Stories from the 80s

Kerry Davis, the First Black-British Player for the England Women’s
National Team and Professional Pioneer

England’s Kerry Davis, also played professional football in Italy in the mid 1980s. Davis was one of the first Black-British players to put on an England shirt, as Kerry's Dad has Caribbean heritage, part of the Windrush generation who had served in the Royal Air Force. Kerry’s mother is white British, and the family are based in Stoke on Trent. Along with Ireland’s Anne O’Brien, Scotland’s Rose Reilly and other English players like Sue Lopez, Dot Cassell, and Jan Lyons, Kerry played professionally in Italy just as different forms of commercialism saw the leagues established, and expand. Kerry Davis played for four years in Italy from 1985 to 1989 in between spells with Crewe Alexandria.

Kerry Davis was born in 1962 in the Sneyd Green area of Stoke on Trent, the youngest of three children, with an older brother and sister. When she was ten the family moved to the village of Harriseahead, North of Stoke and Kerry’s brother delivered milk up the road to the family of Tina Birchall, who knew of, and played for, a women’s team called Sandbach Ladies, in Cheshire. As Kerry was just eleven years old, Tina considered her to be too young to join the women’s team, but took her to training anyway. Kerry stayed until she was sixteen, when she joined Crewe, a better team, where she remained until she was 23 years of age.
Kerry Davis front row, third from right
Debuting on 19 September 1982 against Northern Ireland, Davis scored two goals, and scored all four goals in her second match, a 4-0 victory against Scotland. Soon an integral part of the squad, Davis was a large part of England’s success in the inaugural UEFA women’s Euros held over two years, between 1982-4, scoring 12 goals in 10 games. In the finals England lost narrowly to Sweden on penalties, over a two legged final, with the second game played at Luton Town in 1984. Davis was one of the three England players to score her penalty in the penalty shootout, after Sweden and England drew at full time. Pia Sundhage went one better scoring the fourth penalty for Sweden, for the victory.
Kerry Davis front row, far left
Although she missed the 1984 Mundialito, or little world cup, in Italy in 1984, where England finished third, Kerry Davis was a leading forward in the 1985 competition, also in Italy, with an important goal against Italy in the group stages, and noted in the final 3-2 win by England over the Italians. Winning the Mundialito was widely reported back in England and also in Italy. This created opportunities to play professionally. Prompted by the signing of Irish midfielder Anne O’Brien, Davis signed for Roi Lazio, for one season, along with fellow England striker Marianne Spacey who did not enjoy the experience and soon returned home. Davis moved to Trani for two seasons from 1986-1988, forming the part of the strikeforce with Rose Reilly, with Anne O’Brien having transferred to Lazio by then. Kerry tells me that she was at one point traded for the great Italian international, and media star Carolina Morace. This is some accolade!
The Italian leagues could perhaps better be understood as semi professional, with several of the Italian players travelling across the country on night trains to play on a Saturday, after working. But the foreign players, like Davis, did not work and played football full time. It was a serious business. Accommodation was also provided, with 4 players sharing an apartment, and a full backroom staff to provide support for the players including, at Lazio a coach, a manager, a goalkeeping coach, a doctor and a physiotherapist. The teams were all sponsored by businesses, either national or international names, like Despar, the Italian brand of the Spar convenience store chain, or local businesses who often had fashion or clothing brands, including accessories like sunglasses.
For England, Davis was already well established before she went to Italy but had to pay for her own flights to join her national team members. She also remembered in our interview that she was expected to make matches for which she was selected regardless of her club comitments, otherwise there was a real chance that she would not be selected for England in future. Kerry remembered her final year in Italy with Napoli as hard work, and decided to return to the UK. She got a job in a factory which she ‘detested’ and played her club football for Crewe, Croydon, Knowsley and Liverpool, ending her sixteen years with England in 1998, scoring 44 goals in 82 appearances. It was not until Kelly Smith overtook her more than ten years later, that this record was beaten.
It is remarkable that Kerry Davis’ career with England is not more celebrated. In my view, she should be one of the players to receive an honour, along with the first three England captains (Sheila Parker, Carol Thomas, and Gill Coultard). Kerry played in the first Women’s World Cup that England qualified for, hosted in 1995 by Sweden, and was an important player at a time when generally there were fewer international matches than there are now. Her 82 appearances were hard won. She, along with Hope Powell and Brenda Sempare were important pioneers for Black and Minority Ethnic England internationals, with Powell first Vice Captain, and then head coach of the England women’s team in 1998. More about Hope Powell and Brenda Sempare in future posts. We also need to know more about her club mate at Croydon WFC, Sammi Wilson.

This research has been supported by a FARE #BLM and #FootballPeople grant

Gill Coultard

Debut in 1981, first England woman to 100 caps and a future England Captain
Early Football
Gill, born 1963, started playing with her siblings, four brothers and four sisters mainly on the green spaces outside her house. She would go on to become the first woman, and the first amateur to win 100 caps in an era when the WFA, and then the FA, funded about four internationals annually, most of her twenty year England career before the World Cup, first held in 1991 and Olympic women’s football tournament, first held in 1996, made more internationals routine. The achievement of 119 caps would stand until 2012 when Rachel Yankey, playing in the era of increased professionalisation and internationals, obtained 120 caps.

In a road about a mile long, the green outside Gill’s house would be the ‘home’ pitch, while those further down the street were designated as ‘away.’ Tournaments up and down the road included football, cricket, and a range of other sports. Gill’s first proper club was the junior school team, and she had signed with the famous Doncaster Belles by the age of thirteen, when she also began to trial for England, attending North versus South, Possibles versus Probables and several other training camps.

Her first England cap came in May 1981, and she came on as a sub in a 3-1 win over the Republic of Ireland, along with Angela Gallimore. This was not the only first. The flight to Ireland was the first time Gill had been on a plane, and the first time away from her family. The camaraderie of the England team more than made up for these life changes. Like Carol Thomas, Gill’s first England cap was home made by Flo Bilton and issued by the WFA, since the FA did not yet want to take full control of women’s football.
England Captain
Gill’s captaincy came in 1991 when Debbie Bampton, with whom she roomed as an England international, was injured. She describes the experience as ‘surreal…to play football for your country, to play at Wembley, and to captain your country, you ask yourself wow is it really happening?’ But huge sacrifices were required on a personal level. Like many women at the time Gill had to travel increasing distances to play at the highest level in order to keep her England place, including a five year spell at Rowntree Ladies in York, and travelling to Castleford for club football. The usual format was twice a week club training, and personal fitness, on top of working five days a week on the production line at a Pioneer factory in Castleford, and sometimes weekends. Gill was one of the fortunate ones, as her employer allowed to use paid leave for time off for internationals, valuing the fact that she was representing her country.

The Golden Cap
‘We had eleven captains for England, every time we played,’ Gill tells me, ‘everyone was a captain.’ Gill’s style of play could be described as 110% committed: a box to box midfielder, robust on the tackle, a winner who disliked losing, and one who felt the responsibility to help others on the team as part of her leadership legacy. Gill couldn't remember her 50th cap, as no special celebration took place. Her 100th cap came against Scotland and, in October 1997, before a 1999 World Cup qualifier against Holland at Upton Park, she was presented with a silver cap, and silver lion momento by Sir Geoff Hurst. Fifteen years later, the FA presented her with a gold cap, as it had done men who reached the century milestone. The first woman, and first amateur to reach the distinction, Gill was also only the fifth person to 100 caps for England after Bobby Moore, Billy Wright, Bobby Charlton and Peter Shilton. Considering how few games were played in her era, and England did not qualify for a Women’s World Cup until 1995, this is an incredible achievement, and one which deserves greater honor in public life.

