Today’s Women’s FA Cup final seems to be a “dream” for Southampton Team captain Lesley Lloyd said the players were the first winners of the competition 50 years ago.
The former midfielder, 74, bypassed the Saints for a 4-1 win over Scotist Stewarton Thistle’s side during the inaugural final at Crystal Palace National Sports Center in May 1971.
It came as Football association lift the ban on girls’ games that was put in place, on Sunday, exactly 100 years ago.
When asked what she and her teammates would think in 1971 if it were known what the game would look like 50 years later and the overall progress in women’s football in the country would be achieved by that time, Lloyd told PA news agency: “We would have thought it was a dream.
“We all want to be 50 years younger. I would love to play in this day and age. I’m proud that we were the pioneers that started it all, certainly with the women’s cup final.”
Looking back on the 1971 final, Lloyd recalls the build-up to the day that included her and her teammates going out for coffee and cake, then eating cheeseburgers and pickles outside the venue, and that “when we saw the actual playing surface, the grass was very long – that was my first thought. ”
She recalls that as the match was going on, in front of what she estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 people, “her knees felt like they were going to pound” because of nerves. In closing, after Pat Davies’ hat-trick gave Norman Holloway’s team victory, they were “overjoyed – I don’t think we know what to do with ourselves!”
Lloyd added: “I was given the cup, picked it up and it was great. Everyone in the stands clapped. For us 50 years ago, it was our Wembley.”
The women’s team in England has come a long way in the following half-century, and the FA Cup final has been played at Wembley since 2015.
“They (current players) have a coach, a nutritionist, a fitness, everything arranged for them,” said Lloyd. Don’t forget we are paying our own way. We had to pay for everything and none of the facilities really stopped.
“It’s great to see what women’s football has achieved now. It will be a dream for us. The girls can join a base club, look for symbols, progress to any level they can.
“Obviously we were hoping, but we started playing, then it was banned, and you think ‘what happens next?’ Fortunately, the FA has been very progressive.
“I feel very honored and proud that I am the man who has led the team, and I know all the players will say the same.
“We had a few England appearances after that, and I know a few would be worth what we have (now), if we had the facilities, the coaching training. What really hasn’t changed is the nature of competition – 50 years ago we were just as competitive as we are now. ”
Earlier this year, Lloyd returned to the Crystal Palace venue with her 16-year-old granddaughter, and she said: “It delivers a lot.
“My niece was surprised. Obviously I told her piece by piece. She said ‘I can’t understand how you’ve been treated’.
“It has brought back some lovely memories, and it becomes the home that no one can take that away from you – Southampton team, I am the captain. It’s there for life, that’s brilliant. ”
Lloyd and the women’s FA Cup winning captains have been invited by the FA to Sunday’s game where they will be recognized in a variety of ways.
Their names will be displayed on the steps leading to the royal box, and captains will be introduced to the crowd during the halftime break. Before the game started, Lloyd and Elsie Cook, the 1971 Stewarton Thistle captain, would bring out the cup and place it on the stand.
In addition, Lloyd and four other captains shared memories in a ‘Dear FA Cup to the Women’ letter, parts of which will be published on Sunday’s programme. They will be donated to Manchester’s National Football Museum after the game.
:: Tickets for the Vitality Women’s FA Cup final on Sunday 5 December cost from £20 for adults and £2.50 for children and fans can still purchase tickets for the final by visiting Go to ticketing.thefa.com
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/football-association-southampton-arsenal-wembley-scottish-b1969658.html Great to see what women’s football has achieved – Saint ‘pioneer’ Lesley Lloyd