How Manchester Corinthians blazed trail for women's football

The ORIGINAL Lionesses: How trailblazing squad of working women defied ‘male-only’ FA rule from the 1950s to the 1970s to forge path for today’s England women’s team who last night smashed Sweden’s Euro 2022 dreams

  • Manchester Corinthians Ladies Football Club was formed in 1949 by Percy Ashley, a Bolton Wanderers scout
  • Took part in international tournaments from the 1950s until the early 1970s, winning more than 50 trophies
  • The team played despite Football Association’s ban on women’s football in affiliated stadiums 

Last night England’s women ended their semi-final curse by beating Sweden 4-0 and getting one hand on the Euro 2022 trophy.  

But fans of the hugely popular team would do well to remember the struggles faced by a pioneering women’s team that overcame obstacles to play in front of thousands of fans across the world for more than 15 years. 

Manchester Corinthians Ladies Football Club defied a ban on women’s football on Football Association-affiliated grounds by taking part in international tournaments from the 1950s until the early 1970s. 

The team was established in 1949 by Bolton Wanderers scout Percy Ashley, so his daughter Doris – who was deaf and very talented at football – could play and socialise with other women. 

The women, who all had full-time jobs, went on to play against teams including Juventus and won more than 50 trophies in Europe and South America but donated all their winnings to charities that included the International Red Cross. 

Video footage that features on the new website BBC Rewind shows significant crowds watching the Corinthians in action in Wales in 1960.  

Now, a £10,000 fundraising campaign has been launched with the aim of installing a commemorative plaque, information display and mural at the team’s former base in Didsbury, so that the trail-blazing players get some recognition. 

Football historian Dr Gary James said: ‘Manchester is known as a footballing city and we have been blessed with some incredible successes over the decades, but our major contribution to the history of women’s football from the 1940s has not been given the recognition it deserves. 

‘There are statues, plaques and other tributes to men’s football across Greater Manchester yet there’s nothing permanent on the women of Manchester Corinthians. It’s time we rectified that.’

Fans of the hugely popular England Women’s football team would do well to remember the struggles faced by pioneering female amateur side Manchester Corinthians Ladies Football Club. Above: The club’s founder Percy Ashley with his daughter Doris (pictured standing next to him) and other members of the side in the early 1950s

Manchester Corinthians Ladies Football Club defied a ban on women’s football on Football Association-affiliated grounds by taking part in international tournaments from the 1950s until the early 1970s. Above: Former Manchester Corinthians players at a 2018 reunion. The women played in various iterations of the side. Back row, left to right: Jean Wilson, Pauline Quayle, Hazel Bancroft, Margaret Griffiths, Myra Lypnyckyj, Margaret Taylor, Janice Lyons, Gill Holland and Margaret Whitworth. Front row: Veronica Bailey, Anne Grimes, Marlene Goddard, Alice Elliott 

Women’s football burgeoned in popularity during the First World War, after the Football Association had postponed the professional men’s leagues. 

However, in 1921, the women’s professional game was effectively killed off by the FA’s decision to prohibit women from playing in registered stadiums. The ban was not lifted until 1971. 

The team was established in 1949 by Bolton Wanderers scout Percy Ashley (pictured)

Eccentric Mr Ashley, who was also in charge of Britain’s national mouse club, formed the Manchester Corinthians in part because there was no other existing women’s team in Manchester and he wanted to give his daughter somewhere to show off her talent.

The Corinthians’ side was built around Doris, who was the captain. Former players remember her as both an outstanding footballer and a keen disciplinarian. 

However, because of the ban imposed by the FA, the women had to play their home matches at the run-down Fog Lane Park ground, which had no running water and unheated changing rooms.

Because of the lack of facilities, players would take to washing themselves after matches in the nearby duck pond. 

Despite the hardship, in their first three years of existence the team won seven trophies.  

In 1957, Mr Ashley formed another team, ‘The Nomads’ so that the Corinthians could play against them in international charity matches. At the time, there were very few women’s teams in the region. 

The clip that features on BBC Rewind shows the two sides playing each other in Flintshire on May 15, 1960. 

The team’s globetrotting saw them play in front of crowds of more than 50,000 people in South America, whilst in Berlin they beat Germany’s women 4-0 in 1957. 

In 1959, the team spent two weeks touring the Netherlands, whilst their most ambitious tour came in 1960 when they spent 12 weeks playing in South American countries and the Caribbean. 

A tour of Ireland came in 1962, whilst the team went to Morocco in 1966 and France in 1970. In France, the team beat Juventus 1-0 to claim yet another trophy. 

Margaret Shepherd, 75, from Cheshire, played in the side for around five years from 1967. 

She told MailOnline that she had not been aware that women played football in an organised fashion until a work colleague took her to a training session. 