Carol Thomas

England Captain - Portopia Football Festival - September 1981
© David Hanley 1981 programme
The England squad enjoying the Portopia Festival © Carol Thomas
The Build Up
For some years discussions had been held about a World Cup for Women. Whilst I didn’t know what was being discussed, it had already assumed an unofficial name Mundialito or ‘Little World Cup’ without a ball being kicked. Of course every international woman player of every nation wished for it and it was not until early 1981 that rumours started to circulate that we (England) were to be invited to a Football Festival that would include teams from around the world. What’s more, the Japanese had made a suggestion ahead of Italy, as part of the 1981 Kobe Portopia Festival.

By June 1981 I had become an England regular (to date) with 28 consecutive caps to my name (23 as captain) and having led England into two previous tournaments (the Home Internationals in 1975 and the 1979 Unofficial European Cup).

Whilst many would assume my position was secure, as every international player will tell you, we never take anything for granted. The lead up to each and every international match had its dread, but given the era and location, this was dread on steroids! Had I done enough over recent internationals to warrant selection? Had I performed consistently over the league programme to warrant selection? Had I done enough in the Regional Trials competition? Would I be picked for the squad? Would I play in the tournament?

Add to this the new England manager, Martin Reagan, who had been appointed in late 1979, had only 5 internationals in charge. In effect all the established players were still trying to prove ourselves to him and justify our inclusion in his squads, whilst he was openly lauding the skills and potential of the youngsters starting to emerge around the country. Indeed this tournament would see Martin experiment with his selections, players and formations, as well as introducing new and unique styles of play.

A couple of days after my birthday I received my selection letter.

Phew! I had been selected and Martin confirmed to me that I would be captain for the tour but he did say that he had every intention of using every player on the trip during the tournament. That meant every player could expect to be substituted or be a substitute over the 10 days away, without exception! (Ouch - he wasn’t a Tank Commander during WW2 for nothing!) but a reasonable approach given the unique experience this trip would give to the girls. To most of us it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

This trip has to be put in context. In the modern era it is easy to dismiss a trip to Japan as just another holiday destination. Back in 1981, the world was not only a different place but a much bigger place. Japan was a place that only existed in films. In 1981, a girl from northern backwater could only dream of a visiting there. To me it was not just another country or another world, it was another planet!

The 6 month long Portopia Festival had been established to celebrate the completion of the construction of a new town on reclaimed land in Kobe, Japan.

For the first time, as a squad, we agreed an official uniform for the trip should be worn, a skirt, a blouse and a blazer. Of course, this was an expense which would have to be met by the players, but it helped establish a feeling of professional pride.

Also, as a squad, we had agreed to attend two training weekends in the lead up to the Festival. As all the squad members will tell you, Martin was an absolute stickler for fitness. Fail to meet the expected standards and he became ruthless, your England days were numbered despite our amateur status!

The first would be held in Richmond on Thames on 1st/2nd of August where we had coaching sessions each morning/early afternoon and then played a match against a South of England Representative side each afternoon. The second was held in Leicester on 22nd/23rd August, again with a similar format, coaching followed by matches against a Midlands Representative side two days running. Then back to work the following day on the Monday morning.

However, the sting in the tail was that due to the lack of available finances at the WFA, a lack of sponsorship and disinterest from the FA, we had the pressure of self-funding these two training weekends as well.

Given the financial situation of many of the girls, this was turning out to be a considerable cash liability and was a real ask of individuals. Couple that with the fact that in footballing terms this meant no real ‘close season’. Players were asked to keep training as best they could after the season, throughout June, July and August to maintain our fitness to play the tournament. Of course we would then return home and go straight into the domestic season!

In addition, many of the girls had to forgo family holidays and, given it was a 10 day trip to the other side of the world, possibly beg their employers for extra time off work. It became a significant sacrifice for each and every one of us.
Back home the news in the press started to relay the significance of the trip to the women’s game, although these tended to restricted to the more local and regional papers and not the large nationals.
Of course the visual media displayed their usual and distinct lack of interest.
© Carol Thomas
My call up letter © Carol Thomas
Extract from my itinerary © Carol Thomas
© Carol Thomas
The Trip and Competition
Our party consisted of 6 officials, with Pat Gregory (Chef de Mission), Flo Bilton (Assistant), Annabel Hennessy (Officer), a Team Doctor, Tony Brightwell (Squad Physio) and Martin Reagan (Squad Manager) with 16 players. The flight on 2nd September took us over the North Pole via Anchorage, Alaska, onto Osaka, then Kobe.

On arrival the first thing to hit us was the humidity. Acclimatisation was going to be essential. Training in heat, ie interval training - building up the length of each period of exertion over a number of days, rehydration, rehydration mixes and the prolific use of ‘salt tablets’ were not just a must but were key to survival.

The Japanese had spared no expense in staging the tournament. Each squad member was given a track suit, two kits (shirts, shorts, socks) for the two games each team were to play. And, every player was given a pair of (well-known Japanese brand) trainers and boots (some of the best I had the pleasure on playing in, it has to be said), a tee shirt and a personal kit/travel bag.

The Japanese had not quite mastered the traditional way of shirt numbering. The Japanese had adopted a ‘semi squad’ based numbering system. Each player would get a number and retain it for the tournament, much like the modern era. However, back in the day, the team starting a match would traditionally be numbered 1 to 11, with the goalkeeper firmly entrenched in the Number 1 shirt! As right back, I had assumed I would receive the number 2 shirt. Not so, typical Japanese, they had adopted an alphabetical list of numbering, so A to Z became 1 to 16. So, with Thomas being well down the alphabet , for the first and only time in my England career, I wore a number that was so big, I got altitude sickness, that of an attacking inside forward (ask your grandad, lol), the number 10 shirt.

The games themselves were played late in the evening to avoid the worst of the humidity in front of massive crowds for the day. Our game against Japan was played in front of 30,000 and was televised live across Japan on the night.

Our performances were not the best it has to be said. However, I always maintain that given the new introductions to the squad, a relatively new manager, the change in playing style, squad rotation and the humidity, I believe we did well.

We finished third behind the eventual winners Italy and runners up Denmark. Sadly it wasn't a true round robin tournament so we never got a chance to redeem ourselves against the mighty Italians after the Denmark loss.
The England Squad line up © Carol Thomas
The Japanese Squad line up © Carol Thomas
Lasting Memories
With the passage of 39 years since the trip and the benefit of 64 years of life, it is not the results, performances or our tournament position that I remember vividly.

When I reflect on the trip as a footballing experience, for me, I became the first England Women’s Captain to lead an England side outside of the European continent. Something I am immensely proud of.

