Pioneer of women's football Sylvia Gore remembered ahead of Lionesses game

  • Video report by Granada Reports Sports Correspondent Chris Hall

As one of those who paved the way for the new generation of Lionesses, Sylvia Gore will forever be a pioneer for women's football.

Born in Prescot, on Merseyside, she secured her place in football history when she scored the first official goal for England women, helping them to a 3-2 win over Scotland, their fierce rivals, on 18 November 1972.

But it wasn't an easy time for women who wanted to play the beautiful game - women's football had been banned for 50 years.

Indeed Sylvia had to hitchhike her way to history, with no funds for a team bus to make the fateful trip to Glasgow for the game which was to make her name.

Sylvia (centre) pictured with teammates. Credit: Sue Whyatt

Speaking at the opening of an exhibition honouring Sylvia in her hometown, her former teammate Sue Whyatt remembers the match vividly.

"The crowd was one man and his dog usually, but this was about 400 people, which was amazing to us," she said.

"The best part was standing out in sleet and snow on the rock hard pitch singing the National Anthem. I had tears rolling down my face, it was so emotional."

Sue has fond memories of her teammate's skill on the playing field, saying: "We were losing 2-0 and beginning to panic, but then Sylvia got the ball.

"They were chasing her down the pitch and then she slotted it home. It was fabulous."

Sue was also in the first Lionesses squad. Credit: Sue Whyatt

Sue was also in the first Lionesses squad - she and Sylvia learned their skills at a time when discrimination was rife.

She remembers: "We had to play in parks because we weren't allowed to play on other pitches.

"But if a group of lads turned up for a kick about, we would be moved off, even if we were playing a proper match.

"A lot of men would say things like 'you need to be back in the kitchen love, you should be making your husband's dinner'.

"If men did help us, they would have been banned from the FA."

Sue Whyatt was a member of the first Lionesses team. Credit: Sue Whyatt

Sylvia Gore was involved in women's football for 60 years until her death in 2016 at the age of 71.

She was a long-standing member of The FA Women’s Committee and once netted 134 goals in a single season.

She played for Manchester Corinthians and Fodens, helping the latter to shock the all-conquering Southampton in the 1974 FA Women’s Cup Final, before going on to manage Wales in the 1980s.

In 1999, she won a special achievement award at the inaugural FA Women's Awards.

Sylvia Gore receives her National Football Museum Hall Of Fame award from Sir Trevor Brooking and host Dan Walker. Credit: National Football Museum

In 2014, she was inducted to the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame and later became the first female director at the Liverpool County FA.

She received the MBE for services to girls and women's football in 2000.

The new exhibition in Prescot Shopping Centre aims to educate people about her stellar achievements.

The Sylvia Gore Cup is an annual tournament for girls from across the region.

Her cousin Steve Gore said: "Thanks to people like Sylvia, the world has changed. Her stubbornness meant that no one would stop her getting out on the pitch."

In October 2022, six years after Sylvia's death, the original Lionesses 1972 squad were honoured on their 50th anniversary with a lap of the pitch at Wembley and posed for pictures with the current team ahead of their game against USA.

In 2022, the original Lionesses squad were honoured on their 50th anniversary and posed for pictures with the current team. Credit: ITN

Sue remembers: "I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. Tears were flowing down my face.

"We stood there with our arms around each other, and it was just like that first day.

"It was wonderful, but very bittersweet because people like Sylvia weren't there to receive it. She never got what she deserved."

The 1972 squad will be reunited for an exhibition match at next year's Sylvia Gore Cup tournament. It will honour those who have made such an exceptional contribution to women's football.

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