Player: Linda Coffin

Linda Coffin

Linda Coffin at the Dell, 1978

Linda Coffin at the Dell, 1978

Born: c.1955, Portsmouth

Position: Centre-back

Debut: Wales (H) 22 May 1976

Occupation: Section manager (1976), Chargehand (1982)

One of England’s finest defenders who backstopped the great Southampton WFC team of her era to four WFA Cup wins.

Keen hockey player Coffin joined Southampton WFC in 1974, as an 18-year-old employed at the Plessey factory in Fareham. Her dad Noel also took over as Saints gaffer.

Southampton, winners of the first three WFA Cups, were rebuilding having been deposed by Fodens in the 1974 final.

Coffin proved a tall and elegant centre-half with good timing in the tackle and capable of playing out from the back. Her aerial ability was never in doubt.

With Coffin at the heart of their defence rejuvenated Saints recaptured the WFA Cup in 1974–75, thumping first-time finalists Warminster 4–2 at Dunstable Town.

She picked up a second winner’s medal the following year, in a 2–1 extra-time win over QPR in front of BBC cameras. Highlights were shown before the men’s final – won by Southampton FC.

Coffin’s performances had not gone unnoticed and England boss Tommy Tranter called her up to the Pony Home Championship squad in May 1976.

In the opening game against Wales at The Eyrie, Bedford, Coffin won her first cap at the age of 20. She was drafted in alongside Wendy Owen, as England’s original captain Sheila Parker dropped out.

Carol McCune (Thomas) inherited the armband. But legend Parker was far from finished and later returned to partner Coffin after Owen’s injury-induced retirement from international football.

Coffin instantly impressed, her refined style complementing the more agricultural Owen. She soon had the respect of her team-mates as England carried off the trophy.

She went on England’s tour of Italy the following month, which resulted in two bruising defeats (2–0 and 2–1) on bone hard pitches in Rome and Cesena.

Italian FA records attribute England’s goal to Coffin, but Wendy Owen’s (2005) recollection was that Elaine “Baddy” Badrock scored.

Another excellent performance in England’s 2–1 win over Wales in October 1976, saw Coffin nicknamed “The Rock” by Lionesses team-mates.

In 1977 Southampton lost the Cup final 1–0 to sworn rivals QPR. Coffin then sent shockwaves through women’s football when she sensationally quit Saints for their Cup final conquerors.

She played for The Hoops AGAINST Southampton in the 1978 WFA Cup final, but finished on the wrong end of an 8–2 worrying.

Pat Davies, the smallest player on the pitch, headed in Southampton’s opening goal from a corner. Sue Lopez drilled in a second, before Pat Chapman famously ran amok – netting a record six goals.

To make matters worse, 1978 saw Southampton finally scoop the Treble of WFA Cup, Home Counties League and Home Counties League Cup after years of trying. And they beat out Coffin’s QPR in all three!

By the time of England’s 3–0 win over Belgium at the Dell on 31 October 1978, Coffin was a Southampton player again.

She got her mitts back on the WFA Cup that season when Southampton edged out Lowestoft 1–0 at Waterlooville.

1980 was the first time that the WFA Cup final didn’t feature Southampton — the tenth year of the competition.

Coffin made amends the following season as Southampton won back their crown in style, beating 1980 winners St Helens 4–2 at a hostile Knowsley Road.

She was selected by Martin Reagan for England’s historic 1981 tour of Japan, starting both of England’s games in the Far East.

When England began their first UEFA campaign, against Northern Ireland at Crewe on 19 September 1982, Coffin had 28 caps.1

Coffin and striker Tracy Doe were dropped for the game in Belfast on 13 May 1983, for what Reagan dubbed “experimental reasons”.

This meant she did not feature in either of England’s semi-finals versus Denmark or the final defeat by Sweden.

When Southampton WFC folded in 1986, Coffin was among an exodus of players to Red Star Southampton.

She was not listed as part of the 1991–92 Red Star team who finished runners-up to Donny Belles in that season’s WFA Cup and inaugural National League.

