After going on a 59 match unbeaten streak Arsenal Ladies lost to Everton in the Women's Premier League Cup Final in mid week, but made no mistake when they resumed their FA Premier League season by thumping Leeds United Ladies 4-0 in Tadcaster, Yorkshire on Sunday afternoon.
The crowd of about 400 was twice the average but maybe disappointing considering the amount of publicity on the FA Web site and the local Yorkshire Evening Post. The Ladies in Red are coached by their founder Vick Akers who also doubles as the kit man for Arsene Wengers EPL squad. Vic played 129 times as a left back for Cambridge United in the early '70's and then 22 times for Watford. He has led the Lady Gunners to 41 honours in their 20 year history including the League, FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup last season.
After just 5 minutes on the clock a lightning strike from Rachel Yankey from a Karen Carney pass got the Arsenal on the scoreboard, and they never looked back. Yankey became the first professional female player in England when she joined Fulham in 2000. After a spell at Birmingham City she re-signed for Arsenal. She was awarded an MBE for services to the game. Lianne Sanderson a big strong striker scored in the 35th and 41st minute to make it 3-0 at the half. It wasn't as if Leeds were caving in. They played as well as their superb opponents would let them. I was siting next to the grandma of tall Leeds striker Steph Houghton who has scored a hat-trick in the FA Cup quarter final win at Cardiff City a week ago. Steph turned down a bunch of US college scholarship offers and attends Loughborough University, the top sports college in the UK. She was unlucky enough to break her leg 2 days before the England Women's team set sail for last year's FIFA Womens's World Cup in China, but recovered and was recently in Chile with the U20s national team.
Unlike the Arsenal men's team all the players are from the British Isles. Goalkeeper Emma Byrne has 50 caps for Ireland, Julie Fleeting who scored the 4th goal is captain of Scotland and scored 29 goals in 25 appearances for her country and Kelly Smith was a star in the USA WUSL League for 3 seasons and has 69 England caps.I also mentioned how last Sunday in the FA CARLING CUP Final between Chelsea and Spurs, all 3 scorers wore an 'alice band' to control their hair. WELL, in this women's match 20 of the 22 players wore such hair controls, apart from Leeds defensive duo Jess Wright, the team captain, and Alex Culvin. The referee Mr Jenkins was bald so he didn't need anything to keep his hair tidy.
A kind word about Bradford City. Last season this Yorkshire club were relegated to the fourth tier, League 2, but supporters responded to a great and bold offer by the directors to buy discounted season tickets. Attendance has increased from 8,000 to 13,000 a match, the highest in the lower 2 divisions apart from Leeds United a dozen miles away and Nottingham Forest. An even bigger season ticket drive is now underway for next season including a 2 for 1 season ticket offer at Valley Parade. Perhaps more Football League clubs should be so bold as The Bantams.
Sheffield FC, 150 yeras old, continue celebrations by playing AJAX FC of Holland at Bramall Lane of Sunday April 13th.
Last but certainly not least, a word about Jimmy Armfield, OBE, 73 years young, who was awarded a Services to Football award at the Football League awards evening. He was definately a 'one club man', playing 627 times for Blackpool FC, including 10 years as club captain. He was given The Young Footballer of the Year award in 1959 and made his debut for England in front of 120,000 fans in Brazil in 1955 and played 43 times for the national team and captained them 15 times.
At the 1962 World Cup in Chile he was the best right back in the world and later went on to manage Bolton Wanderers and then Leeds United, who he led to the European Cup Final vs Bayern Munich in Paris in 1971. Recently he has been a popular figure on BBC Radio Five Live.