'It's brilliant the England Women's players of today still remember the 1972 team'
Jeannie Allott is a history-making England international but if you spoke to many of the people who know her, they would have no idea.
Despite scoring the winning goal in England Women’s first official match in 1972, Allott would rarely discuss the fact she was one of the first players to ever feature for the Lionesses but that may well change now.
At just 15, Allott was one of a host of talented teenagers selected in England Women’s first official match against Scotland, which came after the FA’s 1921 ban on girls and women playing football was lifted.
And to mark the 50th anniversary of the first official England Women’s game on 18 November 1972, the Football Association has introduced legacy numbers for everyone who has played for the Lionesses’ senior team and will be giving them a special velvet cap with their newly-established legacy number embroidered on the front.
Allott said: “I never talked to friends or anyone about what I used to be or that I was into football because I still had that feeling that I'm not accepted.
“I work with 300 people and maybe ten people know that I'm an ex-footballer but knowing I've got that cap with that number ten on it, oh I’m so bloody proud, I tell you. If anybody wants to ask me about it now, I’ll tell them!
“This has affected us all because we've had a lot of obstacles and we have been through hell to get to where we are. We had no money in them days, we were thumbing (hitchhiking) it to games, taking days off work and we weren't getting paid for it. Well you know what, try that now!
“This means everything to me.”
Allott grew up in an era where girls and women’s football were not accepted by some in society, partly due to the FA ban which was installed in 1921.
That ban was lifted in 1972 and whilst there were unofficial England Women’s games before that time, the Scotland fixture at Ravenscraig Stadium, Greenock, on 18 November 1972 was the first official fixture under the FA banner.
Allott said: “I was told at the age of eight I was banned. I was called in by the headmaster and he said ‘sorry, Jeannie, but we've heard from the FA that you are banned’.
“At eight years old, I didn't even know what a ban was. He said ‘you can't play with the boys anymore’. It broke my heart and I think I was in shock.
“So it was to be netball and that sort of thing. I did it for one day and I was back on the field with the boys. I thought ban me again. Who cares.
“But at that time, it really affected me and it affected all the girls as well. I mean, a kid should be out on the fields, out on the street, playing sports, and then you had somebody from the FA saying ‘nah, football is a man's sport’. Who the hell are they to decide that?’
“It did take me aback for a bit but then it became water off a duck’s back.”
Despite being just 15, Allott went through regional and then national trials to make the first England Women’s team.
For the first match they travelled up to Scotland and the hosts went 2-0 up through goals by Mary Carr and Rose Reilly.
Scotland v England Women: 50 years on
Founding members from the Women's Football Association and Scottish Women's FA discuss the Lionesses' first game in 1972
England pulled a goal back through Sylvia Gore prior to half-time, before Lynda Hale scored the equaliser and Allott sealed a 3-2 victory in the 75th minute.
Allott said: “I remember it was a very, very cold day. I think in normal circumstances, the match should never have gone ahead. There was more ice on that field than the North Pole! It was absolutely freezing and the wind was unbelievable.
“But receiving the cap and the shirt and then playing in the game, it is a moment which went down in history. I let a few tears go that night but I think the whole 1972 team let a few tears go. It was absolutely brilliant.”
Before, during and after England Women’s run to the EUROs title, many of the squad spoke about the role played by those who had represented their country before them.
And in the team’s first match back at Wembley Stadium after lifting their maiden major trophy, the FA welcomed back many of the 1972 squad and presented them with a bespoke England cap with their legacy number as part of a special dressing room presentation.
The team of 1972 then joined a host of other England Women’s players from the past 50 years in walking around the pitch during half-time of the 2-1 victory over the USA and received a wonderful reception from the 76,891 fans in attendance.
“Seeing the girls play at Wembley, it makes you very emotional. Then I think, if only I was born 50 years later!” Allott continued.
“I take my hat off to the girls because there's a lot of talent on that field, a real lot. And we've got a fantastic coach in Sarina, who I played with in Delft.
“We played for the same local team. She was right half and I was sort of left half. Sarina was a really good player, a quiet player. Like she's on the side of the field. She would think ahead and she was a really good player. I'm glad she's done so well for herself.”
Allott continued: “I think it's brilliant that the girls of today still remember the 1972 team and they acknowledge we did pave their way. Even Sarina sent us a video message thanking us and I think that says a lot.
“The FA of today have really made up for in the eighties and the nineties. I've got no words for it. It is brilliant.”
A full list of legacy numbers and a list of every game in England Women’s history can be viewed here.
England Women's legacy numbers