Book Review: The Homecoming: The Lionesses and Beyond (Football Shorts) by Jane Purdon

Football Shorts are a series of books created in a collaboration between award-winning journalist and author Ian Ridley’s own publishing company Floodlit Dreams and renowned sports book publisher, Pitch Publishing. Ridley details in the Notes and Acknowledgments of the first in the series, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough, that the inspiration came about during lockdown and his desire for a short sporting read.

The intention is that there are to be three books in 2023, with the first, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough by Ridley (January 2023), the second (reviewed here) The Homecoming: The Lionesses and Beyond, from Jane Purdon who has extensive experience in sports administration and football in particular, and finally from comedian and writer Andy Hamilton with Blue was the Colour due for release in September 2023.


The Homecoming as with Ian Ridley’s Pantomime Hero is a heartfelt and personal story and not a single word is wasted in the 160 pages.

And within the five chapters the story unfolds not only about Jane Purdon’s association and love for the beautiful game, but about the reclaiming of football in this country with the Lionesses triumph in the European Championship Finals of 2022 and her hopes going forward as we sit just a short time away from the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. A real past, present and future debate, reflection and journey.

The book opens on the eve of the European Final back in July 2022. Purdon finds herself on a bench near home to calm her mind as she tries to comprehend what the Lionesses had achieved in reaching a sold-out Wembley and the prospect of them lifting the title against Germany. As a reader you can feel the summer heat drift you into Purdon’s sub-conscious as she describes her early years in becoming a fan at Sunderland, her years at Cambridge University attempting to get women’s football off the ground and significant and subsequent career in sport. A journey which has seen Purdon become secretary of her beloved Sunderland and roles within major bodies such as the Premier League, UK Sport, Women in Football and most recently Premiership Rugby.

The opening chapter also contains an excerpt from an article Jane wrote for the football publication When Saturday Come in November 1992 which said:

The real issue is to get women’s football properly publicised, funded and appreciated. The England women’s team winning the European Championship – now that is not a fairytale, it could just happen.

Chapter two then jumps 30 years from that quote and is Purdon’s personal telling of the European Championship tournament taking readers through the group games and up to the last four clash for the Lionesses against Sweden. As a reader and somebody who was able to get to watch group games over in Rotherham and the Semi-Final in Sheffield between England and Sweden, the magic, the emotion and pure joy of that month is beautifully captured by Purdon. To be at Bramall Lane that night felt like a privilege and was as engaging, emotional and dramatic game as any I’ve had watching football in the last 50 years.

So with the Final now booked against Germany, Chapter three focuses on that crazy yet wonderful afternoon when the Lionesses achieved what the men’s team couldn’t a year earlier and claimed the title of European Champions. And whilst yes, this book is full of the emotion and celebration of that occasion, Purdon always has an eye throughout the book on making serious points. One such relates to the crowd and behaviour at that men’s Final and the disgraceful events prior to the game that shamed the game and the contrast with that for the women’s event. Further, the win wasn’t just for Head Coach Sarina Wiegman and her wonderful squad, it was about all those that had gone before as pioneers of the game and the reclaiming of football 100 years after The FA’s ban which stated: the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.

Chapter four focuses on the euphoria post-victory and includes the friendly against the USA, the powerhouses of Women’s football. However, it was played against a backdrop of anger and revulsion. The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) had published an independent report which highlighted systematic abuse and sexual misconduct against players, with the finger pointing at those in charge for failure to have proper safeguarding and even more outrageously, seemingly turning a blind eye to the abuse.

The final chapter looks at the future of the women’s game and makes some significant points that whilst the Euros win has been hugely beneficial there are many issues out there. And that’s where this book is also a winner in raising these things. Take for instance the recent spate of ACL injuries that have seen players such as  Leah Williamson, Lionesses captain, miss out on the forthcoming World Cup – what has caused these, where is the research? Also, (and I was genuinely amazed) Purdon highlights the limited options for women’s football boots. And boots is where the story ends, as Purdon reclaims the game for herself buying her second ever pair after taking up playing again in September 2022.

As with the first book in the series, Jane Purdon has proved that ‘good things come in small packages’, with this second offering from Football Shorts, hitting the mark in being not only a joyous celebration of that balmy month in July 2022, but a genuine debate about the women’s game.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. May 2023. Paperback: 160 pages)


Buy the book here: The Homecoming

Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT


The Homecoming is Jane Purdon’s passionate, heartfelt account of the summer of 2022, when the Lionesses dazzled the nation and brought football home.

It’s also Jane’s personal story.

Since falling in love with football aged seven, Jane has been an activist, administrator and leader in the beautiful game, most recently as CEO of Women in Football.

Her journey takes in her early days as a Sunderland fan, her first kicks of the ball in her late teens, her pioneering work in the early 1990s to promote women’s involvement in football, and her subsequent career at the heart of the football establishment.