Sue Lopez’s women’s football bible Women on the Ball (1997) reported that Coffin was still with Red Star (by then rebranded as Southampton Saints) as late as 1996.


Coffin executes a blockbuster challenge against France in Longjumeau, February 1977. Note the French player resplendent in official Adidas kit, as worn by Platini and pals at the following year’s World Cup in Argentina.

England’s kit was donated to the Women’s Football Association by Banbury Sportswear — it bore no relation to the natty Admiral kit worn by the FA’s underachieving men.

1. According to the match programme. A Millwall Lionesses match programme versus Red Star Southampton on 25 September 1994 listed “Lynne Coffin” with 19 England caps and six FA Cup winner’s medals.

Martin Reagan: women’s football boss was D-Day hero

Martin Reagan, manager of the England women’s football team between October 1979 and December 1990, is a World War Two hero.  Tyneside-born Reagan turned 90 last month and has led a life straight from the pages of Boy’s Own. While today’s feckless teens spend their time sniffing “meow meow” or filming “happy slappings” on their mobile telephones, Reagan showed the stuff to be made a Tank Commander at age 19. The date 20 October 1944 will be forever etched in his soul:  at a farm outside Ijzendijke, The Netherlands, a massive explosion killed more than 40 British and Canadian men.

Twenty-years-old and newly qualified as a Tank Commander in the Royal Engineers, future England manager Martin Reagan took part in the D-Day landings in Normandy.

When the Allies battled their way up into Holland, Lance Sergeant Reagan was pulled aside and given a deadly mission.

His Churchill tank would be modified to shoot a rocket-propelled hose across a field, fill the hose with nitroglycerine and then blow it up.

Code-named  “Conger” (after the eel) the modified tank’s exploding hose would blast a pathway across the field, clearing any lurking landmines from the Allied advance.

It sounds like an accident waiting to happen.

And so it proved: the unstable nitroglycerine never made it that far – its container lorry exploding in the tinderbox farmhouse where it was being stored.

41 British and Canadian soldiers died at the scene. Chillingly, many were simply pronounced “missing”.

Missing, presumed vaporised.

Reagan’s tank should have been parked next to the lorry.

Miraculously, he cheated death with a series of lucky breaks which kept him away from the farmhouse fireball.

First he was kept behind by having to fix his tank’s UV lights, after removing them for a stealth mission back in Calais.

Then he took a wrong turn and trundled into the town – relief was palpable when his tank met Canadians not Germans.

Then the road to the farm collapsed where it went over a dyke and there was a backlog of other vehicles being hauled across.

At about 1:00PM Reagan was sat on his jerrycan, scoffing lunch when the explosion ripped through the farmhouse a few hundred yards away.

Reagan’s driver pal “Ginger” Hall  cried out in agony, his leg shredded by white-hot shrapnel.

After instinctively hitting the deck, Reagan opened his eyes to a great smoking hole in the jerrycan where he’d been sat.

After giving Ginger the once over, lionheart Reagan sprinted TOWARDS the farmhouse – still loaded with other combustibles.

Amidst chaotic scenes survivors were pulled from the burning wreckage.

Reagan’s hare-brained mission was scrapped and the barmy practice of using nitroglycerine consigned to the history books.

A hastily held Court of Enquiry the following day had hushed up the affair, and Reagan never got the official answers he wanted.

In the following months his unit doggedly battled their way across the Rhine and swept into Germany.

More on Reagan’s wartime exploits here:

Strong and fit from his army training, Reagan found fame in the Football League, turning out as a nippy winger for clubs including Hull, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Norwich. He later threw himself into the role as England women’s boss, revamping the entire structure and telling everyone exactly what modest work needed to be done to stop England falling behind. Sadly no one with the clout to make it happen lifted a finger. He was cack-handedly sacked by a dysfunctional Women’s Football Association (WFA) in December 1990. Reagan never forgot the events of 1944 and returned to the scene exactly 50 years later with his three proud sons. In 1997 the Dutch town unveiled a memorial to his comrades who never made it back.