Percy Ashley formed Corinthian Ladies Football Club in 1949, mainly so that his daughter, Doris, could play in a team. Percy was a scout for Bolton Wanderers and a well known local referee. His daughter Doris was a magnificent player, but there was no existing local team, in Manchester. Doris had a cleft lip and was profoundly deaf, So it would seem that building a team around her was a way of supporting her sporting interest, and also helping her to socialize. It is clear Doris was a magnificent player.
But Manchester Corinthians were not like the upper class male amateurs from whom they took their name. Their home ground on Fog Lane Park, Didsbury and facilities were sparse, and players had to be both very determined to play football and resilient: several reminisced washing post-match in duck ponds as there was no running water in the changing rooms, which were also unheated.
There were very few other women’s teams in the region. Therefore in 1957, a second team linked to Manchester Corinthians was formed by Percy Ashley under the name ‘The Nomads’, or less frequently ‘All Stars’, to enable them to play against each other in charity matches.
Percy and Doris Ashley and the formation of the Corinthians LFC
Beginnings The Manchester Corinthians Ladies Football Club, formed on 5th January 1949 became one of the most important women’s clubs after 1945 to pioneer women’s football internationally as a celebration civic pride in being from Manchester and Lancashire. Percy Ashley formed Corinthian Ladies mainly so that his daughter, Doris, could play in a team. Percy was well known in the area for football. His daughter Doris was an excellent player, but had no local team to join. Doris had a cleft palate and was profoundly deaf: this did not hold her back in any way, as she was presented with the Odeon Lady Footballer of the Year Gold Medal for 1950, for instance. Programmes claimed that she had played for England and France, and she certainly was amongst greats, like Dick Kerr’s Edna Broughton, who came to the Corinthians for one season in 1950-51. The team was built around Doris, who was captain, and all the players I have interviewed remembered her as an outstanding footballer. Quite a few also remember her as keen disciplinarian when they were on tour, so hiding from Doris became part of the fun of being away. Fog Lane Park The name Corinthians came from the amateur upper class male team who toured extensively, and the amateur tour would define Percy Ashley’s business model for the women’s club. But Manchester Corinthians were not like the upper class amateurs from whom they took their name. Their home ground on Fog Lane Park, Didsbury was sparse, in terms of facilties, and players had to be both very determined to play football and resilient. Several players reminisced to me about washing post-match in duck ponds as there was no running water in the changing rooms, which were also unheated. The alternative was to carry water across the park to wash off the mud, and as many had travelled by public transport to play, this was much needed.
Britain’s Premier Ladies Team There were very few other women’s teams in the region and teams that had been once great, such as Dick, Kerr’s Ladies of Preston, were in decline by the 1950s and would fold in the mid 1960s. Therefore in 1957, a second team linked to Manchester Corinthians was formed by Percy Ashley, initially under the name Dynamos, then as more overseas travel took place, under the name ‘The Nomads’, or less frequently ‘All Stars’, to enable them to play against each other in international charity matches. Already, by the time they played a representative Lancashire Ladies XI at the Festival of Britain celebrations for the Furness Trophy on 21 July 1951, they were acclaiming themselves as ‘Britain’s Premier Ladies Team’. By then they already held the Manchester Area Cup, the Sports Magazine Cup, the Roses Trophy, The Midland Trophy, The Cresswell Trophy, Odeon Championship Trophy and the Belle Vue Trophy. The Corinthians were entirely self-funded and played in a way that combined some limited domestic competition with overseas tours. Globetrotters It has often been said that ‘Where Manchester leads others will follow,’ however this has seldom been applied to the relatively neglected topic of women’s football in the city, and its surrounding area. Manchester Corinthians were able to use the latest travel technology to take part in tours to the European Cup in Berlin in 1957 winning against Germany 4-0 and reportedly singing Land of Hope and Glory on their victory lap, before going on tour to Portugal for a month the same year. Players remembered using sea-planes as there were no airports on Madeira at the time, and trips to mainland Portugal. In 1959 two weeks were spent touring The Netherlands. The most ambitious schedule was twelve weeks in South America & the Caribbean in 1960, followed by one month to Italy in 1961, playing on the grounds of Juventus, Milan and other major clubs. During their existence, both Corinthians and Nomads teams toured extensively; including playing Dundalk of Irelandin Wales in 1960, followed by trips to Ireland in 1962, Morocco in 1966, and France in 1970, in all winning more than fifty trophies.
