When Martin Reagan went in to bat for women’s football

Martin Reagan (1924–2016): The man who stepped up to save women’s football in England

Women’s football lost one of our own with Martin Reagan’s recent passing, but his deeds will never be forgotten

martin-reagan

In May 1984 the England women’s football team manager Martin Reagan returned from Gothenburg with a creditable 1–0 defeat for his team, and a blueprint for soccer success. Ex-pro Reagan knew exactly what England needed to do to reel in their continental rivals: copy the Super Swedes. In the days before women’s football was trendy he proudly shouted his support from the rooftops. But his sterling efforts were thwarted at every turn, by an unholy alliance of Football Association intransigence and – yes – sex bias, which was still firmly rooted in 20th Century British life.

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Match: Sweden 1–0 England, 12 May 1984, Ullevi (part 2)

Ullevi 12 May 1984 – Sweden 1–0 England

Pia Sundhage’s header beats England in first leg of Euro 84 final

Classic match report: Martin Reagan’s brave England stay in touch for second leg in Luton

Terry Wiseman 1984 final

Part two in a two-part series: profiling England’s classic Euro 1984 final defeat by Sweden. England won through to the inaugural continental showpiece by beating the Danes over two-legs in the semi-final. Opposition then awaited England in the shape of formidable Sweden and star centre-forward Pia Sundhage. 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. England’s gutsy 1–0 defeat left things delicately poised for the return match in Luton two weeks later.

Match Report


After their last four meetings ended in stalemate, England and Sweden wore the look of two fairly evenly matched teams with a healthy respect for eachother’s capabilities.

The match started tentatively, both teams sizing eachother up. Chapman’s initial forays down the left wing fizzled out under the close attentions of Ann Jansson.

Pat Chapman closely marshalled by Ann Jansson

Pat Chapman closely marshalled by Ann Jansson

It quickly became clear that Bampton and Coultard had a tough assignment against Sweden’s tenacious midfield general Anna Svenjeby, who deservedly picked up the Player of the Match award.

When Sweden forced a succession of corners mid way through the first-half, inspirational left-back Maggie Pearce could be heard to encourage and cajole, bellowing: “We’ve gone a bit quiet girls! Come on!”

In the 18th minute debutante Lena Videkull expertly chested down a right-wing cross and thumped a fierce shot off the base of the post, with Terry Wiseman beaten all ends up.

Seconds later the ball broke to Sundhage in the box and Sweden’s centre-forward blasted straight at Wiseman, who gathered at the second attempt.

Sundhage and Wiseman continued their personal duel in the 20th minute when England’s goalkeeper made a brave diving save at her rival’s feet… three yards outside the penalty area.

It was unclear whether Dutch ref Mynheer Bakker was feeling chivalrous or had left his cards in the dressing room! Wiseman was not even spoken to and England charged down the direct free kick.

England were penned back but on 23 minutes Åhman-Svensson’s awful outswinging corner landed at the feet of Linda Curl. A swift counter attack looked likely but even before Curl got her head up she was wiped out by a rugged challenge.

Play was held up for several minutes while physio Tony Brightwell administered treatment. Curl was in obvious discomfort but hobbled to her feet and soldiered on.

Linda Curl attended to by physio Tony Brightwell

Linda Curl attended to by physio Tony Brightwell

Ten minutes before the break, speedster Davis left her marker by the corner flag with a neat turn and marauded into the penalty area. When Börjesson abruptly shut the door in her face, Davis’s dying swan dive did nothing to impress the ref. It was a big step up in class for the youngster, still a diamond in the rough.

That was it until half-time and England reemerged to play into the breeze for the second period. Terry Wiseman had dispensed with her baseball cap for the second-half but was called into action almost immediately as Sweden turned the screw.

Debutante Anette Hansson – named in place of usual outside-left Helen Johansson, struck down with myocarditis – burst past Thomas and fired in a cross.

Sundhage’s diving header drew another sprawling save from Wiseman, who was alert enough to get her fingertips on the ball when it was fired straight back in from the right.

Deighan sliced the resultant corner over her own crossbar, to the audible mirth of commentator Grive, but England clung on and scrambled the ball away.

The second-half was nine minutes old before England mounted an attack of their own. Gallimore got her head to the ball in the penalty area, but she was crowded out and could only divert it well wide.