For the recognition of the English Women’s team and the development English Women’s Game as a whole, I also now realise that Martin had one eye firmly fixed on the future. He was indeed assessing all the players, including those who didn’t make the trip. His goal was to create and develop a squad with a style of play which would both suit the players available whilst realistically able to compete for the next European Competition (1982-1984) and the Mundialito’s of 1984 and 1985.

His aim was always to further the Women’s Game and get it into the mainstream. In that era, that could only be achieved by success on the pitch. Given what that squad achieved in 1984 and 1985, I think the trip can be deemed an outstanding success. The roots of those successes were firmly sown in 1981 in Japan. We were building on the foundation we had laid in the 1970’s and starting to make a difference.

At a personal level, one of the first memories that spring to mind is the attention to detail and organisation.
Everything was done to perfection and every player in every team was catered for in every way possible.

I also remember the sights, smells and sounds of an extremely busy nation, with lots of traffic in towns and extreme humidity. But, my fondest memories are beyond that. They are the beautiful and incredibly clean, litter free country with very welcoming people and extremely polite and respectful cultured society. Japan was a truly inspirational place, with some of my fondest memories.

For the whole experience, I have to thank the WFA, its officers and staff and, not forgetting, Martin Reagan for giving me that once in a lifetime opportunity.
Photo credit to David Hanley
My personalised meal coupons! © Carol Thomas
Copyright © Carol Thomas, All Rights Reserved

David Hanley

​​David Hanley is currently compiling a history of Japanese women's football in the 20th century.
The first Chicken League winners, Jissen Women’s University, take on Nishiyama High School, first Kansai League champions and later the first national schools’ champions, in 1977.
News of schoolgirls forming teams in the 1960s excited the media, and the players at Kobe College, featured here on the cover of the 23 December 1966 issue Asahi Graph, were also featured on radio and television.
The organisation of women’s football in Japan developed significantly in the 1960s and 1970s. Leagues were run on a local or regional basis, and an unofficial annual national championship was first held in early 1976. In 1979, the Japan Football Association (JFA) began registering women’s teams and their players, and it also established its own official championship.

While the JFA provided funding for women’s activities, they left the day-to-day organisation of women’s football to the newly founded Japan Women’s Football Federation (JWFF), whose members had already been running the sport for some years. As a result, the JWFF was largely free to organise competitions as they saw fit, and until the 1981 season (which began in April), teams competing in the All Japan Championship and most regional leagues fielded only eight players. The ball used was smaller than the regular size, and the pitches were also smaller. The main reason for this situation was that most senior players were in their early teens, and playing for ninety minutes on full-sized pitches would have been too much to ask of them.

Aside from domestic football, the JWFF also endeavoured to organise a national team. Although women had played football in east and southeast Asia since the early 20th century, the sustained organisation of competitions (especially international matches) did not develop until the 1960s. In 1961, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister of Malaya (and after the forming of Malaysia in 1963, its first prime minister) decided to arrange women’s matches to raise funds for charity. The matches were a great success, and the Tunku encouraged the founding of teams across the country. His wife, Tun Sharifah Rodziah, thereafter took responsibility for developing women’s football, and in 1965, she led a representative team to Hong Kong, where they would play the first international matches in Asia. To prepare a side for the event, the Hong Kong FA approached Veronica Chan, a businesswoman involved in men’s football with her husband, to organise a team. The better-prepared Malaysian side won all three matches held, but the more important outcome was that Veronica Chan became wholly devoted to the promotion of women’s football — over the coming decades she would spend enormous sums of her own money to ensure the sport’s growth.

In 1968, the Asian Ladies Football Confederation was founded, with Sharifah Rodziah as president and Veronica Chan acting as one of three vice-presidents. Little progress was made until 1974, when Chan became president (Sharifah Rodziah became honorary president) and a number of new members joined, bringing the total to eight: Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia (actually just New South Wales), Indonesia, Thailand, and New Zealand. Six of the eight members met in Hong Kong for the first Asian Cup Women’s Football Championship (Indonesia and Taiwan did not) in August 1975. The winners, who never again took part, were New Zealand.

The ALFC thereafter held their Asian Cup tournament at roughly two-year intervals, though not without difficulties. Neither FIFA nor the Asian Football Confederation would incorporate the organisation, and both sought to disrupt its activities. An additional problem, which would take some years to resolve, was that many countries, including Japan, did not maintain formal relations with Taiwan.

Prior to the founding of the JWFF in 1979, the JFA had not endeavoured to form a national side, though they did give Tokyo’s FC Jinnan, the first club team founded in Japan (in 1972) permission to take part in the Asian Cup in 1977. The players, who wore the national flag on their sleeves rather than on their chests, were beaten by both Taiwan and Indonesia, but they were most appreciative of the chance to travel overseas, to meet fellow players from elsewhere in Asia, and to gain an appreciation of the wider world.

No Japanese team travelled to the third Asian Cup, but by the time of the fourth tournament, held in June 1981, the JWFF was ready to send an official team for the first time. The trip was not without its issues — the JFA refused to provide any financial backing, and only through a combination of funding from overseas foundations, sponsors, and the players themselves, was participation possible at all. Japan’s entry onto the international stage prompted a change in domestic football, as eleven-a-side matches on full-sized pitches became the norm. Not everything changed — the players still used a smaller-than-standard ball, and matches were far from ninety minutes in length — but these deviations from standard football would also disappear over the coming years.

The Japanese were disappointed with their performances at 1981’s Asian Cup, with just one win over Indonesia providing some cheer. They lost to the two eventual finalists, Taiwan and Thailand. What most concerned the players and coaches was that the Japanese players were not only technically inferior to the neighbours, but also physically inferior, and players from farther afield were hardly likely to be any smaller or weaker.

Having entered international competition, the JWFF’s next mission was the successful hosting of an international tournament in Japan, and the first chance to do so would come in September of that same year. However, the suggestion that the country should host such as tournament had first been made in January 1980, when three influential journalists had discussed the possibility of inviting overseas teams in a leading football magazine. One of the journalists involved was Kagawa Hiroshi, a proud native of Kobe City in Hyōgo Prefecture, and he insisted that 1981’s Portopia Exposition, an event to celebrate the construction of the world’s largest artificial island, would provide an ideal backdrop for such an occasion.

The chairman of Hyōgo Prefecture’s football association, Takasago Yoshiyuki, travelled to England and watched the home side play out a 1−1 draw with Sweden in Leicester on 17 September 1980. He was impressed by the large number of spectators and by the use of standard FIFA rules. Takasago felt that it would be most desirable if the advances made by women in England and elsewhere in Europe could be emulated by the Japanese, and the JFA agreed. On 22 January, they announced that England, Italy, and Denmark had accepted invitations to visit Japan.

The three European teams were certainly among the best in the world at this time. Denmark had won the unofficial European Championship in 1979, beating hosts Italy in the final match. England finished fourth, losing on penalties to Sweden in a playoff match for third place. Each team would play two games, and there was never any suggestion that it would be a round-robin tournament.

