‘We were the real trailblazers - long before amazing Lionesses’

‘We were the real trailblazers - long before amazing Lionesses’

by Tom Martin (August 2022)

AS the nation still basks in the glory of the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 victory, many Champion readers have been wondering whatever happened to Southport Ladies FC.

Following the huge success of the England women’s team last month, a letter was published in the Champion asking about Southport Ladies team and if it still exists.

The letter caught the eye of former Southport Ladies FC player, Gill Wallworth, who confirmed that the original club is, sadly, no longer competing.

However, she did paint a fascinating picture of the history of Southport Ladies FC and how the ‘trailblazing’ club was formed in 1969 under the name Southport Supporters Ladies.

Two years later, the club was given a huge boost when the Football Association lifted the ban on women playing on the grounds of affiliated men’s clubs.

This allowed Southport Ladies to kick on and Gill told the Champion how the female players even went on to compete in matches abroad, which was unheard of around that time.

Gill, who is still involved in the sport and is the secretary of The North West Women's Regional Football League, told the Champion: “The team played abroad on more than one occasion so were real trailblazers long before the amazing achievements of the Lionesses.

“Many of us attended an emotional reunion in 2019 to celebrate 50 years and we vowed then not to wait another 50 years to get together again.

“Those of us who remain to this day gathered in a local pub in Churchtown to watch all England's games which was such a thrilling experience and to give a nod to those we have loved and lost along the way.”

Women’s football has never been more in focus and pundit Alex Scott said the Euro 2022 success has ‘changed the way women’s football is viewed in this country’. However, it was a very different scenario back in the 1970s.

Gill explained: “As the FA ban on women playing football began to be lifted, the Ladies team began life in 1969/1970 as Southport Supporters Ladies and were loosely connected with Southport FC because as the name suggests a few of them supported the men’s team.

“Southport Ladies FC played from 1971 to 1976 in the now defunct Merseyside and Wirral Ladies Football League, they played on grassroots council pitches at Radnor Drive, Emmanuel Road, Victoria Park before moving to Fleetwood Hesketh on Fylde Road which was to be their last home venue.

“In 1976 several of the team re-located and formed a new team and became very successful as St Helens/Garswood Ladies. Try as they might those who were left tried to struggle on without such key players and sadly they disbanded in 1977.

“Southport Ladies re-formed a couple of times in the 1980s and 1990s with a different and younger squad of players but the halcyon days of the 1970s will never be forgotten by those of us who were there way back when.

“For some of us the journey continues and I am still involved in the game, as Secretary to the North West Women's Regional Football League, which sits five tiers below the FA Women’s Super League.”

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