In 1992, Jane wrote, ‘The England women’s team winning the European Championship – now that is not a fairy-tale, it could just happen.’. Thirty years later that fairy-tale came true.

Jane reflects on what’s happened to women’s football in the aftermath of the Lionesses’ historic victory and what needs to happen next.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. May 2023. Paperback: 160 pages)


Buy the book here: The Homecoming

Book Review – ‘Unsuitable for Females’: The Rise of the Lionesses and Women’s Football in England by Carrie Dunn

Beth Mead, Leah Williamson, Chloe Kelly – women’s footballers and all household names after an epic summer last year saw the Lionesses reign supreme not only in Europe but in the public’s consciousness. But ask most football fans and they’d struggle to reel off the names of players from a decade ago, two decades ago, let alone going back to the origins of the women’s game over a century ago, whilst names like Billy Wright, Geoff Hurst and Duncan Edwards are as synonymous with the game today as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish. There is an entire history that has been overlooked for decades in the women’s game, yet academics, writers and researchers are working hard to plug that gap and publishers are starting to get on board. Sarina Wiegman’s team have done much in popularising the game and galvanising interest in women’s football, but theirs is only the latest chapter in a story that has too long been suppressed. Whilst we rightly celebrate this modern generation of women, it is crucial that we fill in the gaps, giving those who laid the foundations for the Lionesses from the nineteenth-century on their rightful place in the story and making them too household names. Carrie Dunn’s ‘Unsuitable For Females’ begins this important task.

The book takes its title from the ignominious 1921 declaration by the FA that would place a ban on the women’s game for fifty years, but Dunn begins the narrative even before that, with Nettie Honeyball and Emma Clarke –pioneers of women’s football, but figures who have both been mythologised in different ways. From these earliest days, Dunn’s book traces a history of the game through some of its leading lights, introducing names like Wendy Owen, Pat Chapman, Linda Curl, Karen Walker, Jody Handley, Anita Asante and many more. Influential coaches in the development of the women’s game, as well as some of the trailblazing teams, are similarly written back into the story, as Dunn plots the domestic and international narrative of the game. And even for those who take an interest in the history of the women’s game will find a wealth of new information in this well-researched book. Indeed, anyone wanting to know more about women’s football in England will not go far wrong in reading this book.

Speaking directly to many of those involved, the book reflects the challenges and obstacles that previous generations faced just to be allowed to play the game, but the pride and joy of those who found not only a love of the game but a sense of belonging and camaraderie within football shines through. And whilst many of those who relive their earlier experiences express little regret at having missed out on playing in the current era, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been for these players had the game not been held back half a century. There is a ringing truth, however, that anyone who has been involved in women’s football across history will attest to: that the players of the past are not inferior to their contemporaries, but rather are equal to those of today in talent, skill and quality and to suggest otherwise is to do them a gross disservice. This is a fact that is emphasised throughout the book by the women themselves: women who were the first to play for England, the first to play overseas and the first to win a historic quadruple. They rightly deserve their place alongside Sarina Wiegman’s pride of Lionesses and it is heartening to see this recognition emerge, albeit much too belatedly.

Whilst this generation of Lionesses have impressively stamped their mark on history and fiercely taken the opportunities that have finally come women’s way, it is humbling to think of those who missed out on such chances by a hundred, fifty or even ten years. We can only imagine what heights players like Lily Parr, Sylvia Gore, Sheila Parker et al would have reached in this era, but let’s not forget their names or their vital contributions in laying the foundations for Leah Williamson’s team to step into the light.

Postscript: Carrie Dunn’s ‘Unsuitable For Women’, it’s probably the most informative and significant contribution to a joined-up history of the women’s game that I’ve read, so was refreshingly eye-opening.

Jade Craddock

(Publisher: Arena Sport. June 2022. Paperback: 240 pages)


Buy the book here: ‘Unsuitable for Females’

Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

Book Review – Her Game Too: A Manifesto for Change by Matt Riley

When England’s Lionesses brought home the nation’s first major trophy in almost sixty years, they galvanised a nation. Fans new and old, male and female, got behind the team and women’s football reached new heights. It was a demonstration of all that is brilliant in sport and a celebration of equality and diversity at its finest. For many women, however, football hasn’t been, and isn’t always, a safe, welcoming and equal space. Incidents of sexism and misogyny have been all too often the experience of women in football, whether as players, employees or fans. And it was such undesirable experiences that led to two women making a stand.

On 15 May 2021, Caz May and Lucy Ford, both having suffered negative experiences as women at men’s football matches, established Her Game Too (HGT) – a campaign to ‘eradicate sexism in the football industry’ allowing ‘women and girls of all ages to feel confident and safe’ within football, which launched with a hard-hitting and impactful video, which I urge anyone to take a look at. Having grown from strength to strength and with increasing interest and visibility for women in the game, Matt Riley’s Her Game Too reflects on and takes up Caz and Lucy’s rallying cry.

