Sports Retro: When Doncaster were the Belles of the ball in women’s game

Doncaster Belles Ladies FC after the match on 12th May 1988
Doncaster Belles Ladies FC after the match on 12th May 1988
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The 2015 Women’s World Cup is well under way in Canada with the 24 teams all looking to raise the trophy on July 6.

Coverage of the tournament has featured prominently on national TV and radio as well as in newspapers and online.

Women's Cup Final - Doncaster Belles v Knowsley - 24th April 1994'Doncaster team members holding up their trophy.

Women's Cup Final - Doncaster Belles v Knowsley - 24th April 1994'Doncaster team members holding up their trophy.

It is a measure of how the profile of the women’s game has grown in recent times and a far cry from the early years.

Doncaster Belles Rovers are best known locally with a long history of success before a controversial demotion two years ago from the Women’s Super League 1.

The club was founded in 1969 as the Belle Vue Belles by a number of young women selling Golden Goal raffle tickets on the terraces of Doncaster Rovers.

Chief among them was Sheila Stocks, now Edmunds, who has both played for and managed the team and is now club president and received the FA’s Special Achievement Award in 2008.

Doncaster Belles - Karen Walker congratulated by team-mates after scoring opener at Crew FA Cup - 1988

Doncaster Belles - Karen Walker congratulated by team-mates after scoring opener at Crew FA Cup - 1988

In 1971 they changed their name to Doncaster Belles and played in the Sheffield League before it ceased to exist.

They moved to the Nottinghamshire League where they embarked on a long period of domination with 12 titles as well as finishing champions in the two seasons they were in the North East League.

They were one of the original members of the national Premier League in 1991 and went on to complete the 1991/92 league and FA Women’s Cup double that season without conceding a game.

They repeated the feat two years later, the last of their six cup triumphs with the club runners-up on seven occasions.

Doncaster Belles v Millwall - 3rd December 1989

Doncaster Belles v Millwall - 3rd December 1989

In 2005 they entered a partnership with Doncaster Rovers, playing their home games at Belle Vue and wearing the same kit as the men’s team. They also became Doncaster Rovers Belles.

Former Belles include Gillian Coultard, one of the most capped England internationals with 119 caps, former national team midfielder Debbie Bampton and ex-England striker Karen Walker - all three widely regarded as pioneers of the women’s game.

Other local teams include Sheffield Wednesday Ladies who were formed in 1971 at the Star Inn Public House in Rotherham.

It came about following a charity match between men and women at the pub with the team initially called the Star Ladies.

Doncaster Belles'Sheila Stocks, Captain, doing 'squats' - 2nd March 1979

Doncaster Belles'Sheila Stocks, Captain, doing 'squats' - 2nd March 1979

They played in the Sheffield Ladies League until its demise when they went into the Nottinghamshire Ladies League, later known as the East Midlands Ladies League..

They became Sheffield Wednesday Ladies in 1985 and in the same year they were founder members of the Women’s Premier League where they stayed until 2005 when they were relegated to the Northern Combination.

Across the city, a women’s team had been set up in 1993 by Tony Currie and a number of coaches in his community co-ordinator role.

That was known as Sheffield Hallam United, a mix of local women and students, and lasted for five years.

In 1998 Sheffield United Community Girls was formed with the first training session held at the Public Works Ground in Heeley for Year Five girls.

Only five girls turned up but that soon increased and in 1998/99 the first United girls’ team was launched.

Doncaster Belles - 1986

Doncaster Belles - 1986

In 2002 they expanded into adult football and played their first game on September 8, 2002, opening their account with a 3-0 win over Steel City Wanderers.

Sheffield Wednesday Ladies Team - 11th September 1994'Back Row l/r: Lisa Bailey, Alison Fenwick, Penny Stansfield, Nikki Wray, Leanne Hall, Andrea Johnson, Sarah Bennett, Sharon Watkins'Front Row l/r: Debbie Bower, Becki Wilde, Gabby D'Arcy, Kelly Biney, Vicky Exley, Michelle Walton

Sheffield Wednesday Ladies Team - 11th September 1994'Back Row l/r: Lisa Bailey, Alison Fenwick, Penny Stansfield, Nikki Wray, Leanne Hall, Andrea Johnson, Sarah Bennett, Sharon Watkins'Front Row l/r: Debbie Bower, Becki Wilde, Gabby D'Arcy, Kelly Biney, Vicky Exley, Michelle Walton