We’re Corinthians from Manchester

Football Ladies from Lancashire

Blue and Black for Corinthians

Boy! What a team!

Fa la la la la la

We’ll beat anyone who we play

Makes no difference, home or away

We have the talent

Our youngsters are gallant

Corinthians from Manchester


‘Up until that point I played with the lads and never knew that women played football,’ she said.

She added that her time in the side was ‘absolutely brilliant’. 

By the time the FA’s ban on women’s football in affiliated stadiums was lifted, the Corinthians and Nomads between them had raised more than £275,000 for charity. 

As well as the International Red Cross, they also raised money for Oxfam.

Professor Jean Williams, the author of the book The History of Women’s Football, told MailOnline: ‘The Manchester Corinthians are totally inspirational in terms of playing for the love of the game. 

‘It is a great British story because they pioneered women’s football globally, in South America and in Europe.

‘They were phenomenally technical as players, they were great technicians. It is a hidden history that we need to celebrate more.’

She added that the Corinthians were ‘deadly serious’ about football, despite the fact that they were officially amateurs. 

‘We talk about overlapping wingbacks now, the players were taught those techniques by Percy,’ she said. 

‘They were so good that sometimes they would beat the opposition so extensively they would put their defenders in attack, just to challenge themselves as a team.’

Whilst Mr Percy passed away in 1967, the team carried on playing until the mid 1970s, when it was wound down.

Mr Ashley, who was also in charge of Britain’s national mouse club, is seen above with an early Corinthians side

Despite the hardship faced by the sie, in their first three years of existence the team won seven trophies. Above: Former player Jan Lyons

In 1957, Mr Ashley formed another team, ‘The Nomads’ so that the Corinthians could play against them in international charity matches. At the time, there were very few women’s teams in the region. The team’s globetrotting saw them play in front of crowds of more than 50,000 people in South America, whilst in Berlin they beat Germany’s women 4-0 in 1957. above: Some of the Corinthians’ match programmes 

The Corinthians are seen during one of their international tours. The side raised nearly £300,000 for charity during their time playing and winning tournaments 

Corinthians players are seen celebrating after winning another tournament in Reims, France in 1970. They beat a Juventus side 1-0

The FA’s ban on women’s football in affiliated stadiums was lifted in December 1971. The official England women’s side was formed in 1972 and played their first match against Scotland in November of that year. 

The current fundraising campaign to give the Corinthians recognition includes plans to spend £2,500 on a commemorative plaque, £7,000 on an information display and more than £10,000 on a mural depicting the women. 

Click here to donate to the fundraising campaign. 

Lionesses are FOURSOME! England roar into Euro 2022 finals after 4-0 victory in clash against Sweden as fans cheer on women’s team in parks and Duke of Cambridge voices support

  • England are headed to the Euro 2022 final after thrashing Sweden 4-0 in their semi final clash in Sheffield 
  • The Lionesses are through to a major final for the first time since 2009, where they lost to Germany
  • Tens of thousands of supporters filled up fan zones to watch the incredible clash on big screens in parks
  • Where did you watch the match? Send your pictures and stories to [email protected]

By Matt Powell for MailOnline 

England are through to their first major final since 2009 after the Euro 2022 hosts thrashed Sweden with a 4-0 victory at Bramall Lane.

Chants and choruses of ‘football’s coming home’ are filling the streets of Sheffield’s city centre, after thousands of fans watched at the stadium and gathered on the city’s Devonshire Green to watch the goal count mount on a giant screen. 

Following a shaky start for the Lionesses in which Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius hit the bar, Beth Mead, already leading the race for the Golden Boot, put Sarina Wiegman’s side ahead with a 34th-minute strike that took her to six goals for the tournament.

Mead then turned provider early in the opening moments of the second half, delivering a corner that was headed in by Lucy Bronze, before substitute Alessia Russo notched her fourth goal of these finals with an incredible back-heeled effort in the 68th minute.

Fran Kirby added the fourth with a chip eight minutes later and it could have been even better more for England, with Lauren Hemp having rattled the woodwork at 2-0, as they comprehensively avoided more semi-final disappointment after exiting at this stage at their last three major tournaments.

They can now look forward to a showdown on Sunday with either Germany or France at a sold-out Wembley, where victory will secure them the first major trophy in their history.

It will be a third appearance in the competition’s final after the runners-up finishes of 13 years ago – when they suffered a 6-2 loss to Germany – and at the inaugural Euros in 1984, which saw them beaten on penalties by Sweden.

Triumphing on Sunday would also mean back-to-back Euros successes for boss Wiegman, who, after overseeing her native Netherlands winning the 2017 edition on home soil and then reaching the 2019 Word Cup final, has had an England tenure that remains unbeaten after 19 matches, with 17 wins, 104 goals scored and only four conceded.

