Morag “Maggie” Pearce (née Kirkland): England’s original and best left-back
Born: c.1957, Southampton
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Occupation: Schoolgirl (1972)
A 10-year-old Pearce was spotted charging about on the green in front of her house. She soon found her way to Southampton WFC, whose manager Norman Holloway saw “a little shrimp” with potential star quality.
Pearce was not in the Southampton team which carried off the first ever WFA Cup at Crystal Palace in 1971. The full-backs on that day were Pat Judd and 14-year-old Karen Buchanan.
She was not listed in the team for the 1972 final either: Judd and Buchanan remained in the line-up, while Pauline Dickie wore the number 3 shirt.
So Pearce must have come from virtually nowhere to catch the eye of England boss Eric Worthington during that summer’s national team trials. An inter-League tournament sponsored by Lillywhites whittled down about 300 hopefuls to a provisional squad of 25 who met at Loughborough College in September.
Lionesses team-mate Wendy Owen recalled Pearce was “already an accomplished overlapping full-back” by the time of England’s debut match in Greenock. Playing behind fellow youngster Jeannie Allott, Pearce was one of four Southampton players to start England’s 3–2 comeback win over the Scots.
The following year’s return match in Nuneaton saw Scotland whupped 8–0. Margaret Miks of Coventry Bantams came in for a debut cap at right-back, giving England two Maggies as their full-back pairing.
Southampton-born Pearce lived in Weston-Super-Mare at the time of England’s 5–1 win over Northern Ireland at Twerton Park, Bath. Always hungry for a local angle, the Bath Chronicle branded her a “West Country Girl”.
A 2–0 win over France at Plough Lane in November 1974 saw Carol McCune debut as England’s new right-back. Over the following decade, Yorkshirewoman McCune (later Thomas) replicated Pearce’s consistency over on the other side of the Lionesses’ defence.
England were progressing nicely until a comprehensive 2–0 defeat by Sweden in June 1975. Pearce missed out as she was reportedly sitting her ‘O’ levels. Coach Tommy Tranter handed out another four debut caps.
Judging by the dates it seems more likely she was doing her ‘A’ levels, unless they were re-sits. In any event Tranter lamented his teenage left-back’s absence: “The inexperience told then. And with Morag concentrating on her ‘O’ levels we had little to offer at the back.”
In summer 1977 she tied the knot with Gordon “Gordie” Pearce, taking his surname having hitherto been billed as Maggie Kirkland. Some Programme lists shortly after the wedding spelt her new moniker ‘Pearse’ but this usage soon died out.
Gordie was fully supportive of Maggie’s soccer endeavours and was himself gaffer of local no-hopers Redbridge Rovers.1 He altered the course of football history when he interceded to get Sue Lopez back into the Southampton WFC fold in 1976.
There had been some sort of bust-up or drama behind the scenes, so – reading between the lines – Lopez had gone in a huff for a year. She still played for England, but as a Totton player.
Accordingly, Lopez doffed her cap to Gordie in Women on the Ball (1997): “I will always be grateful for the way he resurrected my Southampton career”.
“Flattering comments were often made about Maggie and none sums up her talent more than when people genuinely and complementarily said ‘she plays like a lad’.” — Sue Lopez (1997)
In the 1976 Cup final, Pearce’s Southampton beat sworn rivals QPR 2–1 after extra-time. Lopez was off the scene but later recollected that Pat Davies hit the extra-time winner.
The annotations in the ITN archive attributes the winning goal to Pearce, but the footage shows the slight figure of number 9 Davies emerging from the bottom of the celebratory pile-up.
Jeannie Allott’s departure to Dutch football in 1976 gave Southampton southpaw Pat Chapman her opportunity with the Lionesses. Renowned motormouth Chapman had sky-high standards and could be demanding to play alongside (Sue Lopez quipped she was sometimes glad to be deaf in one ear when lining up alongside Chapman).
But Pearce proved an excellent foil for Chapman’s bountiful talents and the duo soon struck up a firm understanding, to the benefit of club and country.
In October 1976 at Ebbw Vale, buccaneering Pearce punctured surprisingly stodgy Welsh resistance when her “pinpoint cross” was turned in by Droitwich’s Rayner Hadden for the opening goal. The Lionesses departed with a narrow 2–1 win.
In the 1978 Cup final, Southampton avenged their 1977 defeat by QPR with a stirring 8–2 win over the same opponents at Slough. Neat interplay down the left from Pearce and Chapman laid on the second goal for Lopez, before Chapman hit an astonishing double hat-trick.