Life Changing Experiences This gave the players, and Ashley, life experiences way beyond most of the people they worked with during the week. So successful was this strategy that, by the time the FA lifted the ban on women’s football in England in 1969, Corinthians and Nomads had between them raised over £275,000 for charity; mostly for the International Red Cross and Oxfam. More of this later in future posts. But for now I will leave you with the Corinthians song, and the Nomads song they would sing on tour. It’s very popular to think now of supportive Dad’s who encourage their daughter’s interest in sport, but Percy Ashley was a feminist father, who did more than most to help his daughter play a sport she loved, at the time when women’s football was prevented by the FA from playing on affiliated grounds. This pioneer, and his fantastic footballing daughter should be in the National Football Museum Hall of Fame, especially since it is in Manchester! All together now….
The Corinthians Song We’re Corinthians from Manchester Football Ladies from Lancashire Blue and Black for Corinthians Boy! What a team! Fa la la la la la We’ll beat anyone who we play Makes no difference, home or away We have the talent , Our youngsters are gallant Corinthians from Manchester Ole! The Nomads Song (to the tune of Me and My Gal, 1942) The Northern Nomads are coming today The Northern Nomads are on their way The Corinthians they are playing And everybody’s been saying That the crowd will be swaying With excitement and glee With excitement and glee. The Northern Nomads are a very good team They are the finest team the world’s ever seen And if they score a little goal Just one, or two, or three, or four, or more We’ll call them the team of the year!
These webpages will be developed over 2020 to mark the team’s history. If you have any information to help us, please get in touch.
Dorothy Barnett’s story, Corinthian Ladies FC
Starting out I always wanted to play football. I used to play with my brother Bill who was a good footballer and played semi-pro. When I was fifteen I heard about a man in Bardsley, Mr Ashley, who was organising football teams (his daughter Doris, also played with us). Bardsley was a community not far from Ashton-under-Lyne where I lived so I went to see Mr Ashley and ended up playing on the first team as left full back.
Dot playing on the Benfica Stadium
Corinthians on Tour We travelled all over England and a bonus was that my parents got to travel with us. They would never have had this opportunity otherwise. I started playing for Corinthians when I was fifteen, and I think the first European trips were around 1956/ 1957. We played in Germany, in Berlin, and beat all the European teams we played. We were on the International News in the cinema about a two-minute clip and kept returning to see ourselves. We played under the charity the Red Cross. When I was 17 we travelled to Portugal. We went to Portugal twice, and met the great player, Eusebio, who I think was younger than us at the time! We travelled there by flying boat, The Sunderland as, at that time there was no airport in Lisbon. We stayed right on the beach and were there for five weeks. We also went to the Madeira Islands for one week. I have fond memories of rocking and rolling with the locals in the mountains. Looking back When you are young you take so much for granted but as I look back I remember how well we all got along, and how fortunate I was to be part of this. I think of it as the best times of my life. The team disbanded as there was an issue about money. We should have been receiving spending money and it was not forthcoming.
I was always sporty, and played boys games and loved football. I also played badminton, hockey, netball, and did trampolining. I am not sure how I heard about the Corinthians, but my parents went for an interview with Percy Ashley off Fog Lane, in Didsbury and I remember that they were looking for a goalie, although I was really an outfield player, and I was accepted. I had to be fitted for football boots. We were not a particularly well-off family and my sister was not sporty so my Mum and Dad said, ‘You had better be serious about this’ as they stretched their finances to buy my boots. They were not regular season ticket holders or football fans either, although my Dad took me to Maine Road to see some top class football to encourage me and to see what to aspire to. I was serious! I would practice for hours, angles of shots and passes and returns with a tennis ball against a wall. I started playing for Corinthians aged fourteen when Doris Ashley was still playing. We always played for charity and it was usually a charity match against Nomads.