The sense the team are on the brink of something special was certainly tangible among England fans in the 28,624 crowd at the stadium, with chants of ‘football’s coming home’ reverberating around the ground at various points.

England scorer Beth Mead, told BBC One: ‘I think when the full-time whistle went we didn’t know what to do. Unbelievable atmosphere. I enjoyed it.’ 

England are headed to the Women’s Euro 2022 finals on Sunday after the put four goals past Sweden this evening 

England’s defender Lucy Bronze scored the second goal in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final

Supporters across the country watched England cruise past Sweden in fan zones and on big screens in parks

Lucy Bronze of England celebrates scoring their side’s second goal. England will face either Germany or France in the final on Sunday

Fran Kirby celebrated with her teammates after scoring to give England an unassailable 4-0 lead

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tweeted their appreciation of the incredible result

 Prince William tweeted during the game to show his appreciation of the stellar performance

A supporter celebrates after England’s first goal as she watches from the fan zone in Trafalgar Square

Just over five minutes after England scored their third goal, Francesca Kirby made it 4-0 in their Euro 2022 semi final clash against Sweden

Ellen White puts her hands on her head in disbelief, after England’s 4-0 victory of Sweden

The jubilant lionesses showed their appreciation to the crowd of nearly 30,000 at Bramall Lane

Sweden’s Kosovare Asllani covers her face after the difficult loss to England

Sweden’s players consoled each other and were dejected after losing the semi final match

Beth Mead won the player of the match award, and may end up being the tournaments top goal scorer

Leah Williamson and Alex Greenwood cheerfully celebrate their victory together

Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, wish the team good luck before kick off and tweeted his praise after the match.

The Duke of Cambridge said: ‘Congratulations @Lionesses on making it to the #WEURO2022 final on Sunday. The entire country is so proud of everything you’re achieving.

‘We believe in you and will be with you all the way! W’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘On to Wembley! A fantastic result for Captain @leahcwilliamson and the @Lionesses tonight against Sweden.

‘Come on England, bring it home #WEURO2022’

Former England international Gary Lineker called the game a ‘fabulous performance’, while captain of England’s men’s team Harry Kane tweeted: ‘Yesss @Lionesses! Bring on the final’  

Sir Kier Starmer, who was watching the game at the stadium, tweeted: ‘Incredible match! The @Lionesses are through to the #WEURO2022 final! #ItsComingHome.’

Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, tweeted: ‘Unbelievable. What a match. These England women are just incredible.

‘Bring on Sunday!! #ItsComingHome’.

England are currently winning their Euro 2022 semi final game against Sweden 3-0 (Beth Mead scoring the first goal pictured)

Beth Mead (second right) celebrates scoring her sides first goal of the game during the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final match

Fans celebrated the huge victory for England in Trafalgar Square this evening

England fans at Devonshire Green, Sheffield, fall over celebrating Beth Mead’s goal as they watch a screening of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final

Fans celebrate England’s second goal at the fan zone in Trafalgar Square

Prince William tweeted out his support for England shortly before kick-off

Manchester United player Harry Maguire (right), his ex-colleague Juan Mata (middle) and Swedish teammate Victor Lindelof are watching the game

England fans making their way to the stadium ahead of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield

Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer has been spotted in the crowd watch the tense semi final

Young England supporter Amelia Sowden is ready to watch the clash against Sweden inside the Fan zone

A family of supporters from Taughton arrived inside the Fan zone today hours before the big game

The whole crowd was celebrating and whooping as England made it through to the final.

As Fran Kirby scored England’s fourth goal of the night, there were smiles all around in Trafalgar Square.

Zuha Animashaun, 19, a student who lives in London, said: ‘It’s coming home.


England will contest their fifth major football final on Sunday.

Here we look at how England’s men’s and women’s teams fared on the previous four occasions.

1966 World Cup final: England 4 West Germany 2 Sir Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick powered Sir Alf Ramsey’s men to glory in England’s maiden major final on home soil at Wembley. The two sides were locked at 2-2 and dragged into extra-time, until Hurst’s strike handed England the lead, in what still remain controversial circumstances.

Soviet Union linesman Tofiq Bahramov helped award the goal, insisting the whole ball had crossed all of the goalline after rebounding off the crossbar, but television footage remains inconclusive. England went on and wrapped up the triumph, with Hurst lashing the ball into the top corner, met by the commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s immortalised narration: ‘Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over, it is now!’

