England take on Scotland tonight almost 50 years since the two sides contested the first ever official international women’s match in Great Britain.
An FA ban in December 1921 meant the women’s game was limited to public parks only, but in 1972 Sheila Parker led her side to a 3-2 victory in an Auld Enemy clash as the Lionesses’ first ever captain.
In 2022, several members of the trailblazing England side who took to the field that day were finally awarded their official caps when they met with the current squad before a friendly against the US.
Sheila Parker was inducted into the England Football Hall of Fame in 2013, and has previously spoken about her playing days and delight at the success of the current team.
“It was an honour. I enjoyed it so much,” Parker told ITV Granada last month. “It’s good to know I helped to start it."
Fifty years on, and another Parker is now also at the beginning of her own footballing journey, with Sheila’s granddaughter Chloe progressing into the senior team of Fleetwood Town Wrens Ladies this season.
The 18-year-old says she didn’t realise how significant her grandmother was in the history of the women’s game when she herself started playing.
“I actually started in a primary school team and there weren’t many of us, so we were playing seven a side, and at first I didn’t even know the story that my nan has,” she told The Independent.
“It was only when we started the first girls’ junior team for Fleetwood Town that I found out, because she came down to visit us and met the whole team.”
Having stayed with Fleetwood’s junior side up until this season, the young winger has now made the step up into senior football.
With grassroots girls’ clubs struggling at present, as highlighted by a recent report on Sky News, and some teams choosing not to have development sides, the pathway for girls trying to progress through the game isn’t easy.
Chloe Parker says that the Wrens, however, offer a clear pathway and a good chance for young players to build up through the levels. “There’s not always that chance to build up to the first team, which is why it’s good that the Wrens give you that chance no matter what, so you can gradually work towards it,” she added.
“It’s obviously a big step up from juniors to women’s open age. This is more competitive, but it’s been really fun and enjoyable.”
With the Lionesses’ success inspiring so many in the last few years, Chloe says she is already seeing changes with the younger generation coming through, despite only being 18 herself.
“Even from when I started, we were the first ever junior girls team for Fleetwood Town, and now there’s a whole local league going on. With all the spectators in the higher levels of football, it’s popular here and more people are talking about it.
“Chances are becoming better, there’s more possibility. The more it’s on the telly, the more girls will be able to watch it and see role models, which means more people will want to take that shot and step into football.
“When I was younger, we didn’t really have that, it was on telly but not as much.”
The growth of women’s football since Sheila Parker led her side out in the tiny Ravenscraig Stadium in Greenock, Scotland, has been enormous.
“My grandma had a conversation and it was obviously mindblowing that the Lionesses got a chance to even play in a World Cup after everything she’s been through”, Chloe said.
“She was just happy for them as a team. That they’ve been able to play in front of that many people in a final and experienced what they have in getting to the final is amazing.”
Chloe has ambitions herself, and says she has always dreamed of playing for WSL side Liverpool, but is currently continuing her education by studying sports therapy while trying to develop as a player.
She is clearly no stranger to the fact that in 1975 her grandmother scored 51 goals in 14 games for Preston, despite being a defender. “Yeah, she was good at heading the ball, wasn’t she?! I’ve heard those stories before.”
The grandmother and granddaughter will both be watching the game tonight, a link from past to present and a reminder of how far the game has come.