Funnily enough, I don’t remember the games as such. Maybe while I was playing I was one of those people who were ‘glad to be there.’ I can’t remember the scores and such. I became an outfield player at Corinthians and played centre half, although I wasn’t as skillful as in goal. I went on the tours to Morocco and Tunisia on a plane for the first time and was allowed by my school to go, during term time. It felt very prestigious, and quite important playing exhibition matches. I was fifteen at the time and had been on one foreign holiday to Switzerland. I was amongst the first at school to get a passport and I took the photos from the football tour to school to show my friends. The names of the places seemed exotic, Casablanca which people had heard about because of the film, Rabat, Hammamet and in all about five cities where we played in proper stadia, with large crowds and we were chaperoned to the grounds where we played. I remember the dry heat and the drums, and the Red Cross crescent. Then we prepared for the Reims tour. My Mum, Gladys, led the tour and she managed the team. My brother in law coached at Corinthians after Mum gave up as manager.
Gladys Aiken, Carol's Mum who managed the team for a while
I trained as a PE/French teacher at Coventry College of Education between 1969 and 1972 so training was difficult because I was also trying to do athletics, hockey, netball, rounders and volleyball. I’ve always been sporty and always loved travel, doing as much as I can now I am retired. In 1973/74 season I moved to Fodens, aged twenty-two as I felt that it would help with my ability and played in an WFA Cup Final then ended playing in 1975/6 season. This was the pinnacle of my career. I travelled to Sandbach by train. I played alongside England internationals like Sheila Parker and Sylvia Gore at Fodens. I had a partnership at the back with Sheila Parker who was a model professional and, by then, I could tell it was not going to be a career. I knew I wasn’t as good as Jeannie Allott who went, I think, to Holland and then to Juventus. In the WFA final itself against Southampton, we went by coach from Sandbach, with no particular send off from Fodens. We were not intimidated by them. Fodens scored first! With the great England international Sue Buckett in goal for Southampton, this gave us great confidence. I do remember getting a bollocking from Hazel Bancroft for giving away a free kick, but can’t remember why. It may have been extra time? Alison Leatherbarrow, the England defender, nick- named ‘Tiger’ also played. We were featured on TV when we won but again I can’t remember the broadcaster. Folks would say, ‘You won the FA Cup Final and I saw you on TV.’
Margaret Vaughan, ‘Griff’ Manchester Corinthian and £10 Pom
Griff has the ball at her feet.
Family and early football I was born Margaret Griffiths, andwhen we were young football was a big part of our lives. I was born in Ancotes. We did the Pools and Dad took us down to watch City and United once. When I was 2 ½ we moved to Clayton, but I still went to school in Ancotes. I played football in the street with the boys and had one younger brother. There weren’t girls’ teams and yet I loved football from a very young age. Mother said in a photograph taken when I was very young, about 1 ½ I sat on a table and there was a prop ball, a beach ball, and wouldn't settle for the photograph until I got the ball. I left school at fifteen and worked as a sewing machinist in the rag trade, as we called it. I was not particularly academic, I was the physical one. In the end I worked in the office and then my own business.
Becoming A Corinthian Like everyone else, I saw an advertisement in the paper and went down to Fog Lane for a trial. Our formation was an attacking style with five at the back, so the wingers could get forward. Percy was technically strict about how we should play and overlap. He would give us individual instruction on our role.
Corinthians Overseas Tours I have photographs with no dates on them, many featuring aeroplanes because I had not flown until then. We went to Portugal and Madeira by sea-plane. We took a coach down South and didn't have an airport, as such. We were not warned about the plane, we just sort of got on with it, and next stop Portugal. As well as visiting Portugal twice, I did the South American tour, Belfast, the Isle of Man and Italy. Obviously the cable car and the military coup in Venezuela at Varacas stood out as memories, and the Humboldt Hotel was fantastic. When I came back, not only was it the first time I had been on a Jumbo Jet, I was the only person in the street who had been on a plane, except for men who had fought in the war, so for working class people we had once in a lifetime opportunities. In South America we travelled on one of those planes with single seats and parachute wires, you just got on to find a bucket behind a curtain at one end. We didn't know until we got on. All these were new experiences, and you couldn't lose face, you just got on with it. We did so much flying. When we went to the Isle of Man, I though we were crashing because we had no sooner took off than we were coming down, and were only minutes in the air. I thought, what’s going on? Plus after the game it was a normal scheduled flight, so we had to rush to get back on the plane, as they wouldn't wait for anyone. On another occasion we were on a coach going through the desert, and all there was the whole trip was a caravan selling drinks of orange, coca cola or water. That was it.
Griff has the ball at her feet.