The issue of a man writing this book may seem somewhat askew to some people, but, as Riley explains, he is simply a football fan, and in a world without sexism and misogyny that is what we all are: not male or female fans, just football fans. It is encouraging too for HGT to have such a proud and vocal male ally. Having said this, would it have been empowering to have a female author behind the book? Of course, but, ultimately, the most important thing is getting the message out there via supportive and cooperative means and Riley is clearly a committed and qualified ally. What’s more his book gives both voice to other key allies and, crucially, to the women themselves who have been affected by insult and abuse. Indeed, HGT carried out a survey of female fans in 2021 to get a sense of the extent of the problem and all 371 responses are included at the back of the book. If a reader chooses to read nothing else, this alone gives a clear indication of the problem that instigated the need for HGT.

The book itself offers a whistle-stop tour of some of the main issues, themes, experiences and developments when it comes to sexism and misogyny in the game and while it is clear there is much still to be done, there are examples, not least in the work of HGT, that offer hope. Whilst the growth of HGT may seem to reflect the continuing challenges in football, conversely it is a symbol of transformation and progress, of a groundswell of change, a chorus of knowing voices. The message that comes across loud and clear is that there is no reason why women shouldn’t be involved in football in whatever guise they wish, they have equal right to be supporters, players, managers, officials and the like in a safe, welcoming and inclusive game, now they just need to have equal opportunity.

Jade Craddock

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. October 2022 Paperback: 192 pages)


Buy the book here: Her Game Too

Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

Friendly International – Friday 07 October 2022: England (2) – (1) USA. Lionesses continue to roar

When England triumphed in the Euros final this summer, brushing all opposition, including former world champions Norway and Germany, spectacularly aside, there was only one match-up that women’s football fans longed for – England v USA.

For decades, The Stars and Stripes have been the dominant force in the women’s game and are the most successful team in its history, with four World Cup and four Olympic titles to their name. And for too long, the Lionesses have fallen well short of their transatlantic rivals. England’s commanding displays on their way to Euros glory, however, seemed to herald a new era for the Lionesses – one in which there has developed a feeling of confidence, a winning mentality, dare I even say it, an invincibility. And yet, whilst demolishing Norway 8-0 and seeing off Germany 2-1 are undeniably positive signs, as too was gaining their first ever trophy, there was a sense in which England’s progress would only really be evidenced by facing the reigning world champions. So the prospect of a friendly between the two countries at Wembley was a mouth-watering one.

Sadly, some of the celebration that should have surrounded this titanic clash was tainted by the troubling findings from a report into abuse and misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League – a disturbing reminder that women in football, in sport and in life in general continue to suffer unacceptable violations. Standing together in solidarity as sisters in arms, however, the two sides were keen to put on a positive spectacle in front of a packed Wembley and with the original Lionesses of 1972 in attendance, finally receiving their caps over half a decade on.

Billed as a friendly, in truth, it was clear that both sides viewed this match much more significantly, a real test and measure for both teams ahead of next year’s World Cup, albeit with key players missing key. For England, a core of their Euros-winning spine was absent, with pivotal captain Leah Williamson and mercurial young talent Alessia Russo both out with injury, leaving significant gaps in defence and up front, whilst this was the first match in nigh-on a decade without stalwarts Jill Scott and Ellen White. Whilst their absences were all notable, it is a marker of the Lionesses’ growing strength and Sarina Wiegman’s calm management that England’s line-up not only looked exciting and assured on paper but played that way too.

Indeed, with lightning-fast Lauren Hemp up front, supported by England’s player of the year Beth Mead and Euros final heroine Chloe Kelly out wide, the first fifteen minutes of the match in particular were some of the best football Wembley has seen – a real showcase not of the ‘women’s game’ but simply of football. And it was makeshift striker Hemp who broke the deadlock after just ten minutes, with the world champions visibly rocked and the European champions visibly in control.

Rightly or wrongly, the American team have often been accused of overconfidence, even arrogance, but it was England who had a decided swagger, certainly in the opening exchanges. The possession, speed of play and quality of passing and movement all showcased exactly what this new generation of Lionesses is about and to put on such a display against the reigning world champions was a real show of intent. In times past, there may have been a fear, an awe, even an inferiority when going to toe to toe with the USA, but in the opening quarter especially it was the Americans who looked shell-shocked.

If there’s anything sports fans know about the USA, however, it’s that you can’t write them off, so, in truth, there was some inevitability to them getting back into the game just before the half-hour mark, with the lively Sophia Smith proving a thorn in the Lionesses’ defence. But where once this setback and America’s renewed impetus may have deflated England, the culture of success and confidence that Sarina Wiegman has instilled and the Euros triumph cemented served to galvanise the Lionesses, who regained their focus and reasserted their control.