Lopez (1997) recalled that Maggie’s proud husband Gordie Pearce was left purring: “Ten more trophies should have been made, for in fact, this was a complete team performance.”
In-form Pearce started England’s 3–0 win over Belgium at The Dell in October 1978, bouncing back after Alison Leatherbarrow had taken the left-back berth for the 6–1 win over Ireland at Exeter earlier that year.
At club level classy Lancastrian Leatherbarrow turned out for Foden’s, Welsh cracks Prestatyn, and St Helens. She mounted a strong challenge for Pearce’s place in the national team under Tommy Tranter.
In the 1979 unofficial European Championships, Pearce was first-choice. But when she was crocked in the semi-final defeat by hosts Italy, Leatherbarrow came in for the third place play-off.
Incoming England manager Martin Reagan was apparently less taken with Leatherbarrow, who drifted out of the reckoning and later won caps for Wales as a centre-forward. But Reagan retained Pearce, impressed by her level-headed dependability.
She played in a 1–1 draw with Sweden at Filbert Street, Leicester in September 1980. But she sat out the 1981 England games and Southampton’s last Cup final due to pregnancy. While England toured Japan in September 1981, Pearce that month welcomed daughter Laura Jane.
Another bruising friendly with Sweden in May 1982, a 1–1 draw in Kinna, saw Pearce make a swift return to the team. During Pearce’s absence England had found another option at left-back in the shape of Angie Gallimore.
But for the UEFA Championship qualifiers Pearce came back in, with Gallimore moving inside to centre-half and Linda Coffin dropping out. Reagan hailed Pearce as “outstanding” – her left-footed distribution “out of this world” – in the decisive 4–0 win over Scotland in Dumbarton.
In the UEFA 84 final first-leg against Sweden, Pearce was part of a disciplined and compact Lionesses rearguard.
In the debit column, she will have been disappointed that the goal came down her side: Swedish defender Burevik lumbered forward with Pearce temporarily posted missing and measured a fine cross onto Pia Sundhage’s head.
After England’s penalty heartache in the return leg, Pearce retired from international football. She was presented with a shield by the Mayor of Preston at Deepdale on 17 March 1985, after England beat Scotland 4–0.
The November 1984 edition of WFA News carried a warm tribute from Martin Reagan:
“Maggie Pearce always appears to have things under control, and few can suspect the fighting temperament there is under that calm exterior. A very cultured left foot, one of the best in women’s football, made her a difficult player to beat. […] One of Maggie’s greatest delights was to score a goal in a practice match, with her right foot. The determination of this young lady, was typified when she retired to give birth to her daughter, and then took up the game again and fought her way back to the top.”
The 1984 Mundialito tournament in Italy saw a first call-up for Norwich’s Jackie Slack, an excellent left-sided defender in her own right, who had to bide her time for a chance with England.
Maggie’s younger sister Heather Kirkland was also a Southampton player. Heather started out as a full-back like big sis, but was repurposed as a forward when Southampton’s fortunes began to wane.
The WFA News of June 1985 congratulated Pearce and Gordie on the recent birth of their second daughter. Pearce was not among the exodus to the Red Star club when Southampton WFC folded in 1986, instead she focused on coaching her other great sporting love, netball.
Pearce was later (2010) a primary school teaching assistant and made the local press when trapped in the Costa del Sol by unpronounceable Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull.
Women’s Football Archive Verdict:
It’s always poor form comparing women players to the top men. That’s why Lorraine Hanson‘s article contains no mention of her illustrious forerunner in the centre-back/centre-forward stakes, John Charles.
But in this case the Southampton WFC players themselves widely acknowledged their debt to England’s heroes of ’66. So it’s not gratuitous to say Ray Wilson’s calm demeanour was reflected in Pearce’s play.
In football’s family tree Rachel Unitt was perhaps Pearce’s god-daughter, Claire Rafferty and Alex Greenwood her impetuous grandchildren.
1. Not to be confused with the fictional team of the same name in the recent Craig Cash television comedy “Rovers”.↩
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, Portsmouth
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.
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.↩
Pat “Thunder” Davies
Born: c.1955, Netley
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Occupation: Valuations clerk (1972)
A deadly striker whose aerial prowess belied her lack of inches, Davies burst on the scene in a flurry of goals for England and the great Southampton WFC team of the era. In pre–National League days the WFA Cup was the only show in town – Davies’s Southampton side made it their personal property with six wins from the first eight tournaments.
