I have enjoyed watching Mark Sampson the Three Lionesses coach in action at the FIFA Women's World Cup. Last night his team came from behind after a Solveig Gulbrandsen opening goal, to beat former World Champions Norway with two great goals from defenders. "England's Coming Home" is from Three Lions album of 1996 at EURO '96.
It was the first time the team has ever won a knock out match at the finals, which this year was increased from 16 to 24 teams. A headed goal by captain STEPH HOUGHTON, the 27 year old Durham born lass, tied the score at 1-1 and a THUNDERBOLT from another defender, LUCY BRONZE, took the ladies to a last 8 encounter on Saturday at DC Place in Vancouver against Canada. A sell out crowed of 55,000 awaits the teams.
I used to watch a younger Steph play for Leeds United Ladies in front of a few dozen fans at Tadcaster, behind the brewery, and chat with her loyal grandma who came down from the North-East and never missed a match. Steph is now captain of Manchester City in the F.A.s pro league.
Things have changed for the ladies game in this country. In 1922 the all male FA council banned ladies from using grounds used by its members at a time when DICK,KERR'S LADIES were booming and attracted 53,000 to a match at Goodison Park, Everton. THE BAN LASTED OVER 50 YEARS. Money is now being poured in from the deep coffers of The FA into the fastest growing participation sport for girls,
The team were flown business class to North America, stay in top class hotels which only visiting US soccer moms and their kids can afford, and the 22 player squad has a support staff of NINETEEN. I like the way that Sampson, who replaced long serving coach and player Hope Powell, England's first ever coach in 1998, performs. He has changed his line-up and tactics EVERY match to counter the different opposition. UNFORTUNATELY, due to the 10.00pm kick off British summer time, none of the Tuesday morning newspapers, reported the result, but their web sites did, as well as www.thefa.com.
Goalkeeper KAREN BARDSLEY was named player of the match. The tall 30 year old was born in Santa Barbara, CA to English parents and played 4 years for Cal State Fullerton Titans, and kept the NORGE attack at bay. 20,000 were in attendance in Ottawa, the nation's capital and in the first half the red shirted Norwegians were dominant. The second half was a contrast. In wilting heat England fought back and some creative substitutions saw The Three Lionesses get stronger and stronger as the match wore on and their opponents wilted,
A couple of weeks ago at The National Football Museum in downtown Manchester I was an invited guest at a BBC Radio broadcast about the woemen's game.www.nationalfootballmuseum.com., I was delighted to meet the player that scored the FIRST EVER GOAL for England after The F.A. took over the women's game. It was against Scotland up in Greenock near Glasgow on 18th November1972. SYLVIA GORE MBE scored that goal as England hit back from a 2 goal deficite to win 3-2.
The coach was Eric Worthington, my former coach at college in Loughborough, who I met about 12 years later in Sydney, NSW, where he treated me to a lobster dinner at the impressive Hakoah Soccer clubhouse, a wealthy mostly Jewish membership, funded by a room full of 'pokey' machines, like you find in Las Vegas, and where he was the Director of Coaching for The Australian Federation. In 1977 the soccer part of the club changed its name to Hakoah Eastern Suburbs.