Two minutes later overworked Wiseman made a point blank save by her post. It was Videkull’s header from another of Hansson’s left-wing deliveries. Sweden’s debutantes were proving every bit as tall, athletic and talented as their new team-mates: both went on to have long careers in the Blågult (blue and yellow).

Reagan reacted by substituting Janet Turner on for Pat Chapman on 47 minutes. Chapman gave her sore back a rest while Turner tucked in a bit deeper to try and stem the Swedish tide.

Misinformed commentator Grive announced Turner as Hope Powell, but Cathy Gibb correctly reported it was Turner. Powell – later famous as England’s martinet coach – would have to wait until the second-leg in Luton to get a crack at the Swedes.

Sundhage bears down on Terry Wiseman

Sundhage bears down on Terry Wiseman

Wiseman’s best moment of all came after 49 minutes. Sundhage galloped clear of the English defence and was completely clean through, only for focussed Wiseman to pull off a breathtaking one-on-one save.

On 51 minutes Curl fed Bampton who burst into the box but scuffed England’s golden chance agonisingly wide with the outside of her right boot.

Until then Curl’s contribution had been minimal. Perhaps feeling the effects of her first-half injury she put in a shift but lacked the spark to get any change out of Sweden’s excellent centre-halves Börjesson and Kåberg.

The match swung back down the other end and on 53 minutes Thomas incurred the displeasure of the Dutch referee with a crude hack on Svenjeby, who was turning up everywhere like fine dust.

Thomas’ tackle may have had a whiff of retribution about it, but she went unpunished when Börjesson ballooned the free kick from 20 yards.

Two minutes later skipper Thomas redeemed herself with a great headed clearance off the goal line, with Wiseman beaten. Sundhage nodded the resultant corner onto the crossbar as England’s goal continued to lead a charmed life.

It couldn’t last and Pia Sundhage broke the deadlock on 57 minutes. Burevik was afforded too much space down the Swedish right and hoisted a perfectly measured cross into the danger area.

Wily Sundhage stole between the centre-halves, flashed across Hanson and headed powerfully into the bottom left-hand corner of Terry Wiseman’s goal from six yards out.

England centre-backs Hanson (left) and Gallimore (right)

England centre-backs Hanson (left) and Gallimore (right)

On 64 minutes Tony Brightwell was called into action again, this time for Gillian Coultard, who took a heavy knock while effecting a booming clearance. She accepted culprit Hansson’s apology but, sensibly, was in no rush to get up.

Four minutes from full-time, England’s hearts were in their mouths again. Sundhage’s scooped close range shot from a narrow angle bobbled right across the goal line and hit the far post.

Gallimore thwarted Videkull with a desperate sliding challenge in the goalmouth, but Pearce’s tired clearance only reached the edge of the box. Eva Andersson lashed a powerful shot just wide. It was all hands on deck!

Somehow it stayed out and, at 1–0, England lived to fight another day. A second would have been curtains: a two-goal deficit to this Swedish team surely irretrievable.

“Physically we gave everything but we can’t complain about a 1–0 defeat,” was Martin Reagan’s understated verdict.

Swedish goalscorer Pia Sundhage saw the second leg as a mere formality, assuring women’s soccer nut Thorsten Frennstedt: “We won’t miss that many chances for two games in a row”.

Match: Sweden 1–0 England, 12 May 1984, Ullevi

Ullevi 12 May 1984 – Sweden 1–0 England

Pia Sundhage’s header beats England in first leg of Euro 84 final

Classic match report: Martin Reagan’s brave England stay in touch for second leg in Luton

Euro1984TV

Part one in a two-part series: profiling England’s classic Euro 1984 final defeat by Sweden. England won through to the inaugural continental showpiece by beating the Danes over two-legs in the semi-final. Opposition then awaited England in the shape of formidable Sweden and star centre-forward Pia Sundhage. 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. England’s gutsy 1–0 defeat left things delicately poised for the return match in Luton two weeks later.

Venue


The final first-leg was staged at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium; that’s the main Nya (new) Ullevi, not the smaller Gamla (old) Ullevi which the Swedish women’s national team use today.

