Sheila - Captain first ever England team 1972 Black and white photo with sports bags. The first official WFA England Women’s Team in 1972 against Scotland, with captain Sheila Parker third from right on the standing row at the rear.
Dick, Kerr’s Sheila Parker first signed for Dick, Kerr Ladies aged 13 in 1960, making her debut on 10 June 1961, beating Oldham 6-2 at a game played at Cleveleys. A Lifelong passion was born. Sheila Parker fourth from the left at the rear. Dick, Kerr players from left to Right rear row: Brenda, Dot, Doreen, Sheila Parker, Margaret, Dianne, unknown, Kath Latham. Front row left to right: Carol, Titch Burke, Freda Garth, May, Pauline Rimmer.
Sheila Parker England Ladies' First Captain
I signed for Dick, Kerr’s in 1960 aged 13 Dick, Kerr’s Ladies and later made my debut on 10 June 1961 against Oldham who we beat 6-2 playing at Cleveleys. I so enjoyed playing the game and played wherever I was asked except for in goal. I just loved it so much, playing on ground at the local ‘rec’ (recreation park) at Chorley & picking up bits from the men, like how to slide tackle on the rec.
Fodens Sheila signed for Fodens in 1963, playing a variety of positions for the team and enjoying them all. A real team player, here Sheila holds the WFA Cup for 1974, which Fodens won over a strong Southampton side with many England players 2 goals to 1.
In 1963 I signed for Foden’s of Sandbach Cheshire, and played alongside some greats including Sylvia Gore. Most often, I played in midfield or defence but I didn't mind where, I just preferred to be playing. By 1969 The Women’s Football Association (WFA) had formed in England and Foden Ladies won the English Knock Out Competition Final, versus Westhorn United of Scotland, a sort of Scotland v England before full internationals. As captain of Fodens, I was part of the team that beat the up and coming Southampton side, which had several players who would later become full England internationals, 5-1. Another career highlight. In 1970 The North West Women’s League was formed comprising eight teams. In 1972, I captained the first ever WFA England side in a 3-2 win over Scotland with Sylvia Gore scoring the first goal. I was made captain by manger Eric Worthington, the night before the match. I went on to play under 4 England managers: Eric Worthington; John Adams; Tommy Tranter and Martin Reagan. All through 1973 England remained unbeaten in five matches that I captained. As England team players we travelled to several overseas countries which in those days was a marvelous honour, as we were all so down to earth and loved playing the sport. In 1974 I also won a WFA Cup Medal with Fodens in the 2-1 win over Southampton, a hard fought game.
PNE In 1975 Sheila Parker signed for Preston North End Ladies, and is front row, second from left, playing alongside many legendary players of her day.
I signed for Preston North End Ladies FC in 1975 scoring 51 goals in 14 games and helping them to the Division One Championship. 1976 was another career highlight as England won the first ever home international championships, and Preston North End retained the League Championship, in which I scored 42 goals. In 1977 I won a third Division One Championship medal, with PNE and we did the double, of the first ever League Cup final. A great year since I also scored the only goal against Italy at Wimbledon to win that international. A header, if I remember rightly. I was so happy and proud!
Thumbs up! Sheila Parker and two Italian policemen after the match at Skeffati.
My club and England career continued, winning in 1978 a League Cup winner’s medal and part of the newly formed North West Regional Squad. Again in 1979, Preston won the League Cup and the League Championship, a double double for the club. In 1980 PNE won the Championship, and League Cup, narrowly missing out on the treble of the WFA Cup by finishing runner’s up to St Helens. I was voted Player of the Match though. We played a really attacking style of football. Five forwards, full backs, who could get forwards, a playmaker centre half, and attacking midfielders.
Double Thumbs Up! Sheila Parker and the squad training, Sheila in her trademark badged cap in Kobe Japan early September 1981.
At Ease officer. Sheila Parker in Tiger T shirt and hat with badges while visiting the Portopia exhibition Kobe Japan Friday 4 September 1981.
A career highlight came when England toured Japan in 1981. When it was announced, I thought brilliant! It was really an honour and so unusual, to get to go to Japan and be invited to do so. I really enjoyed it. It was my first long flight and it seemed to take forever to get to Japan, with the signs and food and customs so unusual, but very welcoming at the same time. Kobi stadium was very exciting! I had this cap that I wore everywhere, full of badges that I collected but so many children came out to see us that I gave some of my beloved badges to the Japanese children fans. This was our preparation for the forthcoming UEFA Cup Competition and the overseas preparation served us well.