The first matches would be held on 6 September in Kobe. Italy would play Denmark, and Japan would take on England. In Tokyo, on 9 September, Japan would play Italy, and Denmark would play England. The matches would be eighty minutes long, and they would use standard-sized balls and eleven players per side.
Upon graduating, a number of Jissen graduates formed FC PAF. Here, in March 1989, they take on the first unofficial national collegiate champions, the Hyogo University of Teacher Education.
This is a block of text. Double-click this text to edit it.The Italian and Japanese teams pose before their first meeting in 1981. The two sides would play each other six times over the next five years. Italy won every match.
Japan’s national champions were Shimizu Daihachi Sports Club from Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan. The best of the country’s remaining teams were based either in Tokyo or in the western Kansai region — specifically in the cities of Kyoto, Kobe, and Takatsuki. As the first match would be played in Kobe, the best of Shimizu Daihachi’s players would be joined by representatives of the Kansai teams. For the match in Tokyo, Shimizu Daihachi’s players would be joined by some of the capital’s finest players. The team was managed by Ichihara Seiki, who had led Nishiyama High School in Kyoto to three successive unofficial national championship titles.

The visiting teams travelled with squads of sixteen members. England’s squad was well balanced with regard to age, with teenagers such as Gillian Coultard and Angela Gallimore complemented by a number of more experienced players, such as Sheila Parker, Terry Irvine, Christine Hutchinson, and Maureen Reynolds. Like the English, the Danes had a good spread of players in their twenties, with a late replacement, Inger Pedersen the senior squad member at thirty-one. The greatest source of fascination for the Japanese spectators and press were the Italians, and in particular the twenty-seven-year-old Elisabetta Vignotto and Carolina Morace, who was seventeen. The remaining squad members were largely in their late teens to mid-twenties.

Denmark 1−1 Italy (Attendance: 4,000~5,000)
The tournament’s opening match between Denmark and Italy ended in a 1−1 draw. Denmark defended ferociously and attacked well down both wings. Inger Pedersen scored the lead goal after thirty-two minutes, volleying home a cross from Lone Smidt Hansen. In the second half, the Danes pushed hard for a second goal, but Italian goalkeeper Daniela Sogliani was in fine form and dealt well with the danger.

At the other end of the field, Vignotto became increasingly more confident and chances began to come her way. She equalised on sixty-five minutes with a tremendous strike from about twenty metres out, with Ornella Montesi intercepting a poor Danish clearance to start the move. Thereafter, chances fell to Denmark’s Susanne Niemann and to Italy’s half-time substitute Carolina Morace, though neither could find a goal to win the game.

Japan 0−4 England (Attendance: 7,000)
Japan’s starting lineup for their first game featured seven players from Shimizu Daihachi, two from Kobe FC, and one each from Takatsuki Women FC and Nishiyama High School. The team was very young — thirteen of the fifteen players who played were still in school, and the senior members were twenty-one years of age. Kubo Emiko, who made an appearance as a substitute, remains the youngest player to ever make an official appearance for Japan at 14 years and 262 days, and this record is unlikely to be surpassed. Iwaya Mihoko started in goal, behind Yamaguchi Sayuri, Kaneda Shiho, Jajima Nobuko, and Shiraishi Masuyo. In midfield were Kioka Futaba, Kakinami Kaoru, and Kaji Mayumi. The most unusual aspect of Japan’s starting lineup was that Honda Midori played in a forward position alongside Kaneda Miho and Handa Etsuko.
For England, Terry Wiseman played in goal, behind Carol Thomas, Angela Gallimore, Sheila Parker, and Linda Coffin; Linda Curl, Debbie Bampton, and Liz Deighan started in midfield; and Tracy Doe, Eileen Foreman, and Janet Turner were the front three.
The spectators, who had increased in number to about 7,000, saw England entirely dominate the first forty minutes, and it was remarkable that Japan managed to go in at half-time still level. England had gone close, hitting the crossbar and the post within minutes of kick-off, and Iwaya had put in a commendable performance in goal.
England’s physical strength, pace, and accurate passing were ultimately too much for Japan to contain in the second half, and the visitors took the lead on forty-five minutes through Gallimore, who rose above Iwaya to head home Bampton’s free kick. Three minutes later, Gallimore scored again, this time capitalising on a poor defensive clearance. In the final ten minutes, England added another two goals to underline their superiority. Substitute Vicky Johnson scored with a shot over the head of Iwaya, who was short at only 160 cm, and Bampton scored the final goal from thirty metres out. Over the course of the eighty minutes, England outshot Japan by thirty-four to three, won twelve corner kicks (Japan won none), and were not once required to take a goal kick.

Japan 0−9 Italy (Attendance: 3,000)
Five of the seven Shimizu players retained their places for Japan’s match against Italy; Iwaya Mihoko and Kaneda Shiho were the two who were dropped. The only change made to the positions of the five players who started both matches was that Honda Midori was moved back into midfield. Hase Chieko took over from Iwaya in goal, behind Yamaguchi Sayuri, Kondō Nobuko, Ōhara Tomoko, and Iwata Akemi; in midfield with Honda were Kioka Futaba and Mishima Sanae; and in attack were Yoshida Masako, Kaneda Miho, and Handa Etsuko.
Italy started with Daniela Sogliani in goal; and their back four were Ornella Montesi, Maria Sossella, Maria Mariotti, and Maura Furlotti; in midfield were Elisabetta Saldi, Carolina Morace, and Nazzarena Grilli; and in attack were Elisabetta Vignotto, Stefania Bandini, and Elisabetta Secci.

The use of more senior Tokyo League players did not necessarily strengthen the team, as their abilities roughly matched those of the Kansai players. Furthermore, as the Tokyo players were generally shorter and lighter than those they had replaced, no advantage was gained in terms of physicality. However, Japan did not lose to either Italy or England because of their size; the simple fact was that they were not yet good enough to compete with such superior opposition.
Italy showed very quickly just how well they could play, and after twenty-three minutes they were already five goals clear. For the first fifteen minutes Japan held on desperately, but once the first goal went in, there was no stopping the visitors. Secci scored that opening goal, with Vignotto providing the short pass to set her up. Seconds later an own goal doubled Italy’s lead. The next three goals, which came in the twentieth, twenty-first, and twenty-third minutes, all came from dead ball situations. A corner kick set up Morace for the third goal of the night, and Saldi scored both of the next two. For the first, she got on the end of a free kick; for the second, she headed in from a corner kick.
Eleven minutes after half-time, substitute Sandra Pierazzuoli capitalised on a mistake by Hase for the sixth goal, and she scored again on sixty-eight minutes, heading in another corner kick. In between these goals, Vignotto scored from a penalty kick. With five minutes remaining, Vignotto scored her second goal and Italy’s ninth, with Grilli supplying the final ball.

Denmark 1−0 England (Attendance: 3,000)
The match between Denmark and England was another good opportunity for the Japanese crowd, of about three thousand spectators, to see high calibre football. Denmark were again tough in defence, particularly in their marking of forward Janet Turner (who had taken more shots than anyone in England’s match against Japan), and going forward Charlotte Nielsen-Mann’s speed was a constant cause of concern for England’s back line.
Denmark won the game by a goal to nil. As in the Danes’ first game against Italy, Inger Pedersen scored with Lone Smidt Hansen supplying the final ball.

Although Japan had been well beaten in both games, the players said that they had benefitted from the experience. Their performances clarified objectives for improving their play, and a further benefit was a new awareness of the sport among the general public. What was most obvious was that Japan’s players were never likely to match European players in terms of physique. What their two defeats showed was that the guiding principle for the future — a future that would ultimately lead to World Cup glory — was the need to develop highly skilled, thoroughly organised, and tactically aware players.