Central to this, as so often in recent times, was midfielder Keira Walsh. Her performance was a masterclass in assurance and class. Positional awareness, control, quality, there are surely few better, if any, right now than the Barcelona recruit. And whilst the Lionesses have proved they are very much a fully functioning team, for me Walsh is arguably the most important piece of the jigsaw. Elsewhere, Lucy Bronze who always seems to rise to the occasion on the biggest of stages was back to her imperious best, whilst Lauren Hemp proved her value across the front line and Rachel Daly, who is plying her trade up front for Aston Villa and is currently their top goalscorer, demonstrated the versatility and athleticism that has made her a constant in Sarina Wigeman’s team. Once again, though, this team succeeds because of its collective intent and focus, each member playing her part.

Whilst USA grew into the game and there were several nervy moments, not least with two decisive VAR interventions, England never looked overly troubled or timid. They matched the Americans’ well-known physicality and went toe-to-toe in every dual. But what was perhaps most impressive was that they stuck to their own style and strengths and took the game to their opponents. They did not sit back and let the world champions dominate, they set out their stall as European champions, at their home stadium, on their own turf, buoyed with confidence and self-belief, urged on not only by a jubilant Wembley crowd, bolstered by the women who had gone before, but by the backing of a nation who had been caught up in the Lionesses’ journey in the summer and found in their game inspiration, determination and hope.

England’s 2-1 victory over the USA may be written into the history books as just a friendly, but ask the women of 1972, ask Jill Scott, Ellen White and the World Cup semi-final-losing England team of 2017, ask any followers of the Lionesses and they’ll tell you that last night’s result was much bigger than that. It was a marker of how far England’s women’s team has come, a measure of how much the game has progressed, a signal of how bigger the interest has grown, and a warning for all other teams that this is a side who knows how to win, who believes in themselves and who are not afraid of whoever stands in their way. It is a side who are European champions and who have their sights firmly set on being world champions too. There is a long way to go to get there, but last night England made it very clear that from now on the USA and the rest of the world should beware.

Jade Craddock


Category: General | LEAVE A COMMENT

2022 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Longlist

The longlist for the 34th William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award has been revealed. A record 158 books were entered into this year’s Award, featuring a diverse mix of authors from across a wide range of sports including, tennis, football, athletics, golf, rugby and cycling.

Following a rigorous judging process from a panel including The Athletics’ Nancy Frostick, sports presenter Matt Williams and William Hill’s Neil Foggin, 15 authors have been selected for this year’s longlist.

The 15-book longlist features an array of topics including hard-hitting autobiographies and heart-breaking memories, along with harrowing accounts of racism and sexism in sport and never-been-heard before encounters of some of the most compelling figures within the sporting industry.

With the Lionesses winning the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 in July and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 taking place at the end of the year, it’s no surprise that topics around football dominates this year’s longlist, with eight books making the list. Cycling provides three titles, with athletics, golf, rugby union and tennis represented each with a single title.

Three female authors made the cut with retired track and field athlete Anyika Onuora, The Guardian’s football writer Suzanne Wrack, and former Irish international footballer Clare Shine are in the running for the Award. The story of female athlete Beryl Burton, who dominated the world of cycling, also features in the longlist.

Former sports stars, and first-time authors, Patrice Evra and Steve Thompson have also made the list for the Award which has a £30,000 cash prize for the winner.

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2022 Longlist:

Be Good, Love Brian: Growing Up with Brian Clough by Craig Bromfield (Football)

The Master: The Brilliant Career of Roger Federer by Christopher Clarey (Tennis)

1999: Manchester United, the Treble and All That by Matt Dickinson (Football)

Le Fric: Family, Power and Money: The Business of the Tour de France by Alex Duff (Cycling)

I Love This Game by Patrice Evra (Football)

England Football: The Biography: 1872-2022 by Paul Hayward (Football)

God is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Frank Vandenbroucke, Cycling’s Great Wasted Talent by Andy McGrath (Cycling)

My Hidden Race by Anyika Onuora (Athletics)

Scoring Goals in the Dark by Clare Shine with Gareth Maher (Football)

Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorised) Biography of Golf’s Most Colourful Superstar by Alan Shipnuck (Golf)

Expected Goals: The Story of how Data Conquered Football and Changed the Game Forever by Rory Smith (Football)

Unforgettable: Rugby, Dementia and the Fight of My Life by Steve Thompson (Rugby Union)

Beryl: In Search of Britain’s Greatest Athlete, Beryl Burton by Jeremy Wilson (Cycling)

Two Brothers: The Life and Times of Bobby and Jackie Charlton by Jonathan Wilson (Football)

A Woman’s Game: The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Women’s Football by Suzanne Wrack (Football)

Category: General | LEAVE A COMMENT

Euro Ramblings – Semi-Final: England v Sweden

England’s Lionesses have given the nation a lot to celebrate in the past couple of weeks but none more so than on Tuesday night, which was truly one to remember. Coming up against the second-ranked team in the world, Sweden, fighting for their place in a major final since 2009 and playing in front of an expectant home crowd, you’d be forgiven for thinking it might all be too much for the team, but this is a generation of Lionesses who have benefited from a vastly improved national league and who are led by a cool, clinical and, importantly, winning manager in Sarina Wiegman, so as with every other challenge that has faced them during her tenure, the Lionesses not only did the job, they made it look easy. Is it time perhaps to dream of the impossible: whisper it – It’s coming home!

