiseman and Marieanne Spacey were among candidates for the FA’s Preliminary Coaching Badge. The intensive residential course at Lilleshall was not for the faint-hearted but Law passed with flying colours.

When Channel 4 started showing women’s football in 1988–89, producers Trans World International picked cerebral and well-spoken Law as their expert summariser.

Before long Law’s work in her day job with the National Coaching Federation (latterly Sports Coach UK) was subject to admiring glances.

In 2000 she was headhunted by the FA as its child protection tsar. During the 90s the FA had been in an embarrassing fankle after its clumsy attempts at child protection excluded legions of young players.

Pettifogging FA rules blocked kids from adult football. But because there were precious few girls’ teams and girls remained banned from school football, there was nowhere for them to go. It led to a massive talent drain.

After sorting out that mess, high flyer Law was then promoted to overall “head of equality” in 2006.

Players: Claire Lacey

Claire Lacey

Picture courtesy of West Ham United LFC

Picture courtesy of West Ham United LFC

Born: 12 June 1975, London
Position: Goalkeeper
Debut: Portugal (A) 11 February 1996
Occupation: Housing officer (1996)

In a departure for Women’s Football Archive, we give yesteryear a swerve and profile a current player still doing the business at a high level: Claire Lacey of C&K Basildon Ladies.

Lacey joined newly reformed West Ham United Ladies in 1992–93 as a total beginner. Roger Morgan, the ex-QPR and Tottenham winger, had relaunched the team as part of his club community officer remit.

An earlier iteration of West Ham Ladies FC had been around in the 1970s but had subsequently died out.

John Greenacre had been involved with the original club and was brought back for the relaunch. John was hugely respected in women’s football circles and much missed after his untimely death from cancer in 2008.

The first team entered Division Three of the Greater London League, while a reserve team entered Division Four. Under the astute stewardship of Greenacre and West Ham academy coach Trevor Lewin, the Ladies were promoted twice and took their place in Division One for 1995–96.

After the 1995 World Cup, England boss Ted Copeland was casting around for goalkeeping backup to Pauline Cope. He had alienated Tracey Davidson and Lesley Shipp, who both retired from international football.

Young Doncaster Belle Debbie Biggins was also called-up and warmed the bench a few times, without getting a cap. Rachel Brown was already on the radar too, but being held back on grounds of age. She debuted against Germany in February 1997 immediately after turning 16.

Lacey’s day in the sun came on 11 February 1996. Aged 20, she was an 81st-minute substitute for Cope in England’s routine 5–0 win over Portugal at Campo das Portas do Sol in Benevente.

The Euro 1997 qualifying match was also notable for the goalscoring debut of Wigan Ladies’ 16-year-old Marie-Anne Catterall.

Disaster struck in 1996–97 when Lacey injured her back and had to start playing outfield for her club. In 2007 she reluctantly left the Hammers after a stormy AGM saw manager Kay Cossington’s departure.

She moved on to Millwall Lionesses and, back between the sticks, was part of their 2009 promotion-winning team. That capped Lacey’s remarkable rise from the lower echelons of regional football, to the very top of the English pyramid.

As Millwall club captain, Lacey was crocked during 2009–10 and out of football until joining C&K Basildon in Jan 2011.

She remains the Essex outfit’s inspirational skipper, capable of doing a job at centre-half or utilising her height and strength further up the pitch.

Verdict:


Claire Lacey was not an England great. Not everyone can be: life’s not like that.

With Pauline Cope blocking her path, more than one cap was always going to be an uphill struggle for Lacey. At the time Ted Copeland – with some justification – hailed Cope the world’s best.

Loyal Hammer Lacey plied her trade in the Greater London Leagues, when most of her England rivals were dining at the top Premier League table.

She is one of a select band of players to know the pride of pulling on the three lions at senior level. No-one will ever take that away from Lacey.

The bottom line is this: anyone good enough to play competitive football for their country is inherently worthy of lasting recognition and respect.

Administrator: Linda Whitehead

Linda Whitehead

Linda Whitehead ensconced at WFA HQ

Linda Whitehead ensconced at WFA HQ, 1980

Linda Whitehead: A lifetime’s dedication to women’s football in England

The smiling public face of the Women’s Football Association from 1980 to 1993, who later served Millwall Lionesses and Arsenal Ladies with distinction. Whitehead is a diligent and well-regarded sports administrator. With her contribution stretching across four decades, icon Whitehead is often hailed the greatest living authority on English women’s football.

