Debbie Bampton: Highly-decorated midfield powerhouse
Born: 7 October 1961, Sidcup
Debut: Netherlands (A) 30 September 1978
Occupation: Cashier (1981), Selector (1982), Courier (1987), Footballer (1988), Postwoman (2005)
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.
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.
Gillian Coultard hits winner as Belles reclaim Cup
Classic match report: North beats South as Doncaster Belles avenge 1985 final defeat by Fulham
Twenty-five years ago Gillian Coultard’s 60th minute goal condemned Friends of Fulham to their second successive WFA Cup final defeat, before 3,000 fans at Derby’s Baseball Ground. It was the Belles’ fourth Cup win from their seventh appearance in the season’s showpiece. Resurgent Doncaster settled a score from their 1985 defeat by the Londoners and also made up for the previous year, when a shock quarter-final defeat by Leasowe Pacific had denied them their annual Cup final outing.
Channel 4 provided coverage of this, the competition’s 20th final, with an hour-long highlights programme screened at 5.30pm the following day.
The top-flight stadium in Derby was free because Derby County men were away at Man City that day. They won 1–0 thanks to a goal from Mark Wright, who was playing his way into Bobby Robson’s Italia ’90 squad.
Back at the Baseball Ground a crowd of 3,111 showed up for the women’s final. Not spectacular, but still three times more than the paltry turnout who rattled around inside Old Trafford at the previous season’s showpiece.
Although the Baseball Ground was notorious for the often shocking state of its pitch, this match took place on a warm, sunny day with conditions dry and hard underfoot.
Neither team were clad in their traditional colours. Doncaster Belles were in royal blue shirts with white shorts, while Friends of Fulham donned a fetching “yellow and emerald” affair.
Doncaster Belles entered the final unbeaten for four seasons in their regional League. Friends of Fulham had won their sixth consecutive Home Counties League Cup two weeks before.
The teams had met in the 1985 final at Craven Cottage, when two goals in three first-half minutes from Cheryl McAdam and Cathy Hynes gave Friends of Fulham a 2–0 win to claim their first Cup. It was known as The Sempare Final after a virtuoso display by England midfielder Brenda.
Two years previously the Belles reached their first final only after a titanic semi-final with Friends of Fulham at Imber Court Metropolitan Police Ground. After Elaine Cozens had cancelled out Denise Pittock’s opener to bring Fulham level, Lorraine Hanson’s thumping header sent the Belles through.
These closely-fought previous meetings ensured that the teams approached their latest encounter with a healthy degree of mutual respect.
Road to Derby
En route to the final Friends of Fulham beat Arsenal Ladies 4–0 in the quarter-final at Enfield Town. Marieanne Spacey scored the opening goal against the Gunners, her future employers.
In the semi-final at Millwall’s Den, Friends of Fulham triumphed 3–0 over tough Lancastrian outfit Preston Rangers. Another goal from Spacey and a Brenda Sempare double did the damage. Women’s football writer and historian Gail Newsham was playing for Preston that day and still recalls with some pride her tackle on Spacey, or her “claim to fame”!
In the quarter-final, Doncaster Belles exacted crushing revenge on Cup holders Leasowe Pacific. The Merseysiders had the temerity to boot the Belles out at the same stage the previous year, but were swept aside 5–0 this time.
The semi-final game at Millwall produced an even more ruthless display, as a St Helens team in sad decline were beaten 7–0. Gail Borman and Jackie Sherrard scored hat-tricks to add to Karen Skillcorn’s strike.
England friendships on hold
Belles’ midfield general Gillian Coultard went into the 1990 final at her imperious best. Newly-installed as national skipper in the absence of crocked Debbie Bampton, she had struck the only goal as England beat Belgium 1–0 at Bramall Lane three weeks previously.
Spacey and Sempare lined up alongside Coultard in Sheffield, but old friendships were put on ice for 90 minutes while Cup winner’s medals were at stake.
