This page explains the origins of the Lancashire Trophy and the Dick, Kerr Ladies reunion in 1992.
In 1986 I was responsible for setting up The Lancashire Trophy, a two day residential International Women's Soccer Tournament and at the height of its success it was regarded among the best women's football tournaments in Europe. Our main sponsor was Wyre Borough Council and among others I had an enormous amount of help from Vicky Tindall. Although Vicky had no previous knowledge of football her enthusiasm for this tournament was tangible. Many were the cold winter nights when we would meet to share our ideas for the next year's competition. Lynn Arstall was the brains behind the fixtures and results co-ordination and the success of the whole weekend would not have been achieved without their contribution. (But secretly Vicky was bravely battling cancer, a battle she sadly lost in 2003). During the lifetime of this incredible tournament, teams from Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Eire, Scotland and all parts of England each competed to be winners of The Lancashire Trophy.
The theme for the whole event was Football, Friendship and Fun! Teams would arrive on a Friday and after their long journey we welcomed them to the venue with a barbeque and Karaoke disco. There was nothing quite like a few drinks and a good old fashioned 'sing song' to bring people together for this very special weekend. Football was played all day Saturday and Sunday and the winners received their medals at a gala presentation evening when they were entertained with a star cabaret and disco. Over the years we were fortunate and honoured to have guest appearances from Geraldine Rees, the first female jockey to complete the Grand National racecourse on her horse 'Cheers'; Shirley Strong, Olympic Silver Medal winner in the hurdles at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles; Sheila Ferguson, former lead singer (and favourite of Prince Charles) of the legendary female vocal group, The Three Degrees, who entertained us with her superb talent on four occasions; Mia Carla, a top class comedienne who was always a favourite with the audience and Rita Tushingham, the BAFTA and Golden Globe award winning British actress who presented the medals to the winning teams at the very last event in 2000. It was a fabulous weekend with a wonderful atmosphere which captured the true spirit of what the tournament had come to represent.
In the spring of 1991 a chance meeting with Brenda Eastwood, a former Dick, Kerr Ladies player, gave me the idea of trying to organise a reunion of the team to meet up again at The Lancashire Trophy during Preston Guild year, 1992. The tournament had been included in the official list of events and this was the first time that women's soccer had been officially recognised in the Guild calendar. Given the history of women's football in my home town and the prestige of our event having Guild status, I wanted to do something extra special for The Preston Guild Lancashire Trophy. The Guild occurs only once every twenty years I thought that in all probability the 1992 celebrations were likely to be the last one many of them would see, and what better time to try to stage a reunion of this world famous team!
An appeal in the local press proved very successful and I was able to locate seventeen former players but only fourteen of them were able to come to the reunion. They were eagerly anticipating what lay ahead and plans for their very special day came together extremely well. On Sunday, 2 August 1992, at The Preston Guild Lancashire Trophy, the Dick, Kerr Ladies were reunited for the first time in almost forty years. What a wonderful night it was for 'my ladies' and the event was to change the remainder of their lives. Together for the first time in all those years were: Joan Whalley, Dorothy Whalley, Edna Clayton, Joan Burke, Frances Appleby, June Gregson, Marjorie Foulkes, Audrey Coupe, Muriel Heaney, Jean Lane, Brenda Keen (Eastwood), Barbara Widdows, Sheila Parker and Barbara Prescott.
The Dick, Kerr Ladies immediately became a special part of The Lancashire Trophy (and my life) and every year they would come along, bring with them their unequalled charisma and share their own personal stories and experiences with present day women footballers who had the rare opportunity of touching history. I don't know who loved it more!
1997 marked the 80th anniversary of the formation of the Dick, Kerr Ladies and to celebrate this landmark we staged an exhibition football match and saw them take to the field for the first time in over forty years. Sadly though, Brenda Eastwood had passed away earlier that year and we paid tribute to her with a minutes silence before this memorable match. The opposition were Freedom Glads from London and you would be hard pressed to find a nicer bunch of women. I had the honour of being a guest player with the Dick, Kerr team and scored one of the goals in a 2-0 victory, helped of course by the generosity of the opposition and referee!