Wendy Owen (2005) described Davies simply as “a centre–forward with a clinical finish.” While Saints team mate Sue Lopez (1996) hailed 5ft Davies’s “incredible ability to jump higher than players much taller than herself and superbly head the ball once she reached it”.
Pat Davies from Netley in leafy Hampshire was a sporty kid who first played football as a 5-year-old.
She got her start in organised football with Patstone United, when teams started springing up in the Southampton region following England men’s 1966 World Cup win.
Patstone’s gaffer Dave Case was an ace talent-spotter who drafted in outstanding winger Lynda Hale as well as Davies.
Case played for Hampshire League minnows Scholing FC and the peevish Local FA threatened to kick him out of football unless he gave up coaching the women.
Thumbing his nose at those pitiable little men, Case stayed involved. He was part of the League’s management committee who put together a League select team, which became the famous Southampton WFC.
On 7 October 1967 Davies played her first game for Southampton, a 9–0 win over Ipswich at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley.
Southampton carried off the first ever Women’s FA Cup in 1971, then known as the Mitre Trophy. Davies rattled in a hat-trick in the 4–1 final win against shell-shocked Scots Stewarton Thistle at Crystal Palace.
The WFA later fined Saints the princely sum of £20 for masquerading as a club team (they remained a league select XI) but let them keep the Cup.
In 1972, 17-year-old hitkid Davies made it through the trials into Eric Worthington’s first ever England squad. That November she led the line in England’s first ever official match, a 3–2 win over Scotland at a snowy Ravenscraig Park in Greenock.
Wendy Owen (2005) recalled that Davies scored one goal and Sylvia Gore got two. Sue Lopez (1996) wrote that Gore scored one, then Davies scored two.
Owen and Lopez are women’s football doyennes. Their books provide almost all that’s known about the early days. But on the important point of England’s first goalscorers they seem to have it WRONG.
Understandable, as Owen spent the afternoon shivering under a warm blanket on the substitute’s bench.
Lopez wasn’t selected at all — much to her fury — after being crocked while playing against men.
A contemporary WFA programme (for the 1973 Probables v. Possibles trials match) records that wingers Jeannie Allott and Lynda Hale added to Gore’s historic strike.
Even if Davies didn’t score in that first game, her goalscoring instincts would not be contained for long. She netted twice in England’s next match, won 3–0 against France in Brion, to silence a partisan 3,000 crowd. That was in April 1973, and she struck another brace in England’s 8–0 thrashing of Scotland at Nuneaton’s Manor Park that June.
Lopez wrote that prior to the 1973 WFA Cup final, Davies had plundered 44 goals in 16 domestic games that campaign.
England’s 3–0 win over the Netherlands at Groningen’s Stadspark in May 1974 again featured two goals from Davies. A 5–0 win over Wales in March 1974 also had Davies’s name amongst the scorers.
She hit another in November 1974’s 2–0 win over France at Plough Lane, in a team performance which had English sports hacks recalling Stan Cullis’s Wolves side of the 50s.
Oddly, by the time Sweden brought previously unbeaten England down to Earth with a bump in June 1975, Davies seems to have dropped out of the reckoning.
England were already on their third manager after Worthington jumped ship to be Australia’s director of coaching, and Tommy Tranter replaced stand-in boss John Adams.
The annual England team trials tournament remained gruelling and expensive for those taking part. But it provided intense competition for striking places, with the likes of Pat Firth and Elaine “Baddy” Badrock breaking through into the squad.
Whatever the reason, Davies was left out of the squad for the Home Championships and the first tour of Italy, both in 1976.
She stuck at it with Southampton though, and Sue Lopez recalled Davies hitting the extra-time winner in the 2–1 1976 Cup final victory over QPR.
The ITN report attributes the winning goal to left-back Maggie Kirkland, but does not identify the scorer of the first goal.
After a 1–0 defeat in the 1977 final, Davies returned for the 1978 Cup final win, the third in the classic trilogy versus QPR, when Pat Chapman scored a double hat-trick in an 8–2 win.
Davies opened the floodgates by rising to power home Chapman’s pinpoint corner on eight minutes.
Lopez (1996) wrote that a “disenchanted” Davies finally bowed out of football in 1978 to take up other sports.
She was reportedly sick of all the training and travelling for Southampton’s very few competitive games. The sport also remained an organisational shambles operating in a media blackout.