With Michael, Sheila Parker at Kobe stadium early September 1981.
In 1982 I signed for St Helen’s and helped them to a First Division Championship and League Cup winner’s double. The UEFA Cup qualifiers began with three straight wins for England. The next year was mixed emotions. After 33 games for England I retired from the squad on 22 May 1983 when we had a 2-0 win over Scotland in the UEFA Cup qualifier at Elland Road. I was voted Division Two Player of the season after signing as player and then becoming manager in 1984 for my home team, Chorley Ladies FC. In 1988 I received a loyalty award from the North West Women’s League. But I couldn't leave it there. In 1989, I signed for Second Division Wigan Ladies FC, winning a Championship medal and intermediate cup finalist medal in 1990 I captained Wigan in the restructured North West Women’s League to a second championship and promotion to Division One. Thirty-four years on, aged 46 I decided to retire from football, playing my final years for Clitheroe Ladies FC.
England Squad lineup at the Portopia Exhibition 4 September 1981, Sheila Parker in her trademark cap.
Changing Room Team Talk. Sheila Parker giving her half time talk in the 4-0 victory over Japan 6 September 1981.
Refereeing helped to fill the gap that football left in my life and I became a Class 2 referee in the Saturday Alliance League, and Sunday League in Chorley. Football was the centre of my life still. I kept fit, by jogging, and training on the rec. By the time of my National Football Hall of Fame notification in 2013, I had finished playing quite a few years. I was inducted alongside great male and female players, from Lily Parr onwards to Matthew Letisser, Cliff Jones, Jack Taylor, Eddie Grey, David Clarke, and Mike Somerbee. This was the best honour and, one that will last forever.
Sheila Parker in her green track suit, second from front, at a reunion of the Dick, Kerr Ladies in 1993.
Japanese children fans at the Kobe game. Sheila Parker gave away some of her beloved cap badges to the children fans as gifts September 1981.
Carol Thomas The first woman to 50 caps for England, and England captain
7th Nov 1974 - Programme for Carol's first game (and Carol is proud to say it was 44 years before their victory against the French was repeated!).
6th Sept 1974 - Carol's first ever call up letter.
1st Aug 1974 - The first ever all women FA Coaching Course held and led by England Manager Tommy Tranter (front), Carol on second to left.
Born in 1955, Carol Thomas was part of a sport loving family along with her two brothers, and her Dad, in particular, playing football in Hull. Carol would go on to become the first English woman to win 50 caps for her country, at a time when the schedule of women’s matches did not yet include a World Cup (the first was in 1991), or an Olympic tournament (to follow in 1996). Carol also captained her country.
The inimitable, and indomitable, Flo Bilton ran a women’s team nearby, called Reckitts and Coleman, one of several women’s works football teams in the region, including British Oil and Cocoa Mills (BOCM) At eleven, inspired by England’s World Cup win, Carol took her football more seriously and joined the women’s team,BOCM, just as pioneering leaders Flo Bilton and Pat Gregory were forming the Women’s Football Association (WFA), and affiliated to the FA on the same basis as a county FA. Flo Bilton had played as a goalkeeper for Reckitts since the 1940s, and developed women’s football around Hull, as well as making the England caps by hand for the first representative team in 1972, and thereafter. Carol went to her first England trials, and, in August 1974 successfully completed to the first ever women’s coaching course at Lilleshall, working with England manager Tommy Tranter. Tranter invited Carol for England trials and she won her first cap on 7 November 1974 when she came on as a substitute, at Wimbledon, playing against France, aged nineteen.
15th Nov 1977 - the England squad relax at 'Martini House', London ahead of the England/Italy game - Martini were the Match Trophy sponsors.
6th September 1981 - the England party assemble at Heathrow before their trip to Japan, the first England National Women's side to play outside of Europe.
16th September 1980 - Carol Thomas in action against Sweden (probably the best action shot of Carol).
Jean asked Carol, how did that feel? ‘It was absolutely amazing just to get the letter telling me I had been selected,’ Carol tells me, ‘then to go to England training at Crystal Palace, to pull on the shirt and sit in the dug out made me so proud, so when I actually got onto the pitch, it was my footballing dream.’