The following year disaster was narrowly averted when Ullevi hosted a Bruce Springsteen concert. ‘The Boss’ and his E Street band whipped 64,000 locals into such a frenzy that they nearly brought the house down – literally. The owners had to shell out nearly £3m in repairs.

There was never any danger of collapse here, but the reported 5,662 crowd did represent a new record for a women’s game in Sweden. That figure looked a conservative estimate too, as the ground held 50,000+ back then and the grandstand looked pretty full.

Sweden’s national broadcaster Sveriges Television were in evidence, with commentary provided by veteran sportscaster Bengt Grive. It was a bright, clear day and the pitch was in very reasonable condition with just a few dry spots amongst the luscious green.

Beautiful big stadium, decent pitch, record crowd… “let’s play some football,” England’s players must have thought.

Previous meetings


This was the seventh time the teams had gone head-to-head, with Sweden victorious on three occasions. One win came on a penalty shootout after a 0–0 draw. The other games also finished level, leaving England still looking for their first win.

In the first ever meeting at Ullevi in June 1975, Sweden put a stick in previously unbeaten England’s spokes to win 2–0. A gangly 15-year-old named Pia Sundhage made her debut, while Ann Jansson scored both goals.

Proving that was no flash in the pan, the Swedes visited Plough Lane, Wimbledon in September 1975 and casually drubbed England 3–1. The English Women’s Football Association were reeling after sponsors pulled out and the match left them seriously out of pocket.

The next meeting was in July 1979, a third place play-off between two demoralised teams at the unofficial (non-UEFA backed) Euro 1979. Sweden prevailed on penalties when the game in Scafati, Italy finished goalless.

In September 1980 Filbert Street, Leicester, hosted a 1–1 friendly draw. Then in May 1982 a return friendly at Viskavallen, Kinna, also finished 1–1 over 90 minutes. Swedish TV broadcast the Kinna game and awarded Player of the Match Gill Coultard a snazzy tracksuit.

England boss Martin Reagan betrayed his military background with a brilliantly matter-of-fact match report in the WFA News:

On Tuesday May 25th, our party consisting of fourteen players, Officer-in-charge Sheila Rollinson, Physio Tony Brightwell and I assembled at Heathrow for an 11 a.m. departure for Sweden. On arrival at Gothenburg (2 p.m. Swedish time) we then travelled 12 miles to our hotel on the outskirts of Gothenburg…

Tracy Doe hit both England’s goals in these two friendlies, the one in 1980 was her third in three caps. For some reason Doe wasn’t included in the squad for this 1984 final but was listed in Howbury Grange’s line-up the previous week, alongside Bampton and Wiseman, as the Kent team outclassed Doncaster Belles 4–2 in the WFA Cup final at Sincil Bank, Lincoln.

Another friendly in October 1983 finished honours even. Two-all this time, at Charlton Athletic’s The Valley, in south-east London.

More generally, Sweden were enjoying something of a cultural renaissance: the week before the final had seen Herrey’s Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley triumph at the Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg. Great Britain’s effort, Love Games by Belle & The Devotions, was mercilessly booed and limped home in seventh place.

Teams


ENGLAND
Theresa Wiseman .1
(c) Carol Thomas .2
Morag Pearce .3
Lorraine Hanson .4
Angela Gallimore .5
Gillian Coultard .6
Liz Deighan .7
Deborah Bampton .8
Linda Curl .9
Kerry Davis .10
(out 47′) Pat Chapman .11

Substitute:
(on 47′) Janet Turner .15

Coach:
Martin Reagan

England were unchanged from the Denmark semi-final. Howbury Grange goalkeeper Terry Wiseman, her hair in trademark bunches, won her 18th cap. Skipper Carol Thomas (née McCune) of Rowntrees in York started at right-back, with Southampton’s vastly experienced Maggie Pearce (née Kirkland) at left-back. According to the return match programme Pearce won a 39th cap, while Thomas was credited with a 44th.

Angie Gallimore of Broadoak Ladies in Manchester formed a centre-back pairing with Doncaster Belles’ Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb), who had a heavily strapped left thigh. Gallimore sported a Marouane Fellaini-style perm and had been the left-back until switching inside to accommodate the return of Pearce from childbirth. As a callow 15-year-old, Pearce had been England’s first ever left-back against Scotland in November 1972. She returned to the fold in May 1982.