England’s Belgium victory was achieved with Fulham’s Terry Wiseman on the bench, as her long-time understudy Tracey Davidson got the nod from England boss Martin Reagan. Wiseman had a cracked rib, a legacy of Friends of Fulham’s semi-final against Preston.
The friendly rivalry continued with both goalkeepers at opposite ends of the pitch for the Cup final. Both were desperate to impress, with big qualifying games against Norway and Germany coming up and the first ever FIFA-sanctioned World Cup looming on the horizon.
Derby County and England keeper Peter Shilton had an open training session with Wiseman and Davidson the day before the final. The Women’s Football Association hoped it would serve as a photo op and drum up some much-needed publicity.
Since Wiseman’s England career overlapped with Shilton’s she was inevitably branded his female equivalent. As a girlhood Nottingham Forest fan Davidson had idolised “Shilts”, who held England’s all-time cap record until he was surpassed by Rachel Yankey in July 2013.
Teams – Friends of Fulham
Wiseman took her place in goal but was among Fulham’s walking wounded, as a bruising season of club and international football took its toll.
The right-back was Lori Hoey, resplendent as always in her Johan Cruyff-style number 14 jersey. An experienced campaigner, she had three England caps including one from the Euro 87 semi-final defeat by Sweden. She might have had more caps but for the form of Carol Thomas and Sue Law.
Promising England under-21 cap Mandy O’Callaghan played at left-back. At centre-back Friends of Fulham named Karen Gale, a revelation since signing that season from lower-division Bracknell Ladies.
Alongside Gale was another new signing, Welsh international Deborah Fox – a seasoned campaigner who cut her teeth at Maidstone beside Wendy Owen and already boasted a winner’s medal collected with Howbury Grange in 1984.
The Fox–Gale axis at the heart of Fulham’s defence unshackled Marieanne Spacey who had spent much of the previous season playing at centre-half. Instead, her quicksilver blend of brawn and brilliance was put to use in midfield.
Fiona Curl and Brenda Sempare – the star of the 1985 final – joined Spacey in a midfield three. Record-goalscorer Cheryl McAdam and livewire youngster Livvy Hughes flanked reigning club Player of the Year Lynn Jacobs in attack. Jacobs was preferred to Republic of Ireland cap Cathy Hynes, who warmed the bench alongside utility player Terry Springett (daughter of Ron).
Since their defeat in the previous year’s final, Friends of Fulham had lost the talent and goals of Hope Powell who had returned to Millwall Lionesses. The club had also installed a new manager in Fred Brockwell, whose predecessor George Curl stayed on as a coach.
Teams – Doncaster Belles
Davidson lined up in her fifth Cup final for the Belles. She had stood in for Janet Milner in 1983, then returned to the club two years later to play in the 1986, 1987 and 1988 events. She famously saved Ali Leatherbarrow’s penalty in 1987 to help break the club’s Cup final hoodoo of three successive defeats.
Future Belles boss Julie Chipchase was at right back with high-kicking Taekwondo champ Louise Ryde in the other full-back berth.
Michelle “Mickey” Jackson and Loraine Hunt were the centre-halves. Both were bank workers who also played for England. Hunt was a stylish sweeper who modelled her game on Franz Beckenbauer and Ray Wilkins.
That did not square with her club nickname (“bone head”) which hinted at a willingness to get stuck in where the boots were flying!
England regulars Coultard and Jackie Sherrard formed a central midfield partnership of commitment, courage, stamina and skill. Football maverick Jo Broadhurst was a nominal right winger with license to get on the ball wherever possible. She was nursing a toe injury reportedly caused by falling down the stairs at home.
Diligent utility player Karen Skillcorn was deployed on the left flank. She was in the terrific form which won her a couple of England caps before a “Gazza knee” laid her low.
Striking powerhouse Karen Walker led the line alongside Gail Borman. The week after the Cup final Borman crowned her England debut with a goal, in a 4–0 win over Auld Enemy Scotland at Love Street, Paisley.