Audacious Alessia – There has been talk of poor goalkeeping, but such comments are an absolute disservice to Alessia Russo’s audaciously sublime goal. Had Messi scored this, there would be proclamations of his genius, calls to erect statues and have the goal named in his honour. So why not Russo? After all, forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m not sure there’s been another back-heel nutmeg goal on the world stage (Google seems not to think so either). We’ve got the Cryuff turn, the Panenka, and back-heel nutmeg goal just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the Russo, does it? Whether or not the moniker slips into everyday football parlance or not, however, let’s take absolutely nothing away from it. Mere seconds before, Russo had, in truth, missed a sitter. Lesser-calibre players may still have been ruing their chance, standing still watching on, but not so Alessia Russo, who not only ensured she won the ball back, but then had the quickness of thought, skill and chutzpah to try the unexpected, which may just explain for all those naysayers why the Swedish goalkeeper failed to react. It was frankly the last thing anyone would anticipate, unless you’re Alessia Russo. And it was the sort of goal that the Puskas Award was created for, the sort of goal children all over the country attempt, that five-a-side players the world over dream of scoring, and to do so on the European stage in a semi-final is sheer brilliance. No doubt there’ll be a few mini Lionesses on their school holidays today practising the ‘Russo’.

Fighter Fran – Five months ago, Fran Kirby was sidelined from the game, suffering from a fatigue illness. Her inclusion in Sarina Wiegman’s squad may have raised some eyebrows, with question marks over her fitness, her ability to play back-to-back games, to contribute in a meaningful way, but if we’ve learnt anything these last couple of weeks, it’s not to question seer Sarina’s wisdom. And so it’s proved with Fran. The group-stage games may not have seen the Chelsea forward shine as she has done so often, but each proved valuable in building up her match fitness and her confidence, and Tuesday night we saw Fran growing back to her inimitable best. It was a complete performance, with her trademark probing attacking play, culminating in a deserved goal from a speculative effort, as well as a crucial penalty-box tackle that with most forwards would end in a penalty and yellow card. At 29, Fran has been through more than most in the game, on and off the pitch, but there is no doubting that she remains a crucial cog in the Lionesses’ wheel, and with her purring, whoever England face in the final need to be worried.

Immovable Mary – Let’s be honest, if we’re talking about a goalkeeper after a game, it’s usually not a positive, but Mary Earps’ contribution last night was as vital as any of England’s outfield players, if not more so. A save within the first thirty seconds set the tone, not only for Earps’ confidence but for that of the team. Okay, there was a questionable decision on a corner in the first half, but such is the makeup of all goalkeepers, half skittish, half cool as a cucumber. And that was the only moment of doubt in an otherwise flawless performance, from a goalkeeper, who, backed up by her stalwart defence, has only conceded one goal so far this tournament. It was her fingertip save in the second half, though, that really showed her quality, and perhaps it’s just me, but I was very much getting Jordan Pickford for England vibes in Earps’ confident, constant solidity and marshalling at the back. Like Keira Walsh and Millie Bright who have been exceptional throughout the tournament, Mary Earps may go under the radar, but her performance in Sheffield was, without question, a match-winner.

Ultimate Team Player – Debate over team selection will always be one that rages around any football match and in an international tournament, all the more so. For England, that has boiled down in recent games to the simple dichotomy of Russo or White when it comes to the starting XI. But the answer is far from simple, with pros and cons, backers and critics in each camp. For my part, I think Sarina has got it spot on, starting with Ellen who works tirelessly up top from the off, and bringing on Alessio fresh in the second half to take advantage of a jaded defence. There is nothing to say if the roles were reserved it wouldn’t be just as effective, and that given her impressive strike rate Russo doesn’t deserve the start, but tactically it seems to me that White starting and Russo off the bench seems a more effective play. Whatever option is used in the final, both strikers bring an incredible amount to the team, but at 33 White continues to display her quality as the ultimate team player. Her emotion at reaching Sunday’s final was heart-warming, but wouldn’t it just be fitting if England women’s record goalscorer equalled, or dare we even imagine it, surpassed Wayne Rooney as England’s overall top scorer in the final. And then if Russo comes on and scores another worldie too, I think fans of both players will be happy enough.