The new Millennium was approaching and it seemed the appropriate time to bring the curtain down on The Lancashire Trophy. The loss of my dear Mum in 1998 led to the postponement of the event for a couple of years but I wanted to take that very special tournament and the Dick, Kerr Ladies, into the 21st Century for one last big finale. I wasn't sure if it would be possible to get it off the ground again after such a long lay off but the response from everyone was quite spectacular. The affection held for this whole event quite simply blew me away and two teams even got together especially to take part! Maria Harper put together a team made up of Premier League players and several England internationals. Margaret McGough and Liz Deighan put together a team of veterans, calling themselves Dick, Kerr's Kids! Looking back now on the names of all those players who took part is like a who's who of women footballers of that era and the new millennium meant we had all become pioneers from the last century. What better way to celebrate this milestone than with the most famous pioneers of them all? The proceedings would not have been complete without an appearance from the world famous Dick, Kerr Ladies and they did not disappoint. We staged an exhibition match before the final but we had to recruit some 'younger legs' to the line up. Rita Tushingham showed what a good sport she is by being a guest player for the team. The most appropriate opposition for this historic game was the Dick, Kerr's Kids and what a spectacle it was. At 84 years of age, Nancy Thomson was the oldest player on the field and maybe even the oldest player ever to take part in a football match. The Dick, Kerr Ladies XI won their first and last ever match of the 21st century. The result was a 2-0 victory for the Dick, Kerr Ladies but the generosity of the opposition should not be overlooked!
DICK, KERR'S KIDS - 2000
Jill Thomas, Gill Harrop, Lori Savona, Cath Tunacliffe, Karen Cummins, Chris Slater, Viv Cutbill, Liz McDonald, Marita Louis, Angela Gallimore, Karen Pugh, Janice Murray, Lesley McGarry, Nora Critchley, Jo Beech, Ann Harkins, Jill Anson, Julie Simmons, Sharon Morris, Karen Houltram, Pam Markie, Tracy Wheeldon, Sandra Moore, Kathy Gore, Fiona Head, Margy Parsons, Tracy Davidson, Yvonne Gagen.
Thank you to all the teams who took part in The Lancashire Trophy, for making it the success it became and the fantastic memory it now is:
Aberdeen Tyseal; Broadoak; Bolton Bodiceans; Central Bank, Dublin; Chorley; Norcross; St Helens; Tolka Swifts, Dublin; Wishaw; Vanersborg's IF, Sweden; Cumbernauld; Glasgow Hearts; Whitehill; Ingol Belles; Preston Rangers; Vasalunds IF, Sweden; Edinburgh Dynamo; Sussex Martlet; Lady Blues; Leasowe; BAC Warton; Yverson-Sports Feminin, Switzerland; Wigan; Newton; USVG Grossrussbach, Austria; Vernon Carus; VFB Linden 53, Germany; Leicester; South East Counties; Manchester Utd; Castle Rovers, Co Kildare; Burnley Bank Hall; Furness; Inveralmond Thistle; St John Bosco Girls, Dublin; Maidstone Tigresses; Limerick Utd; Analog Devices, ROI; Red Star Southampton; Highfield Rangers; Bromley Borough; Ballymun Airspeed, Dublin; Falkirk; Liverpool; Rochdale; SV Vreden 52, Germany; Western Belles; Trash 'n' Reddy Rangers; Norwich Utd; Gloucester Greyhounds; Stirling; Meadow Athletic; Clacton; Carterton Town; Maryhill Eagles; Clapton; Radcliffe Boro; Brentford; Hamilton; Freedom Glads; Cheltenham; Stirling Albion; Preston North End; FC Pheonix; Bury; Cheltenham Town; Shettleston Juniors; Ambassadors in Sport; G Girls; Dick, Kerr's Kids.