Coach Paul Edmunds risked the ire of wife Sheila by naming the club founder and two-goal hero of the 1983 win on the bench. Since their last Cup win two years previously the Belles had lost club stalwart Lorraine Hanson to retirement.
Seven minutes into the game, Coultard needed extensive treatment after being unceremoniously dumped by England pal Spacey. Broadhurst’s free kick was on target but smartly touched over the bar by an alert Wiseman.
Friends of Fulham were working like Trojans to limit the Belles’ chances, but they still relied heavily on the inspired form of goalkeeper Wiseman. England’s Euro 84 legend made notable first-half saves from Sherrard and Walker.
While Fulham were never overrun – they were much too good for that – they struggled to impose their own attacking armoury on the game. Spacey ended up marking Coultard, while Brenda Sempare could not run the show as she had in the sides’ 1985 final at Craven Cottage.
An efficient, well-oiled unit under coach Edmunds, Doncaster Belles favoured a high-tempo pressing game. They hunted in packs and quickly swarmed round opposition threats in twos and threes.
Karen Walker was locked in a running battle with flinty Deborah Fox, who had an excellent game. Walker’s string of neat passes and flicked headers fed Borman, whose tireless running occupied the rest of the Fulham defence.
The all-important goal came on the hour. Marauding Gillian Coultard played a one-two with Borman and hit an accurate drive into the side of the net from just outside the penalty area. Unsighted by a stray defender, Wiseman was finally beaten.
Coultard, sporting a new perm for the television cameras, was always at the heart of the action. In the second-half she returned Spacey’s first-half compliment, clattering Fulham’s club captain into a heap.
Then Springett, on for McAdam who had tweaked her Achilles tendon, decked Coultard for the second time in the match and was promptly booked by Barnsley ref Dave Phillips.
On 80 minutes Edmunds shored things up by replacing Broadhurst with defender Yvonne Bagley. The Belles held on to win the Cup although Fulham never stopped fighting and Spacey was crowded out by a packed defence in the final moments.
Outspoken former Man United boss Tommy “The Doc” Docherty hailed Coultard’s strike as one of the goals of the season.
Maureen Martin (née Reynolds): Teak-tough England defender and Cup-winning Norwich manager
Born: c.1952, Norwich
Debut: Belgium (A) 1 May 1980
Occupation: Office manager (1981), Company director (1986)
Norwich-born Maureen Reynolds made her England bow against Belgium in May 1980, a low-key 2–1 defeat at Albertpark, Ostende in Martin Reagan‘s first match.
She picked up caps against Wales and Sweden in 1980, then scored a brace in a 5–0 friendly win over Ireland at Dalymount Park, Dublin, 2 May 1981. This match was notable for the debuts of Gillian Coultard and Angie Gallimore.
Reynolds remained in the squad for the next game against Norway at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium. England’s chastening 3–0 defeat led to changes.
A “greatly concerned” Martin Reagan – always more given to reason than ranting – noted that the second goal came direct from a corner, for the first time in his two-year tenure.
Following a downturn in Reynolds’ fortunes at club level, she was not in the party picked for the next game in Kinna, Sweden in May 1982. She dropped out of the reckoning for England’s inaugural UEFA campaign in 1982–1984.
Like many of English football’s female pioneers, Reynolds’ childhood overlapped with the FA’s demented 1921 ban.
That meant she came to the game relatively late at 19. Playing, and scoring, in a friendly match for local outfit Costessey LFC saw her bitten by the bug.
It also brought her to the attention of Lowestoft Ladies, known as The Waves, the best team in the area who moved quickly to snap her up.
A host of regional baubles followed for Reynolds, starting with the 1975 East Anglian League and League Cup double. Spearheaded by England ace Linda Curl, the team also had a great knack in the All England 5-a-side Championship, winning in 1976, 1977, 1979 and 1980.