1984 European Championship final: England 1 Sweden 1 aggregate score after two legs, Sweden won 4-3 on penalties England reached the final of the inaugural women’s European Championship, only to fall short in agonising fashion in a penalty shoot-out. A two-legged affair saw the first clash take place in Gothenburg, where the hosts won 1-0 thanks to Pia Sundhage’s effort. Linda Curl dragged England back into the reckoning in a 1-0 second-leg win at Luton’s Kenilworth Road. Curl and Angela Gallimore missed from the spot however, as Sweden prevailed.

2009 European Championship final: England 2 Germany 6 England’s women battled through to the final, edging out the Netherlands after extra-time in the semi-finals. But the Helsinki showdown against Germany proved a step too far in the event. The Germans hammered England 6-2, with Birgit Prinz and Inka Grings both scoring twice. Karen Carney and Kelly Smith netted for England, but the Lionesses were overwhelmed and overpowered.

2020 European Championships final: Italy 1 England 1, Italy won 3-2 on penalties Gareth Southgate became the most successful England coach since Ramsey by steering the Three Lions to the Euros final, rearranged for 2021 due to the pandemic. Luke Shaw’s early goal had England in dreamland, only for Leonardo Bonucci to equalise in the second half for an increasingly influential Italy. The Azzurri then inched through the shoot-out, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missing penalties.

‘The atmosphere has been absolutely electric.

‘Scoring four goals is a bonus to that and it’s been really good fun.’

Student Freddie Lagesse, 18, who lives in Chiswick, said he ‘felt proud’.

‘It’s been really good fun. Everyone’s been great and I’m so happy to see England represented.’

Sam Duce, 24, who lives in London and works in telecoms, said: ‘It was great to see some long overdue support for the women’s team.’

Claudia Bruce, 24, from Leicester, said the victory was ‘huge’, adding that ‘women’s football has never been more supported’.

Alice Potts, 24, from Leicester, added: ‘Russo’s backheel goal was phenomenal.’

In Sheffield, Jamie Ferreday, 27, from Chesterfield, said: ‘I think it’s the best England win in a century to be honest.

‘I think it’s genuinely coming home. We beat Sweden – the best team in the tournament. Who have we got to fear now?

‘I didn’t think it would be this good. England normally make us sweat.’

Ali Parkin, 19, from Sheffield, said it was all just too much.

‘I can’t cope,’ Ms Parkin said.

‘I thought we’d win, but maybe by a single goal in extra time – but not this. I cannot believe it.’

Jamie Broughton, 22, from Dronfield near Sheffield, said: ‘There’s no doubt we’re gonna go all the way now. I don’t think anyone can stop us.’

Jeff Lomas, from Salford said: ‘What a great occasion? We just battered them in the second half. I just want Germany now in the final.’

Charles Turner, 37, said his daughter Maisey was inspired.

He said: ‘Role models, every single one of them. I’m a bit emotional, if I’m honest.

‘They could teach the men a thing or two. Absolutely amazing stuff.’

Maisey, 12, said: ‘I liked all the goals but the third one was the best. I could not believe it.’

When Alessia Russo potted England’s third with her audacious back-heel, firefighters in Sheffield joined in the adulation, tweeting: ‘We’re getting reports of footballers on fire at Bramall Lane.’

Fixtures at Bramall Lane so far in the tournament have already set new records for group stage matches not involving the host, with 21,342 attending Sweden’s clash with Holland and 22,596 witnessing their victory over Switzerland.

Sheffield City Council estimates 7,500 international fans have attended fixtures in the city and that footfall was up by 22%, more than 10,000, on the Saturday of the opening fixture in Sheffield.

It said the economic impact for the city, which has put its hat in the ring to host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest, is expected to be around £3 million.

Fans nearly packed out Bramall Lane while tens of thousands of people flooded to cheer on the Lionesses at fan zones up and down England including in Trafalgar Square with Michael Owen among the chorus of stars wishing them luck.

An ‘excited’ and tanned David Beckham recorded a video from what appeared to be his yacht in Saint-Tropez – where he is holidaying with Victoria and their children – and thanked the team for inspiring millions of girls including his daughter Harper, 11, who he said would be ‘watching tonight’.

The vast majority will watch at home and are predicted to spend £100million – including £90million on food and booze at major supermarkets to enjoy during the match.

After an extra time win over Spain last week, England faced the Swedes in Sheffield with roughly 14million viewers tuning in on BBC1 for kick off. If the numbers are confirmed it will be a record for women’s football in the UK.

A report by predicts that as well as spending £90million on food and drink, fans will also spend £7million on official kit, £2.8million on other merchandise and more than £1million on a new for the final at Wembley on Sunday.

Waitrose have said the biggest sellers ahead of the big match have not been beer and crisps like before a England men’s match. Instead shoppers have plumped for popcorn and rosé wine. Rosé sales have spiked during the tournament and all top three selling wines are pink this week.

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