Meet the Captains

Sheila Parker MBE

Sheila Parker MBE is a former international footballer and captained the England Lionesses from 1972-1976. Sheila is a true pioneer of women in the sport and was the first person to officially captain the women’s England team, in a 3-2 win over Scotland in 1972.

Sheila began her club football playing career in 1960 at age 13 for Dick, Kerr’s Ladies F.C., later making her senior club debut on the 10th of June 1961. Sheila went on to captain Foden’s Ladies F.C. and during her time there she was named captain of the Lionesses by manager Eric Worthington the night before their first official international match against Scotland in 1972. Coincidentally, this also made Sheila the first mother to captain England, with her son only 13 months old in November 1972. In the five games Sheila captained from 1972-1973, England were undefeated.

In 1975, after signing for Preston North End Ladies, Sheila won the Division One Championship medal, scoring an astonishing 51 league goals in 14 games. In 1976, England ladies played Holland at the Blackpool Rugby Ground, winning 2 – 1. In 1977, Sheila won a Division One Championship medal with Preston North End Ladies, who also won of the first ever league cup final, in which Sheila scored the only goal against Italy at Wimbledon’s Plough Lane (a header). In 1978, Sheila was a winner of a league cup winning medal, whilst continuing to play for England and the newly formed North West Regional Squad.

Over her impressive international career, some of Sheila’s highlights include scoring four important goals for England in 1977, scoring a key strike in 1979, touring with England to Japan in 1981, and playing in the early rounds of the 1984 European Competition for Women's Football. She retired from the England squad on 22 May 1983 after a 2-0 win over Scotland.

After retiring for England in 1984, Sheila signed for her home team, Chorley Ladies FC. as a player and manager. In 1988, she received a loyalty award from the North West Women’s League. In 1989, she signed for Second Division Wigan Ladies F.C., winning a Championship medal and Intermediate Cup Finalist medal in 1990. She also captained Wigan in the restructured North West Women’s League to a second championship and promotion to Division One.

Over her fantastic playing career, Parker earned 33 caps for England, won five Division One Championships with Preston, one Division One Championship with St Helens – as well as five League Cups, and even a Women’s Football Association Cup. Thirty-four years on, aged 46 decided to retire from club football, playing into her 40s for her final years for Clitheroe Ladies FC.

Football was very much still the centre of Sheila’s life after retiring, and she managed, coached and set up local teams after retiring, as well as taking up refereeing to fill the gap that playing left. Sheila became a Class 2 referee in the Saturday Alliance League and Sunday League in Chorley.

Parker was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in May 2013 and was awarded an MBE for her contribution to football in the 2022 honours.

Her plaque can be found at The Chorley Group Victory Park Stadium, Duke St, Chorley, PR7 3DU.

On the day of the unveiling, Sheila was joined by her granddaughter Chloe, local female grassroots footballers from Eutxon Villa F.C. and Graham Watkinson, Club Secretary of Chorley Ladies F.C. Here’s what Sheila had to say on the momentous day: 

Hopefully we’ll inspire more young girls to get involved

“I feel really proud and surprised at the same time as I didn’t expect anything like this to happen – I just played for the love of the sport”

“I think campaigns like ‘Where Greatness is Made’ are so important in encouraging young women to go out and play sport at any level” 

“I do feel proud that the sport is now so big, just as long as people are playing for the enjoyment of the game - It’s a great sport so just enjoy it. Hopefully we’ll inspire more young girls to get involved and follow in my footsteps by playing for England one day”

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Carol Thomas

Carol Thomas captained England for nine years between 1976-1985 and is considered one of the most successful captains of the England women's national team in terms of tournament successes of all time. 

Born in Hull, Thomas became obsessed with football aged 11 after watching England lift the trophy in the 1966 World Cup. That same year, she played her first competitive game for BOCM Ladies, quickly rising through the ranks, later appearing for a total of 9 different clubs and a tour with Tottenham Hotspur throughout her 36-year playing career.

In August 1974, Carol successfully completed the first-ever women’s football coaching course at Lilleshall, working with England manager Tommy Tranter.

Tranter invited Carol for England trials and she won her first cap on the 7th of November 1974 when she came on as a substitute against France, aged nineteen. In May 1976, Tommy asked her to take on the captaincy from Sheila Parker, just weeks before her 21st birthday.

Carol went on to captain England for nine of the 11 years she played for her country, and her most successful tournament was as runners up in the inaugural UEFA 1984 European Competition for Women's Football, where England were narrowly beaten by Sweden on penalties. She was the longest-serving captain until Faye White surpassed her record in 2012. She was also the first captain to lead her side outside of Europe when the England team toured Japan in 1981.

Carol was the first woman to captain England to 50 caps, appearing in 56 matches in total. This feat was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records in 1986 and was also the first woman footballer to have an entry.

In total, Carol played in 35 different seasons between 1966/67 and 2008/09, with two periods out of the playing side of the game. Although, she has actively been involved with football (including women’s teams, and girl and boy youth teams) non-stop from September 1966 to the present date… 56 years!

Post international retirement, Thomas continued playing at club level, captaining the first East Riding County FA Women's Squad well into her forties, before eventually retiring from club football in 2009, aged 54. In November 2019, Carol was appointed as the first Club Ambassador and Lifetime Honorary Member to Hull City Ladies AFC.

Her legacy was cemented in history by being inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 2021. She also works hard to promote women’s football in the media, having appeared on nationwide Breakfast TV with Selina Scott and Frank Bough as early as 1984, with other media appearances thereafter.

Her plaque can be found at East Riding County FA, Roy West Centre, 220 Inglemire Ln, Hull HU6 7TS.

Carol was there to witness the unveiling along with East Riding County FA Participation Officer and Female Football Lead, Rebecca Boulton, and Adam Lowthorpe, CEO of ERCFA. In addition, Comms Manager and Managing Director of Hull City Ladies F.C., Alex Robinson and Danny Johnson were there to join the celebrations, along with a local girls team. Here’s what Carol had to say on this special day:

It’s fantastic to be part of a campaign that is championing equality and respect at its core

“I was really excited when Nationwide got in touch with me about my plaque, it was always an honour to wear the captain’s armband for my country and whenever I did, respect is something I always endeavoured to instil amongst my teammates. It’s fantastic to be part of a campaign that is championing equality and respect at its core. I hope the ‘Where Greatness Is Made’ campaign will highlight that everyone starts somewhere and serve to nurture respect in our next generation of footballers.”

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Mutual Respect Awards

Do you know someone who's gone above and beyond to build mutual respect within grassroots football?

Our monthly Mutual Respect Award celebrates the outstanding contributions and achievements of young players, coaches, teams, parents and referees throughout grassroots football who help to make the game a more respectful and positive place.

It’s thanks to the support and passion of these grassroots heroes that helps our young aspiring players be their best and is where greatness is truly made.

Nominate your grassroots hero