But in those days the Holy Grail for all women’s teams was the national WFA Cup. In 1978–79 Reynolds skippered ever-improving Lowestoft to the WFA Cup final at Waterlooville FC’s Jubilee Park.
There they faced the dominant Southampton WFC team of the era, who had appeared in every single final to date – this was their ninth on the trot!
Despite a Player of the Match performance from Lowestoft goalie Rita Fossey, Saints’ prolific England winger Pat Chapman’s close range goal on six minutes consigned The Waves to noble defeat.
The leadership qualities of Reynolds, an office manager in her day job, came to the fore as a tough-tackling defender and captain, but she also took an important off field role as club secretary.
The Waves made history in March 1981 when they faced Maidstone at Carrow Road, Norwich, in a double header with Norwich City men’s match against Arsenal.
Boardroom shenanigans in July 1981 saw Reynolds sensationally quit as secretary and captain, while Fossey quit as treasurer. The Lowestoft Journal breathlessly reported Reynolds was then “kicked out” of the club.
Instead, she turned out for Biggleswade LFC in 1981–82.
It must have rankled with Reynolds when Lowestoft finally scooped WFA Cup gold without her, seeing off Cleveland Spartans at Loftus Road in May 1982.
But workaholic Reynolds was already putting her next scheme in place. After quietly coaching a kids’ team at a local youth club for seven months, she deemed them ready for adult football, unveiling Norwich Ladies “The Fledgelings” in April 1982.
Reynolds roped in Andrew Anderson, the bloke who designed Norwich City (men’s) club badge, to create its female equivalent.
As founder-player-manager-secretary, Norwich Ladies was very much Reynolds’ baby. She used her shrewd businesswoman head to sniff out sponsorship with Robinson’s Motor Services and Photostatic Copiers.
When Lowestoft Ladies’s league collapsed and the team broke up, Reynolds buttressed her youthful Norwich side with England’s Linda Curl and Vicki Johnson. The upstarts then made light work of the East Anglian League in their debut 1982–83 season, bringing home the League and League Cup.
For 1983–84 Norwich switched to the Chiltern League in search of a higher standard of competition. They sourced a minibus for the 100-mile trek to away fixtures.
Having to enter in the League’s second division meant a year of farcically lopsided wins. This reached its nadir when Linda Curl infamously plundered 22 goals in a 40–0 drubbing of Milton Keynes Reserves on 25th September 1983. Goal-hungry cop Curl helped herself to 97 of Norwich’s 176 league strikes that season.
Disaster struck for Reynolds in the 1–0 third round WFA Cup defeat by Hemel Hempstead. Her ankle was badly broken in two places and had to be fused back together with a steel plate. That brought the curtain down on Reynolds’ glittering playing career and ended her dreams of an England recall.
With more time for coaching, Reynolds ran the league select team and assisted the Midland Region boss Richard Hanson (hubby of Donny Belles and England great Lorraine). Together they dethroned the North Region who had dominated the WFA’s regional competition.
Norwich kept improving and reached the WFA Cup semi-final in 1985, only to suffer an anticlimactic 5–0 battering by Doncaster Belles at Carrow Road.
They went one better the following year, after adding the excellent Sallie Ann Jackson to the squad. Jackson was another Lowestoft refugee who had already pocketed three Cup winner’s medals (1982, 1984, 1985).
The 1986 final at Carrow Road saw Norwich gain revenge over Doncaster Belles, edging out the Pride of Yorkshire in a seven goal thriller. Miranda Colk, Sallie Jackson, Linda Curl and Julie Bowler got the goals.
As part of a Renaissance in Norfolk football it sat alongside, and arguably eclipsed, Norwich City men’s League Cup win the previous year. In a little over four years Reynolds had led Norwich Ladies from nowhere to the promised land of WFA Cup glory.
The Cup win was the elusive third leg of a treble but women’s football in those days was a volatile business. No sooner had the champagne gone flat than seven players quit the team – after clashing with “strict disciplinarian” Reynolds.