Final thoughts – A year on from the Three Lions’ breakthrough tournament, football has once again lifted a nation’s spirits. And it’s thrilling to see the Lionesses getting the support and backing of their male counterparts – and, indeed, throughout the tournament, from their male counterparts. Ian Wright has been a notable supporter, but seeing Premier League stars like Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and Harry Maguire out visibly supporting their teams and the tournament has been encouraging. For women who have been involved in the game, the tournament has also inspired a lot of pride. At times, in recent decades, it has been easy to look on and hear talk of progress and growth but really not see it evidenced. The backing given to the WSL, though, does seem to have provided a genuine turning point, but there will be many who fear it may not last. Every tournament there is talk of legacy, of kicking on, of moving forward, but in the past, largely it has proven to be just that – talk. Yes, the game has developed in each of those moments, but it hasn’t seen the sea change that many had hoped. Already, this tournament seems to be setting something in motion, and whilst a second-placed finish would be something to be proud of, winning the Euros, I feel, would have an everlasting effect. There is, to some extent, a feeling of déjà vu, to last summer, when the men had the chance to end 55 years of hurt, but sadly missed out at the final hurdle. Perhaps it’s fate that the women now have the chance to end this long wait for a trophy and how much greater their legacy, the lasting effect, should they be the ones to do so. And, who knows, by Christmas, we could have gone from 56 years without a trophy to winning two in six months, as Women’s Euros champions and Men’s World Cup champions, but I’m not getting carried away.

Jade Craddock

Book Review: Football, She Wrote: An Anthology of Women’s Writing on the Game (Part 1)

As mentioned by Jade Craddock in our two-part interview with the FBR regular writer, Football, She Wrote is a first, indeed unique anthology, in that it brings together 20 pieces of writing by women  focusing on their experiences of the most popular team sport in the world – football. The contributions come from 10 experienced writers who were commissioned and 10 new writers who like Jade were chosen after submitting their pieces to a competition, set up by publisher of the book, Floodlit Dreams with the Women in Football organisation.

You might ask, ‘why is a female only book required needed in this day and age?’ Well, in the Foreword by Gabby Logan this is eloquently answered: “While there are now so many women working across the industry in front of a camera, as pundits and commentators…women writers still have less visibility and opportunities. So to curate a body of written work, by women, is a milestone that should be marked.”

The great advantage of an anthology is that readers get an introduction to a range of different writers and subjects, providing that exposure and opportunity for women writers that Logan hopes for. However, it is no easy task for contributors, as their pieces have to be short and focused to deliver their message or story.

Overall what can readers expect from this anthology? Stylistically, there are interview pieces, profiles, memories, views and some creative writing with football at their heart and in the process cover topics such as the women’s game, the fan experience, as well as diversity, inclusion and sexuality. Whether you are male or female this is a thought provoking collection, which will challenge readers, but in equal measure stir the emotions.

However to do justice to all the contributors and their piece a short review of each chapter follows. The first ten feature here with the second ten found in Part 2 (to follow).

  1. Julie Welch – THE GIRLS OF ‘72
Scotland team 1972 v England (c) Daily Record

A real scene setter and great way to open the anthology with a potted history of the women’s game and how it was banned by The FA in 1921, this despite the significant popularity of teams such as Dick Kerr Ladies at the time. As Welch succinctly details, “the old man in blazers, the medical profession, the anti-suffragists, the patriarchy…won.”

It wasn’t until 1969 that the Women’s Football Association was established, with UEFA’s directive to member countries to recognise women’s football decisive in 1971. With this recognition, the Women’s FA Cup had its first final in 1970/71 and later on Saturday November 18, 1972 at the Ravenscraig Stadium in Greenock, Scotland Women hosted England Women in what was the first official women’s international for both countries. The events leading to that historic match driven by the efforts of Patricia Gregory and Elsie Cook lie at the heart of Welch’s piece.

It is an enlightening story that does make you consider what path the women’s game might have taken if it hadn’t been banned for half a century. Given that, it is a testament to all those down the years like Gregory and Cook and despite that ban, that in November 2019 England played Germany at Wembley in front of 77,768 – a record attendance for an England women’s home fixture.

  1. Hayley Davinson – MY SEASON-TICKET FRIEND

This piece is amongst the shorter ones within the book, but still packs a telling punch in an observational tale of life as a season-ticket holder. Like this FBR reviewer Davinson is a fellow Fulham supporter, so totally got her references to past players, the Europa League Final run and even the difficulty of getting a pint at half-time in the Hammersmith End!

Davinson’s focus though on how the area you frequent in your regular seat on matchday can lead to a unique type of friendship. It is a story of the shared experience of going to a game, and despite maybe having different political views, being a different age, sexuality or religion, cheering on your team is the one thing that binds you through all the ups and downs supporting your team brings.


This piece is based around an interview with a quite remarkable woman with an ordinary name – Joyce Cook. Readers discover that Cook overcame an abusive childhood, a battle with her sexuality, and disability to be awarded both a CBE and OBE as well in 2019 FIFA’s first Chief Education and Social Responsibility Officer.

It details how a visit to Old Trafford gave Cook the drive to get out of the depression she felt at being forced into a wheelchair with her disability and was the start of a journey that led ultimately to her role at FIFA. There are some real eye-opening descriptions of the awful conditions disabled fans have had to endure down the years even at major tournaments.

Battersby does a great job in telling the story of a women acknowledged as “one of the world’s leading voices on inclusion, anti-discrimination, and sustainable development in sport and wider society.”