Versatile Hanson often played as a striker for the Belles so neither her or Gallimore were archetypal British centre-halves. That seemed to suit Reagan’s system as both could play out from the back, or if Swedish dangerwoman Pia Sundhage dropped deep they could go with her. Hanson won her 26th cap and Gallimore her 13th.

Much was asked of the midfield in Reagan’s flexible 4–3–3, which comprised Debbie Bampton, Gill Coultard and Liz Deighan. Nominally the central, holding midfielder, Bampton had just captained Howbury Grange to WFA Cup success. She was on the comeback trail after a bad injury and picked up the 12th cap of a long and glittering career.

Tigerish tackler Coultard won her 15th cap. Although synonymous with Doncaster Belles, she was playing for Rowntrees at the time: the works team from York’s big confectionery factory. She also played hockey for Rowntrees, even after going back to the Belles.

SVERIGE
1. Elisabeth Leidinge
2. Ann Jansson
3. Anette Börjesson (c)
4. Angelica Burevik
5. Mia Kåberg
6. Anna Svenjeby
7. Eva Andersson
8. Anette Hansson
9. Karin Åhman-Svensson
10.Lena Videkull
11. Pia Sundhage

Coach:
Ulf Lyfors

Liz Deighan was the third member of England’s midfield trio and, at 30, the oldest member of the starting XI. A slight but sinewy figure, bristling with energy, North-easterner Deighan played for St. Helens and collected a 35th cap.

On the left wing, Southampton’s Pat Chapman shrugged off a back injury to win her 28th cap. She’d been crocked in the Denmark semi-final, but also laid on the cross for Bampton’s winning header in Hjørring. Linda Curl of Norwich Ladies wore number 9 and won her 31st cap at the age of just 22.

Kerry Davis of Crewe Ladies started on the right, but with license to roam. An exceptional 21-year-old athlete with pace to burn, Davis clearly had the raw materials to reach the top in any sport. It was unusual in those days for football to win out, given the lack of rewards on offer. But England were sure glad it did: livewire Davis won her tenth cap and had already blasted 11 goals.

England’s substitute’s bench combined youth with experience. Friends of Fulham’s Brenda Sempare and Millwall Lioness Hope Powell, aged 22 and 17 respectively, were the young Tyros. Both midfielders debuted in the 6–0 rout of Ireland at Reading the previous September and had three caps apiece.

At the other end of the career spectrum was England’s original skipper Sheila Parker (née Porter), who had 30 caps. Parker began her career with Preston Ladies (the famous Dick, Kerr’s. Yes: Dick, Kerr’s, if you please!) Her astonishing career was a thread of continuity running through the different eras of women’s football in England. Along with Deighan she’d played for St. Helens in their 1983 WFA Cup final defeat and had moved on to Chorley.

Completing the squad was six times capped Terry Irvine, 32, Wiseman’s goalkeeping understudy who played for Aylesbury. And Janet Turner, a specialist left-winger who had also been in St. Helens’ 1983 Cup final team but had recently joined Kerry Davis at Crewe. Turner was the only sub to be used in Gothenburg and she collected a 12th cap.

In Part 2: Full match report and aftermath. ONLY on Women’s Football Archive, the leading resource for women’s football heritage and traditions.

Match: England 0–2 Sweden, 23 May 1989, Wembley

Wembley Stadium 23 May 1989 – England 0–2 Sweden

Old foes Sweden put one over on England AGAIN

Classic match report: The story of England women’s first football match at Wembley Stadium

Two women footballers challenge for the ball in the bottom right of the picture

In May 1989 England lost their first full match at Wembley Stadium to goals from Swedish greats Pia Sundhage (6) and Lena Videkull (58). The pesky Swedes had previously handed England their first ever defeat in 1975, beat them on penalties in the inaugural 1984 Euro Championship final and edged them out of the 1987 Euro semi-final 3–2 after extra-time.

Background


This match marked the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Football Association (WFA) and was played as a curtain-raiser to the men’s Rous Cup game with Chile. It was the last edition of the Stanley Rous Cup, which had been mired in farce throughout its short history. Stanley Rous was an English former president of FIFA who hated women’s football and was eventually jettisoned for his sickening pro-Apartheid stance.