All Text & Images Copyright © David Hanley, All Rights Reserved

1982-84 UEFA Competition for National Representative Women's Teams (EUROS)
​Part 1 - Qualification Group

Post Japan Blues
We had returned home from Japan, happy but not content. Happy because we had visited a distant exotic location, something that most of us would never do again in our lifetime. Not content because, we had not played our best. We had lost to Denmark 1-0, no mean feat given their standing in women’s football and despite the victory over the football fledging that was Japan, our performances and results were poor. We could easily blame jet lag, travel fatigue, humidity, the food, temperatures, and anything else you could think of. But the reality was that we were poor, we were much better than that, and we all knew it.
Some of the more senior players, myself included thought there would now be a mass cull. Given Martin’s (Reagan) glowing reports of the young players coming through in the regions and what he had just witnessed in Japan, was our time up?
England before the 2-0 defeat against Italy 11th June 1982 Pescara (Several of this side would not make the final 14 in 1984)
Progress, what progress?
The next 12 months are not my best memories as an England captain. We had 3 friendly games after Japan, 2 defeats and one draw and this was now my worst run of my England career. This run of games included all the footballing powerhouses of, not just Europe, but the world. (a 1-0 defeat to Denmark in Tokyo, a 3-0 defeat against Norway at Cambridge, a 1-1 draw against Sweden in Kinna and a 2-0 defeat to Italy).

Starting with the defeat against Denmark in Tokyo, we had scored only one goal in 4 matches/320 minutes of football (games were anywhere between 70 and 80 minutes in those days). What is worse, we had conceded 7 goals in this run, totally unacceptable. Terry (Wiseman) must have thought we outfield defenders had gone AWOL and without her, I am sure the damage would have been much worse.

We seemed to be going backwards as a team, or at best standing still whilst the others moved on. We felt we were letting everyone down, not just England, but Martin, all those tireless unpaid officers of the WFA who had fought so hard to establish the women's game, ourselves and, most importantly, the English women's game itself.

At a personal level, I had, for the first time, some doubts about my ability and position as an international player and captain. The results were not going for us and I genuinely expected the dreaded phone call, as every manager wants his own captain and to stamp his/her mark on their team.

The context to this tournament

The significance of this first tournament cannot be understated. It was new ground for women’s football. It was UEFA approved, official as you could get at the time and had brought structure to women’s international game. It would be a two year competition which would culminate in a 2 legged final in 1984. Matches would be played over 70 minutes with a size 4 ball. (after all, we fairer sex couldn’t possibly last 90 minutes with that huge size 5 ball. LOL)
I had led England in three previous tournaments. In 1976, we won the three cornered Home International Championship. In 1979, we competed in the 12 team Unofficial European Competition. We qualified from our group but lost 3-1 to Italy in the semi-final and lost to Sweden in the 3rd/4th playoff, on penalties. The third of my tournaments being, the unpolished displays in the Portopia tournament.

The tournament starts and England are reborn

On 19th September 1982, at Crewe we played the first game against Northern Ireland, a team England last played in 1973. Whilst they were not a recognised dominant European footballing force, they were internationals, had great players and had to be respected.
I didn’t know what to expect but a 7-1 victory was not in any of my dreams and certainly not a bad start to any tournament. It was our first victory in over a year and it was a massive relief. Little did we realise what was about to unfold over that qualifying group and beyond.
Kerry Davis in action against Northern Ireland
The game itself was a light bulb moment. Things on the pitch, at last, just seem to fall into place. Everything Martin had been saying worked. It also just happened to be the game in which Martin unleashed the talent that was Kerry Davis. Her explosive entrance saw her net 2 of the goals in front of her home crowd.

Two weeks later we played Scotland up in Dumbarton. My personal record against them was won one, lost one, the defeat being over 4 years previous. That is a long wait for any footballer to address a bitter memory. We put in another great dominant performance. After 25 minutes we were 2-0 up and ran out worthy 4-0 victors, well…..really, Kerry Davis ran out the 4-0 victor having netted all four goals!

Our final game of 1981 saw us travel to Dublin in the 3rd qualifying game. In the 1970’s, “the troubles” had escalated and English visitors to all parts of the island of Ireland still had to exercise caution. So, we flew in on the Saturday, played Sunday afternoon, won 1-0 (Guess the scorer?) and flew out on the 8:30pm flight back to Heathrow. A whistle-stop tour if ever there was one.

The tournament resumed in 1983 with the reverse fixtures. We were brimming with confidence. In May we travelled to Belfast for the return game against Northern Ireland. The WFA reminded us that this could be a difficult trip, given the sectarian tensions that still existed, and the players were offered the opportunity to withdraw from the squad, without prejudice to future selection, if they were uncomfortable with the trip. As I remember, no one withdrew and it has to be said we were made very welcome in Belfast with the trip going off without any problems. Even better we ran out 4-0 winners, once again a clean sheet.

One week later, we arrived at Elland Road to take on Scotland. This was our 7th appearance on a professional ground. Our pride soon turned to dismay as the Elland Road pitch, sorry mud heap, was not worthy of a pigsty. It was obvious that the side that could remain upright the longest would prevail. Fortunately on that day, Scotland slid and slipped. Our 2-0 victory was in no small part due to Pat (Chapman) performing miracles on the day and meant we had qualified for the finals with a game to spare.
We celebrate qualification to the finals at Elland Road
We had to wait another four months before we rounded off the qualifiers. By now I had moved on from CP Doncaster Ladies and joined Gill (Coultard) at Rowntree’s Ladies. There, we were managed by the England great, Pat Firth, whose career had tragically been cut short through a career ending knee injury. We could ‘relax’ and we cut loose at Reading. We ran out worthy 6-0 winners against the Republic of Ireland.
Linda Curl opens the scoring against Republic of Ireland (11 Sept 1983)
A Manager’s dream and a vision justified
We topped our qualifying group. Any manager in the world would take our record, of played 6, won 6, for 24 goals, against 1 goal, only marginally beaten by the Swedes record. ​
We had become very, very miserly in defence and I liked it. Goals may win matches, but clean sheets mean no defeats.
That miserly base comprising of, Lorraine (Hanson). Angie (Gallimore), Maggie (Pearce) and myself, with the agile and acrobatic Terry (Wiseman) behind us, gave our midfielders of Liz (Deighan), Gill (Coultard) and Debbie (Bampton) time to create and our forwards Kerry (Davis), Linda (Curl) and Pat (Chapman) the confidence to go forward and play. We also had the experience of Sheila (Parker) and the young talents of Hope (Powell), Brenda (Sempare) and Terrey (Irvine) on the bench. We also had so much young talent lurking on the fringes, many of whom went onto stellar careers. This squad, including those fringe and young players coming through, in my eyes, had a side within it that was destined for success at some point in the future.
For me personally, I believe I was now coming into the some of the best form of my international career. I was with a club side that could compete on the national stage, I was training with Hull City U19 men and was incredibly fit for the era, I had an England manager who totally believed in me and I was totally comfortable with my England roles and everything that came with them.
The Danes, Swedes and Italians had also qualified. At that time Sweden were ranked No.1 in the world and we had never beaten them in our previous four meetings. The Danes were ranked a close 2nd and we had never beaten them in our three meetings and we had only beaten Italy once in 5 meetings, back in 1977. So, the teams that had caused us all those doubts pre-tournament were on a plate for us, with ‘official’ tournament silverware and a No.1 world ranking at stake.
As the saying goes, the scene was set, I was ready, England were ready, so let’s bring them on.