(c) FIFA

Part of this anthology’s strength is its ability to challenge, stir emotion, create debate and make us laugh and indeed on occasions cry. Kehinde Adeogun’s tale is one that falls into the category of making readers smile. This piece tells of football fans Kehinde and sister Taiwo, who through their love of the game come to report on the FIFA 2007 Women’s World Cup in China for BBC World Service and its African sports programme, Fast Track.

With only a short course in radio journalism under their belts, and armed with a audio recorder, a copy of Lonely Planet: China, and no understanding of Mandarin, these two resourceful women set about providing both live and recorded content for the programme from the tournament.

What is evident through the writing is the joy and sheer enjoyment that their adventure brought them, and this translates to the reader. There are some memorable tales included as the women seek to order food at their hotel purely through sign language and on another occasion they are followed around late night supermarkets with the locals unused to seeing black people. However, this is not to detract from the fact that they carried out their role as required getting the interviews and content as required, which included an interview with now men’s Brighton manager but then technical director for the Ghana women’s team, Graham Potter. It’s a great advocate of the old adage, ‘you don’t get, if you don’t ask.’


It’s quite an achievement to find out about a person without interviewing them, but this is what Suzanne Wrack achieves in this piece devoted to Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes. Instead readers get to understand what makes the successful Hayes tick through Wrack’s interviews with her relatives and others within the game, as well as a look at her council estate upbringing – a childhood that Wrack herself experienced, and one that she likes to point out is not always about the cliqued view of concrete, poverty and negativity.

Against this background, we learn of how Hayes’ career was ended through a skiing accident, but that this only drove her on to earn coaching badges in various sports before travelling to the USA, the country most highly regarding in terms of football in the women’s game at the time and to this day. Back in the UK her quality as a coach took her to Arsenal working as an assistant, helping them to win 11 major trophies in a three-season spell. She moved to Chelsea in 2012 bringing the club nothing but success.

Emma Hayes is undoubtedly a winner but is founded on a deep determination to always strive to be the best, combined with creating a positive and trusting environment.

  1. Cassie Whittell – ANFIELD OF DREAMS

This piece is written in a diary format, relaying significant football related memories starting with the seven-year old Whittell at primary school in 1978, through to 2019 where as an adult she is working within football. The journey has various stops in 1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1994, 2000, 2004, 2010 and 2017 as Whittell explores the high and lows of being a female looking to get her football fix whether as a player or spectator.

Whittell opens with her picking of Liverpool as her team back in ’78 and the excitement of being “part of  Kenny Daglish’s gang.” That joy is dashed two years later when facing prejudice at school as hopes of entering the school five-a-side competition with an all-girl squad is rebuffed with the master in charge urging them to, ”Go and ask Miss Simpkins to put on a netball tournament for you instead.” The experience is no better in 1986 as England play Argentina in the World Cup, and as Maradona scores with the ‘Hand of God’ goal, Whittell is led out of the room by her aunt, saying, “it’s not for you love…leave the men to it.”

By the next World Cup in Italy, Whittell is obviously alone amongst her mates in seeing the beauty of the game epitomised by David Platt’s late goal against Belgium. However, the tide begins to turn in 1993 when Whittell attends her first game as Sheffield United host an Alan Shearer inspired Blackburn Rovers an experience she openly admits she loved and couldn’t wait to repeat. A year later Whittell goes to a game on her own and it was exhilarating to read how it made her feel – “Just me, raw and bold, whooping when Rotherham score, groaning when they conceded. I can feel free.”

The positivity continues when in 2000, in her work environment when Whittell’s football knowledge is acknowledged, however, is it tempered by sexist comments – the dawn of a new millennium, but no change in old attitudes. Skip forward four years and Whittell is visiting Old Trafford on Boxing Day imbibed not only with Festive spirit but the Liverpool view of their northwest neighbours, “the awful and detestable Manchester United”. Then in 2010, Whittell attends Anfield the home of the team she choose to follow back in 1978 for the first time. It was a joy to read of how overwhelming the experience was, and how it gave voice to release all her football frustrations. The final two entries for 2017 and 2019 see Whittell move first into a volunteer role and then into a full-time role within the game.

The piece is a wonderful journey, which illustrates how Whittell has fought to find her place in the game which since that playground choice in 1978 she has loved her whole life.

  1. Molly Hudson – WINNING AND LOSING

This is an incredibly personal piece from Molly Hudson looking at the career of Fran Kirby and also Hudson’s own journalistic journey. The one thing connecting the two women besides their success within their respective fields within football, is the emotional impact of the loss of their respective mothers.

Kirby started at Reading at the age of seven any by sixteen had made her senior debut. The death though of her mother Denise when Kirby was just fourteen deeply affected the young player. Kirby suffered with depression and walked away from the game. However, she returned in 2012 after her love for the game was rekindled after playing in a Sunday amateur league. Fulfilling the potential her mother always knew her daughter had, Kirby helped Reading to promotion and by 2014 had made her full England debut and then playing in the 2015 World Cup. It was a big year in that she also moved to Chelsea and has seen her pick up many trophies as The Blues have become a major force in the women’s game.