Three days earlier over 80,000 Scousers had descended on Wembley for the men’s FA Cup final. For the Tuesday night match with Chile, a record low of 15,628 turned out. Those who surmounted a tube strike to get there were subjected to what The Times called a “derisory joke” of a match. England’s understrength men drew 0–0 with Chile, who were only there because numerous other nations had snubbed the invite. An out-of-his-depth John Fashanu delivering a trademark elbow-smash to a hapless Chilean defender was the nadir of a truly grim spectacle.

The Swedish FA gave an attendance figure of 3,150 for the preceding women’s match, which made for an eery atmosphere at the famous old venue. The women, though, served up much more entertaining fayre than their male counterparts. In warm sunshine beneath the twin towers, Sweden’s tough and experienced team, well drilled by pioneering female boss Gunilla Paijkull, soaked up English pressure and twice picked-off their opponents on the break.

Match


ENGLAND
1. Theresa Wiseman
2. Joanne Broadhurst
3. Janice Murray
4. Debbie Bampton (c)
5. Jackie Sherrard
6. Gillian Coultard
7. Hope Powell
8. Brenda Sempare
9. Marieanne Spacey
10.Kerry Davis
11.Jane Stanley

Substitutes:
12.Linda Curl
14.Karen Walker
15.Maria Harper
17.Tracey Davidson

Coach:
Martin Reagan

SVERIGE
Elisabeth Leidinge .1
Camilla Fors .2
Marie Karlsson .3
Anette Hansson .4
Eva Zeikfalvy .5
Åsa Persson .6
(c) Ingrid Johansson .7
Helén Johansson .8
Pia Sundhage .9
Ulrika Kalte.10
Lena Videkull.11

Substitutes:
(n/u) Marina Persson.12
Pia Syrén.13
Camilla Andersson.14
Eleonor Hultin.15
Malin Swedberg.16

Coach:
Gunilla Paijkull

England’s defence had a makeshift look. Regular right-back Sue Law of Millwall Lionesses was still recovering from a shoulder operation. Solent’s Clare Lambert and Town & County’s Jackie Slack were named in the team published in the morning papers, but neither made the starting line-up. Instead Donny Belles’ Jo Broadhurst and Leasowe’s Jan Murray—both happier playing further forward—were drafted in as wing-backs. It was ‘Psycho’ Murray’s international debut.

Kerry Davis of Napoli and Jane Stanley of Filey led the line, with Linda Curl (Norwich) and Karen Walker (Donny Belles) later emerging from the bench. Leasowe midfielder Maz Harper and second-choice keeper Tracey Davidson, of Donny Belles, were also given substitute outings on Wembley’s hallowed turf.

Ballwinners Gillian Coultard, Jackie Sherrard (both Donny Belles) and captain Debbie Bampton (Millwall Lionesses) were tasked with keeping Sweden out. Friends of Fulham trio Marieanne Spacey, Brenda Sempare and Hope Powell provided the creative flair. At the time Sempare’s skill, vision and positional sense marked her out as one of Europe’s best midfielders. Spacey had jetted back from her loan spell at Finland’s HJK Helsinki to participate.

Goalie Terry Wiseman of Friends of Fulham won her 50th cap. She was beaten after only six minutes when Pia Sundhage scored with a looping header, just as she had in the 1984 final first-leg in Gothenburg.

The report by Times correspondent Andrew Longmore describes England’s “extraordinary profligacy in front of goal”. This was duly punished when deadly striker Lena Videkull lashed in a cross from Helén Johansson on 58 minutes. Helén’s twin sister Ingrid was the Swedish skipper.

Legacy


Sue Lopez wrote in her book (1997) that the shambolic staging of this match enraged the Swedish FA and UEFA bigwig Lennart Johansson. Their complaints apparently shamed the FA in influencial circles and hastened the demise of the WFA. Lopez did not reveal what in particular about the WFA’s shoestring operation had riled the famously placid Scandinavians.

After getting humiliating public knock-backs from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Spain and a host of other names, the increasingly desperate English and Scottish FAs needed someone, anyone, to attend their flagging Rous tournament. It is easy to imagine they seriously greased the palms of the Chileans to save further embarrassment. No doubt the Chilean delegation got put up in a top hotel, given fat cigars, suitcases full of cash and fur coats for their wives. Meanwhile the Swedish FA mandarins over for the women’s fixture—still fully-fledged members of a fellow FIFA association—were curtly pointed in the direction of the WFA. If they were lucky, they might have got a couple of soggy sandwiches and some supermarket own-brand crisps!

