WOMEN'S football has begun to make its presence felt over the last few years, with not just the club teams but our national side beginning to get at least some recognition in the news.
And rightly so – after 48 Years of Hurt (and counting) from the men's game, the girls are offering a glimmer of hope for England. They recently thrashed Ukraine 4-0 at Shrewsbury Town's ground to extend their World Cup qualifying run to six games won, and are well on target to make the 2015 finals in Canada.
Given the lack of media coverage you could be forgiven for assuming that women's football had only been thought of in the last couple of years, but the truth is women have been playing virtually as long as men. The earliest official games on record in England took place in 1895, and during the First World War, with women working long hours together in the factories, women's works teams began to spring up. In the north-east, such sides competed for the Munitionette's Cup in 1917, and one local example, a women's team from 'The National' in Blackheath, are featured in the Bugle's First World War book, We Will Remember Them.
Despite some women's games attracting crowds in excess of 50,000, the FA decided, in 1921, that the idea of females kicking a ball about was distasteful, and banned it. The ban on FA-affiliated clubs allowing women to play on their pitches was not lifted until 1971.
But despite the FA's best efforts, some of the girls carried on regardless and here, thanks to Brierley Hill reader Keith Banks, are a couple of photographs of a local side who, judging by their impressive record, will not have been forgotten by anyone who played for them. They were the Handy Angle Ladies' Football Team, from the Brierley Hill firm of that name. They were, according to the details on the back of one picture, holders of seven challenge cups in 1957.
Recent scores racked up against unnamed opposition included 24-nil, 14-1 (twice) and 12-1. More impressive still is the fact that 'Miss Parkes', inside right, had scored 108 goals in 13 games.
The picture taken under floodlights, showing the girls in a shiny silk strip very similar to that worn by Wolves in their famous floodlit friendlies, was taken at Brierley Hill Alliance's ground (did the FA know?) in 1957/58. The player furthest right was Mavis Saunders; third from right was Margaret Bradley, later Banks, and fourth right was Margaret Parkes, presumably the prolific goalscorer.
Margaret Bradley, Keith's late wife, worked at Handy Angle for about eight years. She is also on the second picture, third from left in the back row, with Mavis Saunders fourth from left.
Do you recognise yourself, a friend or a relative among the Handy Angle side, and do you have memories of those times you'd like to share with Bugle readers? Or do you have photographs of other local women's teams? Send them in, give us a call, or email gjones@blackcountry bugle.co.uk.