Fodens Ladies Football Club often went on tours and by May 1979 they had been on six trips abroad, including three visits to Belgium. In 1966 they had visited Northern Ireland. Giving what was described as ‘almost certainly the most outstanding display of women’s football ever seen in Northern Ireland’, Fodens held the crowds ‘enthralled’ on August 26 and 27 1966 when they played the established women’s teams from Gallaher, Belfast and Lisnafillan in aid of the swimming pool fund of Muckamore Abbey Hospital for the Mentally Handicapped. Although the Belfast and Lisnafillan teams had had considerable experience of the game, they struggled with the quality of Fodens’ football. The Belfast team were completely outclassed in the first game but kept the score down to 8-0 before entertaining their visitors to supper and a singsong in their hotel in the evening. The following day the coach conveying the Fodens’ team and hosts was supplied by Muckamore Abbey Hospital and was routed through the hospital grounds, where players were shown the progress being made on the pool as well as being conducted through one of the units. The Lisnafillan team met the visitors at Ballymena and provided tea before the Mayor of Ballymena kicked off for the game, which was a repeat of the previous night’s exhibition, Fodens winning by 9-0. Following the game, thanks were expressed to the promoters and organisers for the success of the tour, which was expected to result in a substantial amount being donated to the hospital funds. One of the organisers commented, ‘The Foden team was one of the friendliest group of girls one could wish to meet and very appreciative of their reception. We look forward to meeting them again, but our standard of football will have to improve considerably’. In return, Fodens’ officials were extremely complimentary of the arrangements for the visit, saying it was the best organised trip they had undertaken to date.[1]



Fodens had been invited to play a series of games in Holland during the Spring holiday week of 1975 by the Z.W. Club of Rotterdam who had visited Sandbach with both men’s’ and ladies’ teams over Easter 1974 and who had hosted Fodens during a short visit to Holland in 1973. Fodens included six English Internationals, many of whom had experienced continental tours with various teams in the past, but the 1975 tour was considered special for two reasons. Firstly, the matches were arranged to cover a whole week, and, secondly, the team were able to use their own transport for the complete tour because the Fodens Band had no engagements booked for that period so the team were allowed to utilise the Band Coach for the tour.



The party of thirty-six, including fourteen players, left Sandbach on Saturday 24 May and arrived in Rotterdam to be escorted by a noisy motorcade to the Z.W. Club for a mid-day meal. After a quiet stroll around with their hosts during the afternoon, there was an official reception and dance on Sunday evening when the Fodens’ team were presented with a trophy and medals to commemorate the visit. Having introduced their hosts to the game of darts during their visit to England, a match sized dartboard and darts were presented to the Z.W. Club, together with an appropriate plaque, by Joan Tench, Fodens longest playing member. The initial matches for Monday evening were two five-a-side games against the Z.W. ladies, who had recently become the Dutch National five-a-side champions. These were played under ideal conditions at the Sporthal de Enge in Rotterdam and, although the Dutch five-a-side rules were different, the English team adapted quickly and won the first game 4-2. The second game against the Dutch champions proved to be ‘a real thriller’, which the Dutch eventually won 1-0.



On Tuesday morning, Fodens visited the Feyenoord stadium where the international players in the team were interviewed by Dutch radio. The evening game against Naaldwyk Ladies was played on a well-equipped ground, which formed part of a whole series of playing pitches and training grounds and included a complete social and sports club. Fodens settled down quickly to play an open attacking game on the excellent playing surface and began to score at regular intervals, eventually winning 7-0. On Wednesday evening, after spending the afternoon in the sea at Scheveningen, Fodens played Bloemhof Ladies at a similar sports complex in the suburbs of Rotterdam and again entertained a large crowd whilst winning 5-0.



Thursday morning and afternoon were spent on a visit to the Hague and to the model town of Madurodam before the evening game against Z.W. Ladies at the Rijsoord stadium Ridderkirk, the most important match of the tour. It had been widely advertised as virtually a Netherlands versus England encounter because so many players from the two national teams were involved. Again, the ground and club facilities were very good, and the many spectators were provided with an excellent and exciting display of women’s football. The Dutch team set the early pace and deservedly scored after 10 minutes play before Fodens began to settle down and, after a period of continuous attacking, they got the equaliser through captain Jeannie Allott. Almost immediately the Dutch team scored again to go into the lead 2-1 and it was not until ten minutes before half time that Fodens managed to get back into the game and draw level. With half time almost due, Fodens scored the most crucial goal of the game via left winger Sue Fish, to go into the lead for the first time. In the second half, Fodens gradually assumed complete domination going on to score four further goals to win by 7 goals to 2. So, the series of games ended with four out of the five won, a goal tally of 23 against 6 and an invitation to return as soon as possible.[2]



In 1977, a Fodens’ touring party of thirty-four, consisting of players, officials and supporters, left just before midnight aboard the band coach, heading for Belgium where three teams waited, ‘eager to diminish the new-found stature of English football’. In their opening fixture against K.S.V Cerde Brugge at Eernegem, Fodens drew 4-4, with goals from Veronica Bailey (2), Lesley Caldwell, and one own goal, being denied victory only by a late penalty. The ensuing Jubilee celebrations in the holiday village at De Haan spilled over well into the morning, yet the team managed to inflict a notable defeat on S.K. Opex of Ostend in the evening through a lone Joan Tench goal. After the match, captain Elaine Brown was presented with a trophy on behalf of the Burgomeister of Ostend. A pleasant surprise was the appearance of former Fodens’ captain and England International Jeannie Allot, who had made the three-hour journey from her home in Holland. For the final game of the tour, the party travelled to Aardenburgseweg to take on V.G. Brugge, eventually losing an even game by the odd goal in three, their scorer being Lesley Caldwell. A day’s shopping and sight-seeing in Brugge on the Friday concluded the tour, and the team returned home satisfied by having put up three highly creditable performances on consecutive days.[3]



Article © Fodens Research Team 

[1] ‘Ulster Hails our Footballing Ladies’, The Foden News, no. 119 March 1967, 35-36.

[2] Harold Nancollis, ‘Fodens WFC Netherlands Tour 24th to 30th May’, The Foden News, no. 149 Autumn 1975, 8-9. Nancollis was the chairman of Fodens Sports and Social Club who, ‘more by good fortune than any particular ability’, had been awarded the first Fodens ‘Sportsman of the Year’ trophy in 1955. See Nancollis. (c.1995) Foden – My Life with the Company, 86. British Library YK.1996 b.11506; ‘Sportsman of the Year’. The Foden News, no. 78 January 1956, 31.

[3] ‘Ladies Football Tour of Belgium’, The Foden News, no. 155, 1977, 6.