The Swedish men’s team were in the same qualification group as England for the men’s World Cup and had been at Wembley the previous October, for another 0–0 bore draw. On that occasion it was the Swedish hangers-on who got the red carpet treatment, which probably brought the no-frills setup at this women’s match into sharp relief.

Sweden had finished runners-up to Norway in a prototype World Cup held eleven months earlier. The bulk of their Wembley team went on to compete at the first FIFA-sanctioned World Cup in China ’91, where they finished third.

England had pluckily won the 1988 Mundialito tournament in Italy. But they did not even qualify for China after being badly mauled 6–1 by West Germany in Euro 1991. With England in serious decline compared to other countries who were getting proper support from their national association, veteran coach Martin Reagan was harshly sacked after the Germany result. Reagan had spent several years telling everyone exactly what modest work needed to be done in order to keep up. Sadly those with the clout to make it happen did not lift a finger.

The England team did not evolve, partly because the stony-broke WFA shut down their under-21 team. Until 1991 there was no national league. Doncaster Belles, who supplied five of the 15 at Wembley, routinely walloped local opposition and were only tested in the later rounds of the national cup. Belles and England netminder Tracey Davidson would spend entire league games walking a dog behind the goal and drinking cups of cocoa to keep her hands warm.

The FA finally put the WFA out of its misery and took over direct control of women’s football in 1993. After many more wasted years, it was not until Hope Powell—England’s midfield schemer in this match—took the reins as coach that some painfully slow, incremental progress began to be made.

And finally…


This match is recorded as England’s first FULL match at Wembley because of another debacle… 1987–88 saw the Football League arrange its centenary celebrations, which for some reason were overseen by colourful Chelsea chairman Ken Bates. Mercantile Credit were roped in as sponsors but pitiful attendances saw the League clubs absorbing huge losses. The WFA lined up Holland for a friendly as part of the main event at Wembley. The Dutch FA (KNVB), when informed at late notice that their slot was only 15 minutes each-way, were fuming and wanted no part of such nonsense. Ireland, who like England lacked the support of their national FA, had no such scruples and the mini game went ahead.

Players: Jackie Sherrard

Jackie Sherrard: “The best pure footballer at the Belles”

Head and shoulders shot of a smiling young woman with short curly brown hair in a white t shirt with red and blue stripes

Born: 9 June 1966, Belper
Position: Centre-half, midfielder
Debut: Sweden (H) 30 October 1983
Occupation: Production clerk (1987), Clerical supervisor (1991), Materials and systems manager (1994)

A gifted all-round sportswoman who reportedly played field hockey for England at under 21 level. Turning her attentions to football, she became a key figure for England and in the classic Doncaster Belles team of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Growing up in Jacksdale, a Nottinghamshire mining village, Sherrard played street football with the boys. One lad, Tony Hill, grew up to pen a soporific memoir about his love of Manchester United: If the kids are United (1999). An otherwise forgettable tome at least had the grace to recognise Sherrard’s achievements:

I used to play football regularly with an England International, Championship and FA Cup winner. Her name was Jackie Sherrard, and we used to play on the local rec as kids. No one even questioned that she wanted to play football with the lads; she was always one of the first to be picked when selecting teams and could run rings round most of us. And of all the lads dreaming of becoming a footballer and playing in the FA Cup Final, the only one of us to make it was a girl.

Sherrard played her early club football for the prototypal Nottingham Forest then Arnold LFC, before joining Doncaster Belles in 1982. She could play as a centre-half or in central midfield.

Donny won the WFA Cup for the first time that season — seeing off St Helens 3–2 in the final at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank stadium.

In those days the route to the national team was through regional trial matches and Sherrard represented the Notts League and the Midland Region.

Martin Reagan gave 18-year-old Sherrard an England debut on 30 October 1983, in a 2–2 friendly draw with Sweden at The Valley.

But she was not selected for the Euro 84 final stages. Reagan kept faith with an experienced back five containing Sherrard’s club-mate Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb) and Angie Gallimore, who had played in the qualifiers.