(Copyright © Carol Thomas, All Rights Reserved – May 2020)

1982-84 UEFA Competition for National Representative Women's Teams (EUROS)

The Semi Finals

On a roll
So, we had done more than any other England footballing team, men or women in European football, although of course England had won a World Cup in 1966! We had reached the semi finals of a National European Tournament and it felt good. Of course we now all hoped for that much coveted substantial backing from the smoked filled corridors of Lancaster Gate, home of the F.A., to aid us through to ultimate glory.
Preparations were on a roll. Martin Reagan had brought together a wider squad with an excellent mix of youth, talent and experience. He had also put together a schedule of preparatory coaching sessions leading up to the finals in May of 1984.
The draw had pitted Italy against Sweden. Italy had qualified after a tricky group which included a France side capable of beating anyone on their day. As expected, Sweden had swept all before them in their group, scoring an impressive 26 goals whilst only conceding 1. That left England with the pleasure of Denmark. Denmark, too, had a nervy qualification group that included, Holland, Germany and Belgium, all capable of great things on their day. Significantly in six matches they had only scored 8 goals, conceded the most goals of all the qualifying teams and won only 3 of their games. This, we all felt, showed potential weaknesses in the Danish side giving us an excellent chance to redeem our tournament defeat and poor performance in Japan.
The home and away, double header semi-final games against Denmark were scheduled for April 1984. The first leg was to be at home at Gresty Park, Crewe and then the return in the Hjorring Stadium in Hjorring, Northern Denmark. This, we felt, gave us a chance to go into a second leg, with a victory and goal advantage under our belts.

The Semi Final – Part 1

“England in Crewe’s Control”
For the first leg, on Sunday 8th April 1984, the WFA had managed to secure Gresty Road, Crewe for this semi-final first leg. A league ground but hardly a Wembley. FA Chairman, Bert Millichip was in attendance giving some support to the English cause. It was hoped that a good performance would raise the profile of the women’s game in the eyes of the grey suits in Lancaster Gate. It was also hoped that if victory over the two legs did happen, we just might get a high profile ground, even Wembley to showcase the final. The Danes were red hot favourites given their track record over recent years and their history against us.
The Danes started well and we were soon defending hard, with Terry Wiseman coming up with several saves. Despite several missed chances from both sides, I remember Gill Coultard breaking away from midfield. She slid the ball to Linda Curl and she, in turn, put Kerry Davis through to score a great goal by chipping the keeper.
The second half saw us quickly get on top but we failed to add to our tally. And then 15 minutes into the half we were on the wrong end of a poor penalty decision. Terry was helpless to stop the ball this time. But we ensured the Danish celebrations were short lived. As the old footballing saying goes, teams are at their most vulnerable just after they have scored. A minute later saw a great Pat Chapman cross finding the head of Kerry Davis who nodded into the path of Debbie Bampton who finished it with easiest of touches.
After our quick response, Denmark threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at us but we remained resolute. Lorraine Hanson made a great goal line clearance, Gill Coultard made an important covering tackle and in the last minute Terry Wiseman pulled off yet another great save. That proved to be the last memorable moment of the game and the celebrations were somewhat muted as we knew we had triumphed against the run of play.
We were relieved to have won, but felt we had acquitted ourselves well against the team ranked second in the world at the time. Most importantly though, we had got our much hoped for advantage going into the second leg. There was now a quiet determination and growing confidence within this England squad.

The Semi Final – Part 2

“Denmark’s Hjorring.Horror”
Twenty days later, Saturday 28th April 1984, saw us arrive at the Hjorring Stadium for the return leg of this two legged semi-final. It has to be said this was in northern Denmark and if we had gone any further north, we would have been inside the Arctic Circle! Thankfully, it was approaching summer and so temperatures were very acceptable for a game of football.
Once again, the Danish press was out in force televising the whole game live to the Danish nation. And once again the British Sporting press and media had chosen to stay at home.
Hjorring itself is a small town but it is absolutely football mad. It boasts one of the world’s largest football tournaments, the Dana Cup, and tens of thousands of footballers from all over the world descend on the town in mid-July for the tournament. Given this football mad backdrop, it mad absolute sense for the Danish FA to organise the game for here. Surprisingly, only 1,400+ filled the ground, not many more than at Gresty Road and that can only be put down to the live TV showing.
It is fairly safe to say that the Danish nation and press saw only one winner of this semi-final, and it was not the girls in white. They had long claimed to be ranked No. 1 and fully expected to be in the final alongside their arch neighbours, Sweden, to slug it out for the final. The expectation to sweep us aside and power their way through to that final, despite their defeat at Crewe, was high.
© WFA News (July, 1984)
This game proved to be one of the best England performances to date. On that day, we, England, were good ……. no, we were not good …….. we were absolutely fantastic. From the kick off, we went at them and Pat Chapman was at her very best. Strangely, the ‘world champions elect’ seemed unable to cope with our determination, power and skill. From 1 to 11 (no squad numbers in those days!) there was not one bad performance.
Our only goal came from a short corner as the cross in was met perfectly by Debbie Bampton. I think Terry Wiseman had only one shot to stop all game. We had so many chances throughout the 80 minutes coming from all parts of the pitch. In truth, a 1-0 win flattered the Danes on the day.
To this day, I cannot work out what went wrong for the Danes. In previous matches they had been so dominant and aggressive and we had never beaten them, yet in a back to back knock out we achieved two great wins. On this day, they were certainly no match. My only thoughts can be that Martin Reagan had hit on a system for this group of players that allowed us to flourish. I also think that, as this game showed, this England squad, when the odds were stacked against them or people wrote them off, they became so much greater than the sum of the individual parts.
This was my 42nd appearance for England, my 37th as captain, and it still ranks up there as one of the all-time best England women’s performances I’ve ever had the pleasure to play in, or to witness.
We played well in both games, albeit in differing ways. At the time, the two victories (2 - 1 and 1 - 0), a determined defensive display at Crewe followed by the especially pleasing second leg performance showed the adaptability of the individual players. It seemed like the squad, consisting of experience and youth, flair and grit, elegance and perpetual motion, was making real progress. We had achieved what we had set out to do. We had won and, the bonus was, we had won well.
It seems unbelievable now, in this day and age, but we had just qualified for a European Final for national teams, the first one by any England national football team, men or women, and yet there was so little in the press, written or media, the following day.
This set up the first officially recognised UEFA Cup Final against our arch rivals, Sweden, who we considered to be the best team in the world alongside Italy. They, too, had had two very tight games against the powerful Italians, but had run out winners in both of their legs (3-2 and 2-1). Given that our previous two encounters had ended up as draws, a 1-1 in 1982 at Kinna in Sweden, a 2-2 in 1983 at The Valley, Charlton Athletic, and the form that we had now come into, we had every right to feel positive about the two legged final in two week’s time.
So the preparations, analysis and fine tuning continued in earnest over the next 14 days …. more to follow…………..​