In late 1980 a Sports Council handout let the Women’s Football Association hire its first paid employee: an ‘Administrative Assistant’. Blackburn’s bright and ambitious Linda Whitehead swept into the WFA’s swanky Westminster offices, wowed the interview panel and got the job.

In her 2013 interview with the estimable Girlstalkfooty website — delivered in flat vowels betraying her North West roots — Whitehead admitted her surprise at getting the gig.

Whitehead’s CV boasted a football background through short spells as PA to the commercial manager at Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers. After quitting teacher training college, she also spent a year on Mothercare’s management development programme and worked as a secretary for an engineering firm in Blackburn.

A football fan (Blackburn Rovers, with a soft spot for Birmingham City), Whitehead never played the game herself – her genius is for sports administration. On occasions when a ball came near her, she would even pick it up and chuck it back instead of kicking it.

Up against it from the start, Whitehead and the WFA operated in an extremely hostile environment for women’s football. Loons would send in rambling letters about Deuteronomy 22:5. Others found outlets for their antipathy which, while not as overtly deranged, were no less dangerous. Whitehead also copped some internal flak as the only salaried employee in what was always a completely voluntary organisation.

She must have needed thick skin and – at times – sharp elbows. But Whitehead quickly shored up her power base and by 1982 was the WFA’s secretary as well as administrator.

Life at the WFA was never dull. In April 1988 the Football League held a ‘Mercantile Credit Football Festival’ at Wembley and told the WFA to get a friendly organised. Holland had already been pencilled in when the organisers announced that the slot was only 15 minutes each-way.

The fiasco drew a stinging response from the Dutch FA: “women’s football is not a circus”. Whitehead took a more considered line, telling the Football League that the cancellation knocked a potential 5,000 fans off the event’s puny attendance. The 15 minutes each-way match went ahead though, with plucky Ireland standing in at late notice.

Barnsley-supporting women’s football historian Donna Woodhouse (2003) reported that Whitehead controversially moved the WFA’s offices from London to Manchester’s Corn Exchange in 1988.

To Whitehead it was a no-brainer to leave behind the Big Smoke’s exorbitant rents and life as a small fish in a big pond. But it put her at loggerheads with the other WFA officers, who were said to be hopping mad.

The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Awards, the brainchild of pioneering sportswriter Sue Mott, made Whitehead their 1989 Administrator of the Year.

In 1986 Whitehead had invited the Football Trust’s Richard Faulkner (later Baron Faulkner of Worcester) into the WFA. A Labour Party grandee and quango regular, it was a major feather in the WFA’s cap to have someone of that calibre in the ranks.

Little did Whitehead know then that she had signed the WFA’s death warrant. Faulkner promptly set about rerouting Sports Council and Football Trust funding through the FA. In 1991 he deliberately nobbled the WFA by quitting as chairman, leaving them high and dry and making his goal of an FA takeover inevitable.

Many men view attempts by women to take up playing the game as tantamount to an invasion of privacy — Linda Whitehead, 1988

The potless WFA then spent a year or two drifting, rudderless. In an unguarded moment Whitehead’s frustrations boiled over: “it’s always the men who cause the problems,” she snapped. Woodhouse (2003) reported that the FA already had sneaky tentacles in women’s football since at least 1990, through their competitions department.

When the FA finally stepped in and wound up the WFA in 1993, Whitehead was made redundant. A folly which enraged the managers of the leading clubs, set things back many years and made the FA look profoundly clueless. Sadly, the pattern was set.

It speaks to Whitehead’s dignity and character that she stayed on as unpaid secretary of the National League in 1993–94.

When the FA took over direct running of the Women’s National League in 1994–95, an influx of County FA blazers dominated the new management committee. Much impetus was lost and progress stifled.

Although Whitehead and one or two other stalwarts remained, they were marginalised and not allowed to rock what became quite a cushy boat. Chairman and vice Chairman Peter Hough (Dorset) and Ray Kiddell (Norfolk) are still snoozing through meetings and munching complementary sandwiches 20 years later!

Football’s loss was athletics’ gain as Whitehead was soon snapped up by the South of England Athletic Association (SEAA), which remains her day job. A confirmed workaholic, she considers it a perk that the SEAA later let her carry on her football commitments in her own time.

Football was in her blood and in 1998 Whitehead was installed as Millwall Lionesess secretary. She had a tough act to follow: replacing Sue Prior who had been ousted in the most shameful episode in the great club’s long history.