Three years later she played for England in Euro 87 in Norway, starting the semi-final at Melløs Stadion versus Sweden in the number 7 shirt. England surrendered the lead to lose 3–2 after extra time, following a two-goal salvo from Gunilla Axén. Some sources credit Sherrard with England’s second goal.1

After their win in 1983, Donny Belles suffered three successive heart-breaking defeats in WFA Cup finals. They returned to Sincil Bank in 1984 but were beaten 4–2 by Kent outfit Howbury Grange, captained by Debbie Bampton and managed by her dad Albert.

In 1985 Donny lost 2–0 to Friends of Fulham on enemy territory at Craven Cottage. Although Hynes and McAdam got the goals, the game became known as the ‘Sempare Final’ after a legendary performance from Fulham and England midfielder Brenda Sempare.

1986 saw Donny losing to Norwich Ladies by the odd goal in seven, in another de facto away match at Carrow Road. Luckless Sherrard had started all three defeats.

Sherrard hit the opening goal in the 1987 WFA Cup final versus St. Helens at the City Ground in Nottingham. Tracey Davidson saved a penalty from Saints’ Alison Leatherbarrow before Karen Walker sealed a 2–0 win for Donny in the second half. The final whistle sparked jubilant scenes.

The Belles’ win had been inspired by the return of Prodigal Daughter Gillian Coultard from her exile at Rowntrees WFC of York. St. Helens were booted out of the following season’s competition after manager Keith Mayer slagged off the WFA’s shambolic post-match arrangements.

A year later Sherrard put Donny 2–0 up in an eventual 3–1 win over Leasowe in the 1988 final at Crewe’s Gresty Road. Future Belle Michelle “Mickey” Jackson struck Leasowe’s goal from the penalty spot.

Sherrard’s most memorable game for England was the 1988 Mundialito final, when two goals from Linda Curl overcame hosts Italy 2–1 after extra time.

She also played at England’s first full international at Wembley in May 1989 when goals from the outstanding Pia Sundhage and Lena Videkull sent England to a 2–0 defeat to Sweden, before the men’s Rous Cup game with Chile.

In the 1980s, the Belles would travel to away fixtures on wooden benches in the back of Jackie’s dad’s van. Mick Sherrard also managed the team from 1984 to 1987, and shared the role with Paul Edmunds in 1987–88.

Choosing football over hockey, Sherrard became a fixture in the successful Belles team of the era.

Donny recaptured the WFA Cup in 1990 after a shock quarter-final defeat at the hands of Leasowe Pacific in 1989. Coultard hit the only goal in a tense win over Friends of Fulham at Derby County’s Baseball Ground, with Sherrard in the number 4 jersey.2

In 1991–92 Sherrard contributed 13 goals from midfield as Doncaster Belles carried off the first ever national title, with a 100% record. They added another Cup win to seal a historic double.

She was described by Doncaster Belles manager Paul Edmunds in Pete Davies’s I Lost my Heart to the Belles (1996) as: “the best pure footballer at the club.” A remarkable tribute, considering her team-mates read like a Who’s Who of all-time greats: Coultard, Walker, Broadhurst, Borman.

Sherrard accrued 42 caps for England. She scored in a 2–0 friendly win v Soviet Union at The Dell, Southampton on 7 September 1991. A paltry 345 were in attendance to see it.

She was crocked in a Euro 93 quarter final v Italy 17 October 1992, suffering damaged knee ligaments. Goals from Walker and Spacey saw England escape Solofra with a 3–2 defeat.

After a long recovery with setbacks along the way, she played 90 minutes for the Belles reserves v Huddersfield Town at the tail end of the 1994–95 season.

Consistent defending for the Belles saw her recalled to an enlarged FA-run England squad for the friendly with Germany at Deepdale on 27 February 1997. She was not in the match day squad for England’s 6–4 defeat.


1. Swedish FA records credit England’s goals to usual suspects Kerry Davis and Linda Curl, but the UEFA programme for Euro 1997 listed Davis and “Jacqueline Sherrad” (sic) as the scorers.

2. This article originally said that Sherrard did not play in the 1990 Cup final win. It was amended on 9 May 2015 to reflect that she did: Chris Lightbown’s match report in the Sunday Times does not list Sherrard, but on closer inspection Loraine Hunt is listed twice. Sherrard was listed in the match programme and other reports so it seems she did play.