(Copyright © Carol Thomas, All Rights Reserved – June 2020)

1982-84 UEFA Competition for National Representative Women's Teams (EUROS)

The Final – 1st Leg - “The Valkyries Vanquish the Visitors”
The Scene is Set in Sweden
So the last 2 years had finally reached its conclusion. With almost identical qualifying records, both with 8 wins from 8 games and with goal differences of 27 and 25, the 2 best teams in Europe, Sweden and England, had finally battled their way to a final football fest.
Saturday 12th May 1984, Ullevi Stadium, Gotheburg. It was a warm and sunny afternoon as 5,552 fans packed the stadium for the first leg of the inaugural UEFA Competition for National Representative Women's Teams final (what a mouthful). Swedish TV was also on hand to televise the game live throughout Sweden. The women’s game across in Sweden was significantly more popular than anywhere else, other than Italy. Meanwhile, back home, absolutely nothing of note was raised in the national media. Once again, so much potential and yet, so little delivery. It could be argued of course, that this date was bang in the middle of the Falklands war and that the nation had other things on their minds.
Ironically, we had never beaten Sweden and the last 4 clashes had all ended in a draw (the only other games had ended in fairly comprehensive defeats at the start of my England career).

The game kicks off and it’s backs to the Wall
As the teams lined up before kick-off, we were soon reminded of Sweden’s physical presence. Player for player the Swedes were a good 2/3 inches (5/8 cms) taller than us and physically much more imposing. However, as the semi-finals proved, this England side, were not easily, if ever, intimidated physically or technically.
We started okay, and even managed the first shot of the match, but the Swedes, with the talent that was Pia Sundehage in their ranks, quickly got on top. Pia, of course, went on to achieve great things with the Swedish national team and beyond as a successful manager.
For most of the game we had to defend, with the Swedes playing good, attacking football at pace. It quickly became a very much 'backs to the wall' performance with all the girls defending well individually and collectively, sticking to our game plan as a team. The first half ended at 0-0. Terry Wiseman had had a brilliant first half, keeping us in the game on many occasions.
Into the second half we managed to create a couple of chances but couldn't quite convert them. Debbie (Bampton) scuffed a really great chance.
Debbie Bampton narrowly puts the ball wide
Around the 55th minute my most treasured memory of the game came as I made, what looked like, an impossible goal line clearance with Terry having been beaten for the first time in the game. It kept us in the game and I was beginning to dare to think….. Could this keep us in the game and inspire us to greater things?
My goal line clearance
​Then it happened. A couple of minutes after the clearance, we switched off for the first time in the match. We gave the Swedes too much time and space on our left hand side. A perfect cross in saw Pia Sundehage come through at terrific pace ,past me and leaping high to head the ball powerfully into the net. Despite all the continuing pressure from the Swedes, we managed to see out a 1-0 score line.
Defeated but not down, I felt that going into the second leg we had a real chance of winning. I knew this squad I had just captained, had the players of quality, tenacity and outstanding natural ability to turn this deficit into ultimate victory on home soil.

Fortunately, someone has loaded this game up in full onto YouTube. It can be accessed at It gives a great insight to the women’s game of that era and demonstrates clearly how far the women’s game has come since those days. It also shows how difficult it was, for all sides in the tournament, playing with a size 4 ball.

The Final 2nd Leg – “The Battle of Kenilworth Bog”
Our Wembley Dreams Dashed
Two weeks later we were back in London for the second leg. Remember that hoped for support from the F.A. that I talked about before the semi-finals? After all, we had achieved something that the England Men’s team had never (and still haven’t) achieved – we had reached the final of a European Nations Cup. The expectation of a Wembley dream was quickly dashed though, as the FA’s interest never materialised.
So, as players what could we hope for? A top Division 1 (Premiership) London club ground surely was the order of the day, Stamford Bridge? White Hart Lane? Highbury? No one was having any of it. We had to thank the Swedes once more. What? I hear you shout. Unbelievably, the English home for the first ever Women’s Euro Final was to be …… wait for it ……. the grandeur that was Kenilworth Road, the home of Luton Town AFC. The Swedish connection was that match sponsors were the Swedish firm SKF, who were based in Luton at the time. With all due respect to Luton, whilst they were in division 1 in those days, it didn’t quite have the same attraction to it and certainly did not have the lush, green turf carpet of a Wembley stadium.
Neither side were allowed a training session on the pitch. Laughingly, they needed to ‘protect the pitch’. Both teams were allowed the luxury of their training ground, though, in the days leading up to the second leg. And then the weather turned, it must have been a dramatic shift of the jet stream or something equally biblical. The 24 hours or so before the game England, or more specifically, Kenilworth Road, Luton, witnessed one the biggest cloud bursts this country has ever seen. It rained not by the bucket load but by the tsunami.
Welcome to England
Within minutes the pitch would turn into something which would have been more appropriate to bog snorkeling. No finely manicured, hybrid pitches with state of the art drainage systems in those days. Just a layer of gooey mud covered with sand to ‘dry’ it out. It is safe to say that in today’s climate for footballing excellence, the game would have been called off. However, in those days, mud and goo were part of a footballers DNA and there was no contingency for such an event. The Swedes were unimpressed and both sides had to put their deflation aside.
Going into the game, we had a quiet confidence about us in being able to pull back and overhaul the deficit, after all, most of us had experienced Elland Road ‘swamp’ a year earlier. It is worth remembering, that Luton Town took the decision to change to a first generation artificial pitch the following year because their playing surface was so bad.
Once more into the breach, or was it beach?
Lining up before the second leg © Carol Thomas
We started the game ‘at a flyer’. We definitely adapted quicker and better to the conditions, and our pace and tenacity saw our midfield trio take control.
Gill (Coultard)(l) and Liz (Deighan)(r) (and Debbie Bampton) take control
Gill (Coultard)(l) and Liz (Deighan)(r) (and Debbie Bampton) take control
The first half saw us pressure the Swedes and, once again the final produced another treasured memory from my England international days. It has been amusingly reported :-
“Tenacious skipper Carol Thomas was in her element, leaving behind her a trail of vanquished Valkyries; upended Swedes with yellow shirts and blonde hair splattered in mud.
On the 31st minute mark, Thomas unleashed not one, but two blockbuster tackles in the middle of the mire.”
‘Tenacious Skipper Thomas’ (2) leaves “A trail of vanquished Valkyries” and a set up for Curly
I laid the ball on for Linda Curl. Curly, too was in her element, with a couple of big strides forward from this policewoman and a quick look up, she unleashed a shot from out wide, over the keeper and into the back of the net. Scores were now level with 40 minutes left to play and I honestly thought we would go on to win it.
Curly’s shot goes into the net
The Swedes did dig in and battled on in the second half, causing Terry to make some more incredible saves to keep us in the game. Despite our upper hand, we could not convert any more chances. We had to settle for the 1-0 victory with an overall draw across the two legs.

When the final whistle blew I was so pleased we had won. After some quick conversations amongst match officials, UEFA, Swedish and WFA representatives, it was decided that the final had to be finished on the day. That meant no replay or ‘3rd leg’. I think the match officials decided that it would be too dangerous to play on, so there was no extra time. In all honesty, parts of the pitch, particularly the centre circle, couldn’t take any more football on it. It was agreed that a hastily arranged penalty shoot-out was to be held – the scourge of English football.