Hudson began writing for The Times in 2017 and has since covered the Premier League, Champions League and women’s World Cup. She covered the 2019 women’s World Cup against the backdrop of her mother’s terminal illness diagnosis, with work a distraction against the reality of the situation.

It is an inspiring piece and one which sheds some light on the grieving process and shows that as well as their outstanding talent both Kirby and Hudson have strength and courage in telling their respective stories.

  1. Ali Rampling – HIGHS AND LOWESTOFT

If you look at the recent winners of the women’s FA Cup over the last ten years, the current powerhouses are those of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. Go back to the ‘70s and it was Southampton and in the ‘80s it was the Doncaster Belles. Tucked away amongst the names of the finalists of that period are the Lowestoft Ladies who were runners-up to Southampton in 1978/79, and who would lift the trophy three seasons later in 1981/82.

Ali Rampling lifts the lid on the Suffolk club founded in 1971, and who just 12 months after their win over Cleveland Spartans (now Middlesbrough Women FC) at QPR’s Loftus Road, folded. In this interesting piece, Rampling interviews former players and management in discovering the success the club achieved, with many players featuring for England such as Debbie Bampton and Linda Curl. They totally dominated local football, winning the East Anglian League in 1972/73, 1973/74 and 1974/75 and continued their winning ways in the South East of England League as Champions in 1975/76, 1976/77, 1977/78 and 1978/79.

Despite all that success, there is the feeling that the club was let down by the football authorities, with Lowestoft, left without a division to play in after the South East of England League folded. The club’s applications to five other leagues were rejected due to their geographical location with the offer of a return to the East Anglian League not taken up, given that Lowestoft would have overwhelmed the teams at that level. With all their best players leaving, the club exited the FA Cup 7-0 just twelve months after lifting the trophy and folded at the end of the 1982/83 season.

  1. Isabelle Barker – TAKE THREE WOMEN…

This piece from Isabelle Latifa Barker, the first winner of the Vikki Orvice Scholarship and with it a two-year contract to work on the sports desk of The Sun, is a tribute to three women who have been role models for women aspiring to work within sports media and journalism.

Firstly, there is Vikki Orvice, wife of Ian Ridley, who sadly died in 2019, but was such a driving force and trailblazer as the first woman staff football writer for a tabloid, working at The Sun in 1995, as well as a founder and board member of Women in Football and vice-chair of the Football Writers’ Association (FWA). Secondly, Carrie Brown, the first female chair of the FWA, and presenter/reporter who has worked for the likes of Eurosport, Al Jazeera and BeIN Media and lastly Jacqui Oakley who has worked on major events for BBC, ITV, Sky Sports and various other media outlets.

The fitting tribute in highlighting the significance of the three is to be found in the closing paragraph of this piece. Of Brown, Barker praises her as she has “continued to break ground, always ensuring youngsters…have a supportive network of women to go to.” Whilst Oakley “has balanced the demands of motherhood with her high-stakes efforts to give confidence and advice to new mums in the industry”, with Orvice, “a fantastic mentor for many young female writers.” And as a trio, Barker acknowledges, “it’s thanks to these pioneers that we will be seeing more women in press boxes, newsrooms, in front of cameras an behind microphones up and down the country.”

  1. Katie Mishner – WHAT IT COULD BE LIKE

Ever been to watch you team but not felt part of it? Well this is exactly what Katie Mishner explores in this piece about her experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Mishner opens with her watching her beloved Newcastle United away at Blackburn Rovers, which is full of the usual passion and togetherness you experience as an away fan especially when you are 2-0 up after twenty-minutes. However, all this changes when one of the Toon fans screams a homophobic insult at a Rover player. Suddenly that feeling being part of something was deeply fractured and when a similar instance occurred at Hillsborough not long after, Mishner seriously questions whether there has been progress in the game in stamping out homophobia.

Her points are indeed valid when looking at the statistics Mishner provides, in addition to her  pointing out the rise in vile vitriol that still pervades social media not just in the arena of football, but in society in general. And what of FIFA? What were they thinking in awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia, a country “prolific in its persecution and violence towards this community (LGBTQ+) and Qatar in 2022, where “homosexuality is criminalised…and punishable by a prison sentence.”

However, against that Mishner offers hope in recognising the various bodies looking to make a stand, such as, Gay Football Supporters Network, Kick It Out, Pride in Football and Football v Homophobia. And out of that last initiative (Football v Homophobia) Mishner experiences what a game can be like as she and her partner attend a game at Altrincham where the club wears rainbow jerseys and in an environment and atmosphere where they simply were able to just enjoy the game. The hope is that going forward there will be less days like that experienced at Ewood Park and more days like that at Altrincham. Football is for everyone.


Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT