Dick, Kerr Ladies decorate Deepdale with the resplendent tribute they deserve

first_imgShare on Facebook The forgotten story of … the Dick, Kerr’s Ladies football team Pinterest features Share on LinkedIn Dick Kerr Ladies’ take on the French Ladies International team at Herne Hill, London. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Topics Anita Asante, left, will re-sign for Chelsea in January. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Sportblog It is apt that a year when the profile of women’s football has taken a leap forward marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Dick, Kerr Ladies.Commemorating the team’s first game at Deepdale, a memorial to the pioneering side was unveiled at the home of Preston North End last Friday. And what a memorial. A staggering 3.5 tonnes of granite has been used for the tribute. This is no small plaque tucked away in a corner; at six metres high by four metres wide it’s a towering presence in the corner of the ground, sitting proudly behind the fountain-statue tribute to Preston’s favourite son, Sir Tom Finney.The story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies football team may be increasingly told, but that women’s football even existed in the early part of the 20th century is still very much a secret. With the war over, and unemployment, poverty and inflation rising, the working class was restless and demanding a standard of living befitting heroes returning from war. Industrial struggle was on the up and as women’s football switched from raising money for soldiers to the striking miners of their communities and the like, the upper echelons of football were tense.So in 1921, months after the stunning Goodison Park crowd for the Dick, Kerr Ladies, the Football Association banned women’s football under the auspices of the sport being “unsuitable” for women. The governing body publicly discredited the game and forced women’s football from FA-affiliated stadiums and into public parks.At a time when attitudes towards women’s sport were being transformed for the better, when women’s football was being covered favourably in the press and the women were raising huge sums of money, the FA did more than scythe off the growth – they ripped up the roots and actively pushed attitudes backwards.In spite of the ban Dick, Kerr Ladies played until 1965 to dwindling crowds, winning 759 of 833 games and raising the equivalent of over £10m for charity.Today, in any article or discussion about the future of women’s football, the game’s appeal, profitability and quality of play are always questioned. Yet the story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies, and the early successes of women’s football, go a long way to answering those questions and explaining what has been overcome to take women’s football to the level it is at today.The memorial, sponsored by the FA, BAE Systems, University of Central Lancashire, Preston North End, FWP Architects, Uefa and the Professional Footballers’ Association, was unveiled by the former England captain and Preston Ladies player Sheila Parker, the former England and Everton goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis and Gail Newsham, who has worked for 25 years to raise the profile of this incredible team.Newsham is extremely happy with the positioning of the tribute. “One of the players, Joan Whalley, who played after the second world war, played football with Tom Finney when they were kids,” she said. “She’s etched on to the bottom plinth. They both played on the right wing. He was always her hero and when she was inducted into the hall of fame it was Tom that presented the award to her niece.”She went on: “There’s been lots of tears over the years, lots of highs and lows with it. But this has been the end result. For me it’s always been about those women, getting recognition for them – that’s been my driving force.“I think because when I played football nobody was interested, then I discovered this story and it was unjust. And I’m a champion against injustice so this is what it’s all culminated in today. I’m absolutely thrilled.”Talking points • The Sky Blue FC forward Leah Galton has left the NWSL side to join Bayern Munich. Galton has signed an 18-month contract and becomes the first English woman to play for the club. Having started her career at Leeds Ladies, the 23-year-old was drafted by Sky Blue in 2016, when she was also called up to the senior England squad.• The fixtures for the 2018 SheBelieves Cup have been announced. England face Germany, France and the USA in the invitational round-robin competition, won by France this year. The Lionesses travel to Columbus, Ohio, where they will play France on 1 March. They will then face Germany in New Jersey three days later before playing the hosts and World Cup holders USA at Orlando City Stadium on 8 March.• Chelsea Ladies have agreed to re-sign the defensive midfielder Anita Asante when the transfer window opens on Friday. The 32-year-old revealed in November that she would be leaving the Swedish club Rosengard after four years. She joined Chelsea from Arsenal – having been part of the Gunners’ quadruple-winning side – in 2008, then played for five clubs in the US before moving to Sweden. Facebook Twitter center_img Pinterest Share on Messenger Share via Email Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest Twitter Facebook Read more Women’s football The year 1917 is known as one of revolution and war but it was also period where women were being released from the shackles of the kitchen and the home, went out to work and claimed their first taste of independence on a mass scale – as they replaced the men, who were at war, in the factories.Like the men on the shopfloors before them, women – taking their new liberation beyond work – laced up heavy leather boots and formed factory football teams.The Dick, Kerr and Co locomotive factory, converted to a munitions manufacturer during the first world war, was one of the many firms to boost workers’ morale with competitive sport. That is how, on Christmas Day in 1917, the newly formed Dick, Kerr Ladies took on Arundel Coulthards Foundry in front of 10,000 spectators at Deepdale. The charity match raised £600 (almost £50,000 today) for injured soldiers convalescing at the Moor Park military hospital.The team’s profile and stock rapidly grew, and defying attitudes of the time huge crowds would show up to watch the side. In 1920 they walked out for the first ladies’ international, against a Parisian team in front of 25,000 fans – a record for a crowd at the ground. On Boxing Day 1920 they hit a phenomenal peak with 53,000 filing into Goodison Park and a further 14,000 outside, unable to get in.The winger Lily Parr became a household name. She scored 43 goals in her first season, 1,000 goals throughout her career and had such a powerful shot that she broke the arm of a man who was convinced she couldn’t score a penalty against him. A revolutionary on and off the pitch, Parr was gay and lived with her partner and she wasn’t alone. In 1921, at the end of a series of four unofficial internationals between France and England (which Dick, Kerr Ladies had unofficially become) the captains, Alice Kelly and Madeleine Bracquemond, unintimidated by those watching, kissed in greeting.A handful of women in the game are out today and there are no openly gay professional men’s players. Yet in the 1920s a layer of women footballers were comfortable expressing their sexuality publicly. Share on WhatsApp Reuse this contentlast_img

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