I still thought that our confidence would win the day but I knew that with the poor conditions it was far from over. Sadly, we all know what happened. We had played so well, but when it mattered, the Swedes struck the ball so much better than us.
The jubilant Swedes
Lifting the Runners Up Shield © Carol Thomas
As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. Analysis of the tournament shows that, in a 10 game tournament, played over 2 years, we had won nine games and lost one, scoring 28 goals whilst only conceding 3 goals (the least of all the teams taking part). Whilst we had lost the 2 legged final, we had beaten the No. 1 ranked team in the world on that day. On some scales, as we had beaten the world No.1 ranked team in normal time, we were now ranked No. 1 in the world. I lifted the runner up shield with pride because, to this day, I know I captained a great England squad of players (borne out by us winning the Mundialito the following year).
Despite the appalling weather, a great crowd of 2,565 did turn up. I have to say I met no FA representatives that day. There was no interest from the British mainstream media and the game was filmed by a now defunct cable TV company, so, only a few excerpts of the game exist. Of course, the Swedes were accompanied by prominent Swedish FA representatives and up to 36 press and media crew.
I am sure the crowd would have been much bigger and more media coverage would have taken place had we managed to secure a Wembley appearance or one of the other top London grounds. In truth, whilst conditions were awful, it was a great game that could have showcased the women's game in this country. Indeed, after the game I was asked about the match by the freelance TV Company who had recorded the game. My response, somewhat bluntly was,
"If people don't come to watch women's football after that, then there something wrong with them!"
You can take the girl out of Yorkshire but you can't take the Yorkshire out of the girl! (LOL).
Sadly none of the national TV networks took up the recording and it was never televised in full. Coverage was restricted to a short 10 second clip on national TV news. The following morning after the final, I became the first women footballer in this country to be interviewed on national television. During the interview with Selina Scott and Frank Bough on the BBC's Breakfast programe, I was able to promote the women's game.
On the Breakfast sofa, with Selina Scott showing off my runners up medal
It is unfortunate that the impetus the women's game that had started over that 7 week period covering the semi-finals and final, was not taken up by the FA or the media. Just think where the women's game may have been in all the following years if they had. With that backing, who knows, England could have been the first ever name on that trophy and many, many more trophies.
I often think of what the England women’s team could have achieved in those intervening years. Instead, we had to continue as a minority sport, run and governed by a tireless band of volunteers known as the WFA, funded by small handouts, sponsorship deals from smaller Company’s and, in most player’s cases, supported by friends and family.

​(Copyright © Carol Thomas, All Rights Reserved – June 2020)

Debbie Bampton

MBE England Captain at England’s First Women’s World Cup in 1995, and earning 95 caps.
Image courtesy of Daniel Mooney ©
Early Football Career
I was the middle child of three daughters and my Dad was football mad. My sisters played a little bit, and we all watched but my Dad played for a men’s team. From the age of five up to ten I played in the Primary School playground at Secondary School I was not allowed to play, but I did all sports anyway. One Head teacher had me in the office to tell me not to play, and I wonder what she would have thought of my England career later? I used to have my football socks and my shorts under my other clothes and would play at breaktime.
I was the mascot for his club for a while and then, when I was eleven, this would be the early Seventies, we discovered that there was a women’s team nearby, and we hadn’t heard of women or girls playing football before in a club, so I joined aged just eleven. I was a midfielder, and my team was in Maidstone in Kent, where I played for five years, becoming, you know my own person. I kept playing at Maidstone where my Dad had become the manager. But you know how people can be and some people were saying ‘Oh you do alright because your Dad is the manager’ so I joined Lowestoft about the age of twenty for a while. There was a semi final for the WFA cup Lowestoft versus Maidstone but I missed my two clubs meeting because of a knee injury that was to plague my career later.
Embed from Getty Images
England Career and Captaincy
I was called up for England aged just sixteen, and made my debut against Holland away in 1978, which was quite daunting to be playing against full grown women when you are in your teens. But I loved the challenge.
The WFA had a scheme where you could be sponsored for overseas opportunities, and I was offered to go to New Zealand when I was about 21 and I took the chance. But I had done my knee for the first time just before, so I went on crutches and, well they butchered me really, operating on my knee and it wasn't right from then on. I was out for five months and aged twenty two I missed about a year playing for England. I was made captain on my return by Martin Reagan. I had another knee operation aged twenty seven and then I played for England until the age of thirty seven, mainly by keeping myself really fit. I used to train twice a day. I also moved sides, from Millwall Lionesses, to Italy, back again to Millwall, Wimbledon and Arsenal before becoming player manager at Croydon in 1994. We won the League and the women’s FA Cup in 1995-6 season.
A great occasion that we are not always credited with, from that era was the European cup Final in 1984 at Luton. Well first it was a big achievement to beat Denmark over two legs to get into the final, and I scored in against them, one of my seven goals for England. Then we held Sweden to a one nil lead in Gothenburg, then we equalized in the second leg at Luton, losing 4-3 on penalties. I scored my penalty and we just lost by one! Pia Sundhage was some player!
Image courtesy of Daniel Mooney ©
When we used to go abroad, to Japan in 1981, and so on in the eighties, Flo Bilton and Pat Gregory used to come, and so did June Jaycocks and Linda Whitehead. Almost like chaperones, but we had a good time all of us anyway. After all, we were amateurs and giving up our time for our country and the WFA never had any money.
Another milestone was when we qualified in 1995 for the Women’s World Cup in Sweden, and the likes of myself and Brenda Sempare could not have envisaged that we would be doing that when we started playing as little girls. It was really special to represent your country.
I had a season at Despar Trani 80 in Italy with Kerry Davis and Rose Reilly, who had a sports shop, so she did really well. It was the opportunity to play professional football at the highest level available, and it did my football good. I only stayed for one season, but we were runners up the Serie A and national cup, so that was a good result. Then back to Milwall Lionesses.

In all I played for my country for twenty-one years. I finished under the FA, and manager Ted Copeland in 1997, and whereas we used to get a plaque of all our games under the WFA, I didn't get a memento. No ‘Thank you for your services’ letter, nothing. Bearing in mind we were strictly amateurs, and had to keep ourselves in shape mostly, doing that until the age of thirty seven was difficult but I loved football and I would have carried on. I had strong opinions about out fitness and training more and I expressed these to Ted Copeland, after we had lost to the US. When the US started playing we used to beat them, and we could beat them by a few goals. But they improved so much so fast and took it very seriously training everyday. I didn't play again after that for England, as it wasn't always welcome to have an opinion. In my final match we lost 6-0 to the USA in Portland.
I moved on after my last game for England to Croydon as player-manager, then onto the Bromley League. I had two seasons at Whitehawk FC Ladies with Angie Banks and joined Lewes on the coaching staff. I had knee replacement surgery eight years ago. I was also fortunate to become the first woman player to be awarded an MBE which I liked to think of as a ‘thank you’ to my Mum and Dad, for driving me all over, for all those years and supporting my interests. Even now, my Dad is 87 and still refereeing, if there is a game on I know we will be thinking the same thing over the tactics and so on.
Image courtesy of Daniel Mooney ©