In 2001 Arsenal Ladies boss Vic Akers headhunted Whitehead for a match day administrator and UEFA co-ordinator role. She became a valued part of the club’s expensive off-field operation and scooped an FA Special Achievement Award in 2007. In recent seasons Arsenal hit a slump and failed to qualify for Europe, scaling back Whitehead’s involvement somewhat.

She proudly attended Buckingham Palace in 2013 as one of 150 volunteers to be honoured as part of the FA’s 150th anniversary. Also that year Whitehead and Pat Gregory were presented with a commemorative stone at the FA Women’s Awards, belated and inadequate recognition of the WFA’s achievements against all the odds.

When England debuted at the new Wembley in November 2014, being horsed 3–0 by Germany, Anna Kessel’s pre-match article in The Guardian said of Whitehead:

The answer to almost every question regarding the history of women’s football since 1980 is “You’ll have to ask Linda Whitehead for that”.

What they did next: Millwall Lionesses 1991 Women’s FA Cup winners

Spotlight on Millwall Lionesses 1991 – Women’s FA Cup winners

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In an iconic final, Millwall Lionesses’ class of ’91 beat Doncaster Belles, the holders, 1–0 at Prenton Park to lift their first Women’s FA Cup. In the Greater London League they saw off Friends of Fulham and Arsenal to qualify for the first ever National League in 1991–92. With cult status assured, the team famously imploded and went their separate ways. Now the Women’s Football Archive opens the vault and looks back at the Lionesses squad from that memorable season.

 


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Lesley Shipp (later Higgs) Goalkeeper who joined the Lionesses from Milton Keynes in 1988. A 25-year-old shop assistant in 1991. Had specialist goalie coaching from Aldershot stopper David Coles in the days when this was unusual. Won her first England cap in 1990 under Martin Reagan and quit the national team after playing at the 1995 Women’s World Cup. Moved on to Arsenal and then Wembley in 1994. Had the game of her life in Arsenal’s 1993 Cup final win, then kept goal for Wembley against Millwall in the 1997 Cup final.


Maria Luckhurst Attacking full-back with a fierce shot. In 1991 was a 20-year-old bank clerk recently capped by England under-21s. A youth team product who joined Millwall at 11 after being kicked out of boy’s football. Now a high-powered investment banker with BlackRock.


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Lou Waller (later Newstead) Joined her girlhood club at 12 and went on to become manager and chairman in a distinguished Lionesses career. Installed as England’s regular left-back after her 1989 debut, but took on a more pivotal role for her club. Enhanced her Millwall credentials by being the first England player ever to be sent-off, against Italy in 1992. Bizarrely taken to the 1995 World Cup while injured and not fit enough to play. A keen student of the game, she spent two off-seasons playing for HJK Helsinki in Finland and coached the Lionesses’ pioneering youth teams. Hit the only goal in the 1997 Cup final win over Wembley. Twenty-years-old in 1991, she later went on the men’s club payroll as part of their community department.


Tina Mapes A sweeper or holding midfielder of rare composure, Mapes won the Lionesses’ Player of the Year in 1989–90, her first season with the club. She captained England under-21s and won her first senior cap in the dog days of the WFA regime. Moved to Wimbledon Ladies after the Cup final but took up a contract offer from Swedish second tier club Lindsdals in spring 1992. She quit Sweden for Croydon to win back her England place and went to the ’95 World Cup where she filled in at full-back. The trophies kept coming in two spells with Croydon and a stint with Arsenal. Also a useful goalkeeper, Mapes is currently one of 25 A-licensed female coaches in England. She was 20 in 1991 and working for a building company.


Sue Law The Lionesses’ Miss reliable who rarely had a bad game since joining from C&C Sports (Brighton) in 1987. Won most of her caps for England (1985–1992) at right-back but played all along Millwall’s backline. She was a 24-year-old development officer and would commute from Eastbourne to play and train with the Lionesses. A succession of back and shoulder injuries disrupted her career, especially after she left to form Bromley Borough in 1991. The cerebral Law currently serves as the FA’s head of equality. Has an incredibly-hard-to-Google name!


Keeley Salvage Committed no-frills centre-half who revelled in her club nickname of ‘Well Hard’. A 20-year-old bookie’s assistant, she honed her crunching tackle in the Lionesses’ youth ranks after joining aged 12. Was on the fringes of England’s under-21 team and had a short spell with Arsenal in 1993–94 before coming home to Millwall and skippering the side. Died tragically young from cancer in 2013.