In New York I had fallen asleep on the plane, going to South America after we had changed planes at JFK, and the propeller had flames coming out of it so we had to turn back. I had to be woken up or I’d have slept through it. There was a big bar like you saw in the films at the airport and we had something to eat and drink. A Mexican family, I think they were, had a baby at the airport. When we took off again we sort of ran out of runway and went on the grass and had to walk back and Mr Ashley was not very happy with that. We stayed over a few days and I didn't really like it. I remember the sun did not reach the street. I was shocked. I knew skyscrapers were high, but not that high. We went to the top of the Empire State. We didn't go in but we saw where Audrey Hepburn had Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There were a lot of rough sleepers which we had not seen in Manchester. We had tramps but they moved around, not sleeping on the streets. One girl, I remember, at the hotel in New York, could not get over the televisions in the rooms and she watched 24 hours of Elvis on television, as she didn't have a set at home.
A £10 Pom I played for Corinthians until 1965 but I didn't go on the Tunisia tour because on New Year’s Day 1966 I went to Australia as a £10 Pom. I had always wanted to go because when at school we had done topics like Geography, I had looked at Australia on the map and wanted to go. When I was out there, I played for a team in Perth, organized by English and Irish girls but it wasn't very competitive. There were five English players, a South African, a German, Italian. I think it changed to something else later. In 1967 I played netball too and had by then moved to Sydney. There was the Metropolitan Soccer Association, in Sydney and I have quite a few programmes. I lived the outdoor life all right. The name of the club Sydney Prague, came from the original players who had originally come from Prague. My friend Pat Redmond, as she was called then, chose to stay, and settled there but I came back. In December 1969 I came back because I either had to stay or become Australian. My parents were getting older, and I went down to see the Corinthians but I wasn't really interested by 1970, as the magic of the old days had gone.
After football and military service In June 1970 I joined the army and really enjoyed it. I trained as a cook and they gave you lots of training, as well as you living in. I did the Catering corps training at Guidlford, and was going to Aldershot. London was so convenient, just nip to the Post Office and Mill Hill was lovely. In the end I got posted to Germany, where I met my husband at a listening camp where we had elite working conditions, at Munchengladbach, near the Dutch border. We married on 12 October 1974 and would just nip over the border on nights out, it was a great time….
Australian Women’s Football and Migration Trixie Tagg who began playing with Sydney Prague from 1967 remembers Margaret and Pat Redmond, arriving, both very good players. Trixie has very kindly shared this photograph of Sydney Prague in 1967 with Margaret on the back row, second from right, and Pat is third from the right on the front row, kneeling.
With thanks to Trixie Tagg.
Why Sydney Prague? Heather Reid tells me about some of the pioneers of women’s football in Australia at the time when Margaret was visiting:
‘The cultural diversity within the early pioneer teams wasn’t that great – mainly limited to daughters from families who emigrated from the UK and our home grown girls.
Football developed quickly in the 1970s in Perth, West Australia with British and some European migrant populations (mainly Russian and Italian) supporting women’s participation but this was mainly due to individuals at the clubs. Players like the Kozak sisters and a young player, Anna Senjuschenko emerged at this time with Anna being a stand-out at the first 1978 international games for Australia in Taiwan but sadly she was killed in a car crash the following year.
The east coast was a bit different as the most football hubs that were created by Greeks (eg. Hellas and Olympic), Italians (Juventus, APIA, Azurri) and Balkan states like Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia but many did not welcome girls. For many of those clubs, the best thing for girls and women to do on Saturdays was folk dancing, and on Sundays they went to church or did family things.
Where girls teams did exist under these clubs they were more often populated by European players. Sharon Mateljan was a stalwart but her maiden name was Loveless. We’ve had players such as Mariana Milovanovic (1980s), Diane Alagich (1990s), Angela Iannotta (1990s) and more recently players like de Vanna, Khamis, Polias, Gielnik and Logarzo, but nothing like the multi-cultural dimension that’s been obvious in our men’s national teams – often populated by ‘iches’ like Juric, Zelic, Popovic, Krncevic, Milicic, Kalak, Viduka etc. Overall, however, our national women’s teams have not reflected the cultural diversity we have in Australia, including Indigenous Australians, with the exception of Lydia Williams and Kyah Simon, so there’s definitely plenty to explore and write about in this regard.’