A 2012 interview with Donna James of Village Book revealed Reynolds (Maureen Martin by marriage) has bravely battled Arthritis and Fybromyalgia in her later years.
Rightly, she remained fiercely proud of her footballing deeds. Her unwavering faith, canine companion Kinsey and the occasional white chocolate Toblerone keep her in high spirits!
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.
Loftus Road 1 May 1982 – Lowestoft Ladies 2–0 Cleveland Ladies
Woe for Cleveland as Lowestoft’s Linda Curl and Angie Poppy put a new name on the Women’s FA Cup
Classic match report: Spartans dashed by Waves who secure 1982 WFA Cup
In May 1982 goals from Linda Curl (26) and Angela Poppy (58) gave Lowestoft their first WFA Cup, at the expense of Cleveland. The event was staged at a Football League ground for the first time, on – topically – a controversial plastic pitch at QPR’s Loftus Road in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
This was the competition’s 12th final and only the second not to feature Southampton WFC, following St Helens’ 1–0 victory over Preston North End at Enfield in 1980. Eleven of the next 12 finals were contested by Doncaster Belles.
Football League whistler Danny Vickers (Ilford) took charge of the 80-minute showpiece, which was sponsored by “TRIMTAPE”. This was an exercise audio cassette tape devised and marketed by lycra-clad dance legend Eileen Fairbane.
Kick-off was at 12.30 pm, prior to promotion-chasing QPR’s 7–1 Second Division win over Bolton Wanderers at 3pm. The men’s match attracted a crowd of 9,995.
Cleveland Ladies – The Spartans
Cleveland were formed in 1976 as Cleveland Rangers. The Middlesbrough outfit edged out Southampton in an epic semi-final, winning a replay 2–1 after the first game in Hampshire was locked at 1–1 after extra-time.
After getting a bye in the first round, they had seen off Kilnhurst (4–1), Fodens (5–2), Aylesbury (1–0) and BYC Argyle (4–0) to book their place in the semi.
In the WFA’s patchwork regional setup Cleveland had been shoehorned into the Nottingham League (Middlesbrough is nearly 130 miles from Nottingham). There they lived in the shadow of Doncaster Belles.
The club was managed by Andy Neal, the son of Chelsea and ex–Middlesbrough manager John Neal. Experienced campaigner Janet Turner, a science teacher and FA preliminary coach, also took on some coaching responsibilities.
This Janet Turner is not to be confused with her namesake and contemporary who played on the left-wing for St Helens and Crewe and was a hero of England’s Euro 1984 run.
Cleveland’s previous coach John Simms had stood in as the WFA’s England manager for 1979’s unofficial Euro championship in Italy, after Tommy Tranter had left to manage in Iceland.
Lowestoft Ladies – The Waves
Formed in 1971, Lowestoft shared Lowestoft Town men’s Crown Meadow ground and were gunning for a double. They recaptured the South East Women’s League title in 1981–82 and won through to their second WFA Cup final. “The Waves” had lost 1–0 to Southampton in 1979 at Waterlooville.
On 21 March 1981 Lowestoft made history in facing rivals Maidstone at Carrow Road, Norwich, immediately after the Norwich City v Arsenal men’s First Division match. This pioneered the ‘double-header’ and was the first women’s match to share the bill with a Football League game.
Sporting their classic 80s Bukta kit, Lowestoft accounted for Colchester (4–1), Suffolk Bluebirds (7–0), Old Actonians (2–0), Preston North End (3–1) and Doncaster Belles (4–2). Maidstone were edged out 1–0 in a tense semi-final.
Manager Stewart Reynolds had assembled a strong team, bringing in England internationals Debbie Bampton and Vicky Johnson as close-season signings from Maidstone and Spurs, respectively.
They joined local favourites Angie Poppy and Linda Curl, prolific goalscorers and also both England internationals. The match programme described Poppy, only 28, as a ‘former international’ with five caps.
