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Laura Joint playing football as a young girl

Playing football (in sandals!) in the park, circa late 1960s  

Thank you, Lionesses 

When I first started kicking a football about, it was the 1960s, always with my dad - either in the garden or at the local playing fields where we lived in Torquay. The first football match I went to see was in the ‘60s, too, again with my dad. He’d take us to watch Torquay United and, when we were a bit older, to see England’s home games at Wembley – my first England game was a European Championship Qualifier against Switzerland in November 1971 which ended 1-1.

I was football mad. Mum used to knit me woolly scarves and bobble hats - yellow and blue (Torquay), claret and blue (West Ham – the Hurst, Moore, and Peters effect) and red, white, and blue (England), in the days before we went red and white.

I’d play football whenever and wherever I could. I started playing with the kids at primary school and with my cousins and friends who lived down the road.

But there came a point when a barrier went up. I think it was towards the end of my primary school years that I noticed it. There were no girls’ teams, and we weren’t allowed to play for boys’ teams. And at secondary school there was literally no football for girls. Nothing. You could watch games; you just couldn’t play it at any educational or competitive level.

By the time I finished education, I knew I wanted to be a journalist and within weeks of leaving college, I got my first job in journalism. August 1982 it was, for a team of freelancers at Torbay News Agency. One of my roles was to help with covering Torquay United matches, providing shortish reports for the national papers. And then, when I joined the regional daily paper, The Western Morning News, I became their Torquay United correspondent as well as a member of their South Devon news office.

There weren’t many women football writers around at that time – the late 1980s and 1990s, so this was quite a big thing. I wrote the first ever book on the history of Torquay United and I covered England’s group games at Euro ’96 for the Western Morning News. I was there when Paul Gascoigne scored that goal against Scotland and yes, I did singalong to ‘Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)’.

And then one day, a well-known league manager said to me: “What do you know about football? You’ve never played it.” I mean, wow. Not only could we not play the game; here’s a manager now telling me we couldn’t write about it either. That was the only time anyone said anything like that to my face. And I’ve never forgotten it.

Which brings me to 31 July 2022. The day when England won the Euros. When football finally ‘came home’. And guess what? It was the women’s team, our Lionesses. I’ve never, ever felt so emotional about a game of sport in my life before. And I’ve never cared as much about a bunch of sportspeople as I care about the England women’s football team.  Partly, it’s because they come across as so down to earth and likeable and natural. But mainly, I think it’s because I feel their story connects to my story, and to that of thousands of others - a sort of ‘how it started, how it’s going’ story; from girls not being allowed to play football at all in England, to England being the best in Europe.

Thank you, Lionesses, for an unforgettable summer, and for inspiring a new generation to play football, to ‘dream big’, to create their own stories.

BBC TV presenter Gabby Logan signed off the coverage of the Euros final with: “You think it’s all over? It’s only just begun.” It’s been a while coming, but, looking at the response since the final, I think she might be right. 

Like this? Then you might also like:

History of Torquay United - see my TUFC page

New general manager says Plymouth Argyle Women FC must aim for the WSL - my feature written for One Plymouth