Handsewn Club Badge 1947
Source: Marian Bindotti Collection

Formed in November 1946 by Marian Bindotti

Very few of the high profile pre-WW2 women’s football teams had survived World War 2. Notable examples of teams re-forming after the war would be the magnificent Bolton Ladies FC, the Dick Kerr Ladies and the Edinburgh City Ladies/ Dynamos. If women’s football were to survive and flourish then other teams were needed and one particularly keen 18 year old from Manchester decided to take matters into her own hand and start a team. By the time Marian and the rest of the Manchester Ladies FC had hung up their boots in 1959 they had played around 100 high profile games of football. They deserve their place in history.

1947 Manchester Ladies FC

Manchester Ladies in their flash red kits with their red “ML” badges
Back: Bertha Turner, Iris Rudd, Marian Bindotti, Doreen Bann, Dolly Gee
Front: Hazel Holford, Agnes Corkin, Edith Nettle, Doreen Holford, Ruth Massey, Alma Barnes
Source: Marian Bindotti Collection

Local Newspapers Charted and Championed the Manchester Pioneers

Late 1946: “This will not do at all! No football pitch available for Manchester’s only female football team? Readers will recall the letter from Miss M. Bindotti, of 187, Broadoak Road, asking for volunteers to form a ladies’ football team in Wythenshawe. When I called in to get a progress report recently (I did not see Miss Bindotti, who had gone to Maine Road) I learned that the team was formed – reserves as well – but they have been unable to find a pitch.

Apparently underestimating the passion of the local girls for football, the Community Association made some sort of promise to get a pitch – possibly expecting it to be desired in 1949 – and the swift appearance of the eleven caught them on one foot.

But, as I say, it won’t do at all – if the girls want to play, surely some sort of ground can be found for them, even if it means carving a pitch out of Wythenshawe Park. Miss Bindotti, by the way was a member of Dick Kerr’s Eleven and has her new team well organised.”

1947 Girls Soccer Team Gets Ground

Article Celebrating the Manchester Ladies Getting A Pitch
Source: Marian Bindotti Collection

“Training Every Wednesday at Haveley Hey School”

The team trains each Wednesday at Haveley Hey School and, although only practising against a scratch team of boys, it is their ambition to challenge the famous Preston Women’s XI. I am appealing for girls between the ages of 15 and 25 to come forward to make up a second team so that we can play against each other,” said Miss Bindotti.

Many of the girls are still playing against their parents’ wishes but according to Miss Bindotti there is nothing dangerous in women playing. Youngest member of the team is 15-year old Jean Horridge, of Yew Tree Lane, Northenden.

“Our Goalposts Have Been Stolen”

Article – “Will Defy Hostility”
Source: Marian Bindotti Collection

“People Have Come to Jeer at Us as We Come to Practice”

This amazing article is one of the direct results of the long shadow cast 26 years earlier in 1921 by the  English FA Ban. The ban not only affected ‘professional’ pitches but legitimised a generalised misogyny in and around sport. But, these pioneers were not to be bowed:

Hostility from the people in the district, say Wythenshawe (Manchester) girl footballers, will spur them on to making even greater efforts to make their team a success. Yesterday the girls played their practice game with coats for goalposts. To overcome the coupon shortage they have made their shorts out of black-out curtain material, with a dashing red stripe down the side seams. Youngest member of the team, 15 year old Dora Bann, told me: “We don’t know why it should be thought out of place for girls to play football. We know we can’t compete with men players, but we like the game, and we find it a lot more exciting than netball. None of the girls had played football before this year. Now they have a male coach, and Miss Bindotti’s brother is acting as club secretary. Average age of the players is 18

Feb 1947 – Featured in the Daily Mirror

Manchester Ladies FC in Training
Source: BNA Daily Mirror Monday 17 February 1947 p5

1947 May – Game 1 – Bolton Ladies FC

Manchester Ladies FC 0 v 8 Bolton Ladies FC
Baguley, Wythenshawe, Manchester

Manchester Succumb to the Mighty Bolton in Their First Game

The photo above is an amazing historical document. This was the Manchester Ladies very first high profile game and it is highly unusual to have a great action shot from the first ever game. This game was played in 1947 at their home ground at Baguley and they had obviously managed to replace the stolen goalposts, albeit with some dodgy wooden ones (of the type that I remember fondly!). Remember, Bolton had by this point in their history defeated the mighty Dick Kerr Ladies with large scores. Their star centre forward, the sprinter Nellie Halstead is the only player known to have scored not just one, but two double hat-tricks against the Dick Kerr Ladies.

In this shot we can see goalkeeper Edith Nettle, left half Doreen Bann, left full-back Marian Bindotti, Doreen Halford and Marie Wade. Manchester were playing in red and Bolton in their traditional white tops with a white stripe down black shorts.

1947 August – Game 2 – The Legendary Dick Kerr Ladies

Preesall on Eastern Estuary of River Wyre
Source: Author

Manchester Ladies FC 0 v 9 Dick Kerr Ladies – Preesall (Nr Blackpool)

Manchester Ladies were finally able to achieve their ambition of meeting the legendary Dick Kerr Ladies and unsurprisingly they were put to the sword by 9 goals to 0. Future Manchester Ladies player Joan Whalley scored 4 and Jean Gollin scored a hat-trick with Joan ‘Titch’ Burke notching two. In a lengthy career the Manchester Ladies  were to play their great friends and adversaries the DKL around 80 times. It would not be until 1950 that they managed to draw against the DKL and 1954 until they managed their first win.

