Nostalgia: Iconic female football players from the North West – decades apart


Photo: England players, including Sylvia Gore centre, in training, November 1972 © Mirrorpix

British women’s football owes a great debt to two gaming giants who played decades apart in the North West.

One of them was Lily Parr – the smoky Woodbine powerhouse of the Dick, Kerr munitions factory, who faced international teams across Europe in the 1920s.

England players including Sylvia Gore center in training November 1972 © Mirrorpix

The other was Sylvia Gore – the Manchester Corinthians midfielder who scored the first England women’s goal on their first official international in 1972.

Gore was widely known as the Denis Law of women’s football, once scoring a colossal 134 goals in a single season!

Parr, renowned for her strength, was renowned for having the hardest shot in football – male or female!

Her teammate Joan Whalley felt that Parr kicked like a mule.

She said: “She could lift a dead ball, the old heavy leather ball, from the left wing to me right and almost knock me out with the force of the shot.”

In 2002, Parr was the only woman to be inducted into the first English Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Gore’s legacy is no less impressive. Awarded the MBE in 2000, she has dedicated her life to women’s football as a player, coach and official.

Born in Prescot in November 1944, Gore joined Manchester Corinthians at a time when the Football Association banned female players from its grounds.

The women were forced to play on rugby and recreational grounds instead.

Corinthians have taken part in a series of charity matches around the world, drawing crowds of up to 80,000 in South America.

Sylvia Gore, second row centre, with the ‘Ladies of England’ team, April 1973 © Mirrorpix

Gore was also a member of England’s first official women’s team in 1972, playing in the inaugural match against Scotland at Ravenscraig Stadium, Greenock on 18 November.

It was a windswept affair, but England won 3-2 with Gore scoring England’s first ever goal.

Gore moved from Corinthians to the Fodens’ work team based in Sandbach, Cheshire.

One of the highlights was beating mighty Southampton 2-1 in the 1974 Women’s FA Cup final.

Southampton, with six internationals at their side, had not lost a cup match for three seasons!

Gore quit playing at the age of 35 to lead the Wales women’s football team. She died in September 2016 at the age of 71.

Women’s football is now well established in Manchester – and players from Manchester City Women’s FC and Manchester United Women FC have followed in Gore’s international footsteps.

Steph Houghton playing for Manchester City Women’s FC, July 2015 © Mirrorpix

Our picture shows current Manchester City and England centre-half Steph Houghton in action at the City Academy Stadium.

She made 121 appearances for her country, scoring 13 goals.

Although Manchester United Women FC was founded in 2018, an earlier team formed in 1972.

Recruits for the United Ladies team (Manchester) at Old Trafford, February 1972 © Mirrorpix

Pictured are potential players for United Ladies (Manchester) queuing outside Old Trafford.

The team was the brainchild of manager Blanche Rashman (with book and pencil) and was made up of women who worked at Old Trafford.

Lily Parr started playing football with her brothers on a vacant lot before being spotted by scouts from Dick, Kerr and Co.

Born in St Helens in April 1905, she got a job at the Dick, Kerr factory in Preston as well as spending 10 shillings for each game.

In her first year at the club, she scored 108 goals, aged 14!

She scored 986 goals during her career with Dick, Kerr from 1919 to 1951.

As the FA had banned women from playing on members’ grounds in 1921, Dick, Kerr’s team toured the United States in 1922.

They have faced the men’s top division teams, winning three matches, drawing three and losing three.

Before the ban, the Dick, Kerr drew huge crowds wherever they played.

More than 53,000 people packed into Goodison Park on Boxing Day 1920 to watch them take on St Helens.

Dick Kerr also represented England when they faced a French national team in a series of matches in 1920.

Dick, Kerr’s women’s team in action against France, November 1920 © Mirrorpix

Our picture shows the match at Pershing Stadium near Paris which ended in a 1-1 draw. Dick, Kerr wear stripes.

The two captains greeted each other with a kiss – which was the usual introduction in women’s matches. The same was true for playing with caps or berets in the case of the France team.

Back in Britain, Dick, Kerr beat the France team 2-0 at Deepdale in front of another massive crowd of 25,000.

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