Young skipper Jackie Slack, a defender, made her England debut a couple of years later at the 1984 Mundialito. Wunderkind centre-back Sallie Ann Jackson, 16, bagged consecutive WFA Cup winner’s medals in 1984, 1985 and 1986 with three different clubs then turned pro with AC Milan.
England midfield powerhouse Debbie Bampton played in this game before taking up an offer to play and coach in Auckland, New Zealand. A broken leg restricted her to coaching and she was back for England’s Euro 84 qualifying campaign.
The match exploded into life and surged from end-to-end, both teams struggling to adapt to the ridiculous conditions underfoot. QPR’s plastic ‘Omniturf’ was a very early form of the artificial turf which marred the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Lowestoft’s defence closely watched Cleveland crackshot Jane Hughes, who had plundered 22 goals that season and hit the semi-final winner over Southampton.
On 26 minutes Lowestoft’s class told and Linda Curl, one of the finest penalty-box predators English football has ever seen, scored a typical opportunist goal.
Cleveland’s tireless full-back Anna Citro, an England basketball player who toiled at Middlesbrough’s ICI factory in her day job, enjoyed a titanic struggle with Lowestoft counterpart Vicky Johnson.
Marrie “Maz” Wieczorek gave a typically whole-hearted midfield performance for Cleveland. The club’s reigning Player of the Year, she collected three caps for England in 1980 and became Cleveland’s first international player.
Gritty northerners Cleveland kept battling to stem the tide but were undone again on 58 minutes when Poppy turned in a corner from the right.
Both teams fought on with determination and aggression, with no quarter asked or given. On 69 minutes Lowestoft’s Shirley Jones was carried off on a stretcher, nursing a broken collarbone.
Former FA secretary Sir Denis Follows was on hand to present the trophy to Waves captain Jackie Slack. Women’s football lost a great friend and ally when Sir Denis died the following year.
Cathy Gibb’s match report in the WFA News said of gallant runners-up Cleveland:
Left bitterly dejected and reflecting on what might have been, the North-East losers Cleveland contributed to a game that perhaps failed to reach the capable heights of a classic cup final but in fact won the hearts of many new sporting friends in the world of professionalism.
The victorious Lowestoft team were granted a civic reception at Lowestoft Town Hall. There they were warmly greeted by Waveney District Council’s first female chair Daphne Mellor.
Romance blossomed between bearded Lowestoft boss Stew Reynolds and goalscorer Angie Poppy. Their son Carl Poppy had football in his genes and turned out for Lowestoft Town at Wembley in the 2008 FA Vase final.
This was the high-water mark for Lowestoft, who rapidly hit the skids. The team spectacularly failed to defend their trophy, being crushed 7–0 by Warminster in the fourth round of the 1982–83 competition. Instead Doncaster Belles scooped their first Cup at Sincil Bank and built a dynasty by reaching 11 of the next 12 finals.
Lowestoft Ladies reformed in 2011 and currently play in the Eastern Region Premier Division. In January 2015 the ’82 squad held a reunion at the current team’s FA Women’s Cup tie with Luton, inspiring their young counterparts to a famous 2–1 win.
At some point Cleveland formally linked up with Middlesbrough FC and became Middlesbrough Ladies. Stalwart Maz Wieczorek stayed involved and served the club for many years as manager and honorary president. She famously led the club on a historic tour to North Korea in 2010. They are currently scrapping for points in Division One (North) of the FA Women’s Premier League.
1. Cleveland’s Anna Citro (left) kicks across Vicky Johnson of Lowestoft (right) during the match.
2. Cleveland’s cup final squad. Back (L–R): Jane Laugher, Margaret Anderson, Pamela Williams, Susan Anderson, Caroline Wickham, Jane Hughes, Denise Markham, Kim Moore. Front (L–R): Teresa Murphy, Julie Hogan, Anna Citro, Janet Turner, Marrie Wisczorek, Ann Duffy (captain), Janice Elliott, Gillian Hood.
