Birmingham City’s win on Saturday resulted in a rise out of the relegation zone and probably a rise in fans’ expectations too. In his interview after the game, Gary Rowett seemed to be trying to manage those expectations. As he was talking about the great support from the Blues’ fans he mentioned that the team would most need that support when they didn’t play so well and didn’t win.
Birmingham City’s Karen Carney didn’t get the result she hoped for when she played in the England team on Sunday. But she did receive her 100th cap and took part in a historic game; it was the first time that the England women’s team had played at Wembley. It wasn’t Karen’s first time playing at Wembley; she was in Team GB when they played there in the 2012 Olympics. I was fortunate to be in the 70,000+ crowd that saw them beat Brazil, the largest ever crowd to watch a woman’s football game in this country.
What I didn’t know at the time, was that the previous record had been set in 1920. I grew up believing that football was a man’s game and didn’t know that women had ever played it. When my dad first started taking me to games in the 1950’s it seemed that women weren’t expected to watch football either; he entered the ground through a turnstile that said ‘Men’ and I went in through one that said ‘Boys’.
It’s only recently that I’ve learned that there were some women’s football clubs in the 1890’s and that during the First World War almost every UK factory involved in war work had a ladies football team. The team from Dick, Kerr & Co Ltd was the most successful and attracted a crowd of 53,000 at Goodison on Boxing Day, 1920. The following year the Football Association banned women’s football on its clubs’ grounds and didn’t lift that ban until 1971. During the war the FA had supported women’s football while the League programme was suspended and women’s teams were raising funds for wounded soldiers. After the war, when Dick, Kerr Ladies FC was attracting larger crowds than men’s football, the FA decided that “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”