More England games followed in 1975, against increasingly exotic opponents, like Switzerland, and then, to Carol’s surprise, in May 1976 Tommy asked her to take on the captaincy, from Sheila Parker just weeks before her 21st birthday. Jean observed that, maybe her performance at the coaching course had shown her ability to read a game and lead others? ‘I think that’s right,’ Carol agreed, ‘I could read a game and see what people were going to do, even before they did it, or perhaps knew they were going to do it. But also I was a good trainer, I worked hard, and I listened to what the coaches were saying, trying always to improve my game. I was a calming influence and I tried to lead by example.’
8th April 1977 - Carol (right) with David Hunt (then Chair of the WFA) and the Swiss captain with the trophy the teams played for at Carol's home club, Hull City, Boothferry Park
25th May 1984 - Martin Reagan (England manager) leads a tactics discussion with his England squad in an Italian café ahead of the 1984 Mundialito.
Those 50 England caps followed at a time when it must be remembered that there were just six England women’s matches in 1976, five in 1977 and three in 1978. This was an amazing achievement by an amateur player. When Carol married her husband in 1979, she flew out later that weekend to Italy for a fortnight with the England team to play in a tournament, her version of a honeymoon. In the last of these matches, against Italy in Naples which England lost 3-1, the players threw the fully clothed referee in the hotel pool afterwards in protest at his poor decision making.
27th May 1984 - Handshake with the Swedish captain ahead of the Euro final, 2nd leg, at Kenilworth Road, Luton Town - just look at the pitch!
Carol played until 1985 when she retired to have her children. Before then she had the good fortune of Hull City allowing her to train with the male Under 19s on Tuesdays and Thursdays to keep her skills and fitness sharp. As a valued Northern Dairies employee, her employer was also supportive. Like others, she also did long stints on the motorways and A roads to play at the highest female club level she could to maintain her England place, including at CP Doncaster, Preston and Rowntrees (York). Today Carol has two hand made Flo Bilton England caps in her collection and yet she is still waiting to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum, a recognition long overdue for the first English woman to win fifty caps for her country.
17th March 1985 - The England and Scotland squads line up at Deepdale as Carol leads out England to win her 50th cap.
As Carol herself now sums up her career: The year 1985 was significant for me, just a year before I had played in a UEFA Final for National Representative Women's Teams (this was its formal title, it could not be simply called the European Nations Cup!) and now, one year on, I was winning my 50th cap. We played at Deepdale, the home of Preston North End, against Scotland. It was cold, the pitch was frozen, hard as a skating rink with snow brushed off to behind the goals. In the current era the game would have been called due to safety issues. After a slow start we ran out 4 - 0 winners. After the game, I was privileged to have Sir Tom Finney award me my cap. Wow! A living legend of the English men's game, and here he was presenting me with my 50th England cap. I had to pinch myself. It was only when I got home that I had time to start reflecting on what I'd achieved so far. England player at 19, England captain by 21, and a leading player for an unbroken 11 years, 1st English women to reach 50 caps and a European finalist and the prospect of leading England into another Mundialito (Little World Cup). Not bad for a girl from a footballing backwater! I also realised that my 50th cap as England captain was also within my reach. How that sounded, and what a driving force 'the 1st English woman to captain England 50 times'.
My media appearances started to increase and I realised I had to promote our game. Short appearances in all the media, national and regional, were frequent. I like to think I gave our game its rightful exposure, albeit small written articles and timeslots and given the attitude towards our game.
The birth of my first son, saw me make the decision to retire. But it wasn't long before I returned to help create a local side. I carried on, with no thought of an international return, but just to enjoy myself and hopefully pass on some knowledge and experience. Eventually I was asked to captain the 1st East Riding County FA Women's Squad when I was well into my 40's. I eventually retired in 2009, aged 54. The legs were 'going', actually, the bruising was taking longer to disappear, I had too many mountains to climb and two grandsons to help to nurture.
25th December 1986 - The Guinness Book of Records entry for 1986 - the first ever entry for a woman footballer.
My involvement with our game has never really stopped. I have made several guest appearances at discussion groups, award ceremonies, etc, since my 'retirement', and my most recent involvement, November 2019, has seen me being appointed as the first Club Ambassador and Lifetime Honorary Member to Hull City Ladies AFC, with the aim to 'spread the good word' about our game (and our club, of course).
I hope I moved the women's game forward, if only by a fraction. Given the era, a fraction would equate to giant leaps compared to today's exposure our game gets.