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Hope Powell Entered the 1991 final as the Lionesses record goalscorer, boasting an incredible 1.25 goals-per-game average in over 200 appearances since joining from school aged 11. She turned 24 that season but was already hit by the knee trouble which slowed her down in her last years as a player. She was recently back from a two-year sojourn with Friends of Fulham, having scored twice in their 1989 Cup final defeat – an individual performance which went down in women’s football lore. Best known as England’s long-serving disciplinarian coach from 1998 to 2013, Powell was always too modest in recalling her own capabilities as a player. Those who played with and against her attest to peerless skill and vision, setting her apart as arguably England’s finest ever female player.


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Debbie Bampton All-action midfielder Bampton was gunning for her third Cup winner’s medal after driving Lowestoft and Howbury Grange to glory in 1982 and 1984. She was 29 and a chauffeur in the City of London. In 1987–88 she played and lost the Italian Cup final with Trani. Bampton’s 19-year England career (1978–1997) stands as an incredible achievement. Adjusted for games played, her 95 caps must be worth around 200 in today’s money. A tireless midfield workhorse but much more than a water-carrier, she habitually scored crucial goals. Left for a season with Wimbledon after the 1991 final, then won a treble with Arsenal in 1992–93. Was player-boss of Croydon from 1994 until 2000.


Maureen Jacobson Kiwi international, 29, who put her career as an accountant on hold to add goals and quality to Millwall’s midfield. She covered every blade of grass and shot from all angles, plundering 67 goals in the Lionesses’ 1989–90 season. ‘Mo’ Overcame injury to play in the 1991 final and went to the historic 1991 Women’s World Cup in China that November with New Zealand. Recently (2012) inducted into Wellington’s Soccer Hall of Fame.


Raeltine Shrieves The club’s reserves captain, who made inroads into the first team ahead of the final. A graduate of Bangor University in Wales, she was 24-years-old and working in financial services. Proud of her Irish roots she dreamed of one day pulling on the famous green shirt. The call never came in football but Shrieves got in on the ground floor when the Irish put together a women’s rugby team a few years later. In the oval ball game she turned out for London Wasps and Richmond as a scrum half. Sister (?) Yvette Shrieves was also a Lionesses stalwart, who spent two seasons as a pro in Italy with Juve Siderno.


Yvonne Baldeo A speedy winger who rejoined Millwall after a spell in Serie A with ACF Milan. Twenty-nine and director of her own sports equipment company, Baldeo famously hit the winning goal in the 1991 final at Prenton Park. A thorn in the side of Doncaster Belles, she had bagged a brace in Howbury Grange’s 4–2 final win over ‘Donny’ in the 1984 final. In September 1993 Baldeo, who had moved on to Wembley, was named on standby for the first ever England squad to be selected by the FA.


Karen Farley (later Farley-Livermore) Big striker on the way back from injury after signing the previous summer from Maidstone Tigresses. A 20-year-old admin assistant, she played for England under-21s and began her career with Ashford Town. Moved on to Sweden after the final and settled in Scandinavia, mastering the lingo and working in the UK embassy while playing for Stockholm giants Hammarby, under player-boss Pia Sundhage. A brilliant header of the ball, Farley’s prolific but inexplicably short England career included the 1995 Women’s World Cup.


Jane Bartley The Lionesses’ record appearance holder, Londoner Bartley had turned out for the club more than 300 times by 1991. She also had some 200 goals, despite a serious knee injury keeping her out for two years from 1987. Joined Millwall at 11 when she and Hope Powell were booted out of their school team, despite the protestations of the male coach. A tall and graceful forward, she played international football for Wales in the days before the FAW took an interest. Was 24 and working in financial services.


Lynne McCormick Bustling pint-sized striker whose searing pace and unerring shot caught defenders off guard. A 22-year-old training officer, ‘Micky’ joined Millwall in 1987 from C&C Sports (Brighton) and had clocked up over 150 goals by 1991.


Anita Dines A blue collar grafter whose willingness and discipline gave a platform for more gifted team mates to flourish. Versatile enough to play at full-back or up front and seemingly a much better player than she gave herself credit for. Signed from Maidstone Tigresses in 1988, Dines’s whole-hearted displays made her a cult figure with the fans and hugely popular in the dressing room. She later hoisted more silverware with Croydon. A hopeless football addict, she was still thundering about for Tower Hamlets Ladies in 2007.


Julie Fletcher Schoolgirl left-back elevated to the first team after just a year with the thirds. She had signed from Elms FC of Catford and was the youngest member of the 1991 squad at 16 years of age. Remained loyal to Millwall and spent a decade at the club, before moving on to Croydon and Arsenal. A county standard cross country runner who later worked as a lifeguard. Made her England debut in 1995.

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