The reason for the choice of Preesall for this game was the Inaugural Preesall and Knott End Social and Athletic Club’s athletic sports day. There was a parade from Knott End to Preesall and the Sports Queen, Miss M Baines was crowned. There was a fancy dress parade, ankle competition and a beautiful baby competition. (Mrs J Parks won the ankle competition and was rewarded with a pair of nylons.) As well as standard 100 yards, 440 yards and 1 mile races there were inter-school races and scout races. The football match was kicked off at 7pm and was followed by Morris Dancing and a dance in the Parochial Hall.

Women’s Football Post WW2 – “Not as Strong”

1947 Match Programme
Source: Marian Bindotti Collection

Views of Alfred Frankland, Legendary Dick Kerr Ladies Manager

Their Manager, Mr Alfred Frankland, and Assistant Manager, Mrs Farnworth, feel that they are not quite up to their pre-war standard, but are confident that, by patient teambuilding, they will more than hold their own with any other Ladies’ Team.

The quote above is very interesting. Mrs Farnworth is my granny’s old friend Margaret Thornborough who started playing with the team in 1932. By now she had married and was assisting Alfred Frankland in running the team as well as continuing to play as Captain. If any two people were qualified to talk about comparative standards of pre and post war football then it would be  Alfred Frankland and Margaret Thornborough.

1947 October – Game 3 – Preston Legend Tom Finney Runs the Line

Original Match Programme – Saturday 4 October 1947
Source: Marian Bindotti Collection

Manchester Ladies FC 1 v 9 Dick Kerr Ladies –  Walmer Bridge (Nr Preston)

The match programme above has some fascinating detail. The game was played at the Council School Football Ground, Dob Lane, Walmer Bridge. This programme has the sequential number 838 which shows that a large crowd was expected. The game was organised to raise money for the Much Hoole Village Memorial Hall Fund. Walmer Bridge and Much Hoole are small villages lying 8 miles to the South-West of Preston just off the A59 road to Southport. The area consists of the marshy lowlands South of the River Ribble.

The match programme also mentions that the club holds the football autographed by President Harding of America which they received on their tour in 1922. Each match programme was individually numbered. At the end of the game the players autographed the ball and a number was drawn. The person with the winning programme number won the autographed ball. It is surprising how few of these autographed balls have survived, including the President Harding ball, which would now be worth a fortune.

The Manchester Ladies again went down by 9 goals thanks to a Jean Gollin hat-trick, brace from Edna Broughton and goals from Margaret Thornborough, Lily Parr, Joan ‘Titch’ Burke and Nancy ‘Cannonball’ Thomson. Manchester did manage to score one back.

It is worth noting that Lily Parr has by now had moved back to her original position of left back. (I have previously made a rough calculation that for 14 of her 32 playing years Lily Parr played at left back.) Margaret Thornbough was by now a senior player (debut in 1932) who acted as Assistant Manager and also Captain. Legendary Preston hero Tom (later Sir) Finney ran the line. This is quite an honour for the Manchester Ladies in their third ever game.

1947 October – Game 4 – Narrowing the Gap

Marian Bindotti (front kneeling) + Mates Glammed Up and Enjoying the ‘Craic’
Source: Marian Bindotti Collection

Manchester Ladies FC 1 v 5 Dick Kerr Ladies – Christie Park, Morecambe

This is an interesting game for a number of reasons. The game was to raise money for St Chad’s Church in Lancaster. However, the game was kicked off by James Milne. James Milne was one of a huge number of Scots footballers who made his way South to England for a long and successful career. From 1932 to 1939 he made 230 appearances for Preston North End and was a great friend of the Dick Kerr Ladies. He was manager of Morecambe FC from 1947 to 1948 and it would seem fair to surmise that it was his influence that managed to get the game played at the FA Affiliated Christie Park, home of Morecambe FC. The Mayor of Morecambe kicked off the game.

Gail Newsham records that the Manchester team were bolstered by some players from the newly formed Barnsley Ladies. They still succumbed, albeit with a much more respectable score, by 5 goals to 1. The ‘usual suspects’ Gollin and Whalley scored a brace each and Edna Broughton added one. Manchester managed to score one in return. They were improving.

Three Giants of Women’s Football

The Legends at the Dick Kerr Ladies Reunion
Joan Whalley (seated) – DKL + Manchester Ladies FC – NFM Hall of Fame
Marian Bindotti (blue check) – Manchester Ladies FC – Captain 1947-1959
Nancy ‘Cannonball’ Thomson (blue) – Edinburgh City Ladies + DKL
Source: Marian Bindotti Collection

Conclusion to Part 1

Thanks to the fantastic work of Gail Newsham, not only has the history of the Dick Kerr Ladies been preserved but also the records of the 80 or so games played with their friends and rivals the Manchester Ladies. My thanks to Gail for giving me permission to interrogate and analyse this data.

My thanks to Jim Turner for giving me access to the Marian Bindotti Collection.

I would also like to pay tribute to Dr Gary James who is doing so much to preserve the history of football in Manchester. There is a plan to provide a permanent memorial in Manchester to another team which started in 1949 called the Manchester Corinthians.

Manchester is once again playing a central and important role in the story of women’s football. The English National Football Museum is based in the beautiful Urbis building in central Manchester. England hosted the 2022 Women’s Euros with two Manchester Stadia hosting group games and a capacity Old Trafford hosting the first game.

There is not yet a permanent memorial to the post WW2 pioneers of women’s football in Manchester. My hope is that my research will lead to some recognition for this important Manchester team.

Finally

Marian passed away peacefully on 2nd April 2022 at the age of 92. I made sure that there was a wreath there from ‘her friends the Dick Kerr Ladies and the Manchester Corinthians’. My thoughts and prayers are with the devoted Jim.

 

Article © of Steve Bolton