3. Jubilant Lowestoft players on their lap of honour.
4. Statuesque Lowestoft skipper Jackie Slack hoists the famous Women’s FA trophy.
Margaret “Paddy” McGroarty
Born: c.1948, Scotland?
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Occupation: Booking clerk (1972)
Often hailed as “the George Best of women’s football”, McGroarty was a cousin of Best’s Manchester United teammate Paddy Crerand. Of Glasgow Irish stock, she was described as “very Scottish” by Wendy Owen (2005) who remained unsure of her pal’s qualification to play for England.1
At 24 McGroarty was one of the older players to make it through the trials into Eric Worthington’s first England team. Footage from Bisham Abbey shows a gallus number 6 charging about in what looks suspiciously like Glasgow Celtic’s hoops.
McGroarty briefly entered a convent in her youth, and was later in the British Army stationed at Bicester. Trashy tabloid The Sun dressed her up in nun garb for promo photos, infuriating the Women’s Football Association in the process.
On the bus to Greenock for England’s historic first ever match, japester McGroarty demanded her team mates produce their passports for the border. Naive teen Wendy Owen was like a cat on a hot tin roof before being let in on the gag. McGroarty started the match and helped England clinch their historic 3–2 win.
She scored twice in England’s 8–0 win over her fellow Scots at Nuneaton, on 23 June 1973. She hit the winner in a 1–0 defeat of the Dutch at Reading’s Elm Park on 9 November 1973, England’s first match on a Football League ground.
Another two goals for McGroarty followed in England’s 5–0 win over Wales at Slough Town in March 1974.
At club level McGroarty represented Cambuslang Hooverettes, Buckingham, Thame and Queens Park Rangers.
A curious one-v-one sudden death penalty shootout between Southampton’s Sue Lopez and Hooverettes’ McGroarty decided the 1970 Deal Tournament. Saints goalie Sue Buckett saved future England teammate McGroarty’s first effort and saw the second kick missed. Lopez also missed her first kick but gave Southampton their first trophy with her second.
McGroarty turned out for Buckingham Ladies after moving to the South East of England but soon left for Thame Ladies in search of a better standard of football in the Home Counties League.
At Thame she played in a WFA Cup semi-final defeat to Southampton in 1972 and a third place play-off defeat to Leicester Emgals, played as a curtain-raiser to the final.
Thame were a team on the up but they lacked basic facilities: after one blood and thunder cup tie the muddy players had to be hosed down pitchside, like barnyard animals.
Boasting the talents of McGroarty and pal “Big Wendy” (Owen), they won the final edition of the Deal Tournament in 1972.
With QPR McGroarty featured in the classic series of three consecutive WFA Cup finals against Southampton in 1976, 1977 and 1978.
She scored a free kick equaliser in the 1976 final to force extra-time but QPR lost 2–1.
The next year QPR were back and McGroarty proudly captained the Hoops to their hard fought 1–0 win in the final at Dulwich Hamlet FC.
A report in The Guardian, bearing the dubious headline Bridge of thighs, called McGroarty: “a busy little whippet… the best player on the field”.
Meeting again the following season, QPR were thumped 8–2 in the 1978 final at Slough Town. Saints’ Pat Chapman ran riot and hit a double hat-trick.
Unbridled speculation without any factual basis
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) belatedly lifted its woman-ban in 1974–75. Despite superb form McGroarty does not seem to have played for England after this.
A result of greetin’ from notoriously sleekit Scots blazers?
Sensitivity around football’s ‘Home Nations’ – a jealously-guarded carve-up – was an issue long before politics blocked Team GB’s rightful place at the 2016 Olympics.
1. Another of Paddy Crerand’s cousins, Charlie Gallagher, became the first Scots-born player to be selected by the Republic of Ireland in 1967. Gallagher had already represented Scotland at under-18 level, but remained eligible for Ireland due to his Donegal parentage.↩