Friday 22nd December saw the unveiling of a monument at Preston North End FC, to remember the fantastic efforts and achievements of the Dick, Kerr Ladies.
Gail Newsham explained to pnefc.net, why this team was so important to the club, the town and women’s football in this country…
There is great history between the Dick, Kerr Ladies and Preston North End. Deepdale is where they played their first game on Christmas Day 1917 when 10,000 spectators witnessed the start of their incredible success story. They won the match 4-0 and raised £600 for wounded soldiers being cared for at Moor Park Military Hospital (almost £50,000 today).
They quickly built up a reputation for being a very good footballing side, due in part to the valuable coaching they received from several of the Preston North End players who worked at the Dick, Kerr factory on Strand Road. Johnny Morley, Billy Grier, Jack Warner and perhaps the most celebrated of the PNE ‘Invincibles’ team Bob Holmes, all gave up their time to help improve the ladies’ skills.
In 1920, the team played the first ladies international at Deepdale against a team from France. A then record crowd of 25,000 came to watch them earn a 2-0 victory.
In December of 1920, the ladies played the first night match at Deepdale. There were of course no floodlights and so the War Office was approached for the loan of two anti-aircraft search lights. Permission was granted by Secretary of State for War, Mr Winston Churchill. It was Bob Holmes himself who stood on the touchline whitewashing the brown footballs so that the ball could be seen from all sides of the ground. Dick, Kerr won the match 4-0.
Their successes throughout this time lead the press to draw comparisons with the original Preston North End ‘Invincibles’ team.
However, the FA would soon alter the course of women’s football forever. In December 1921 a ban was imposed on the women’s game that would last for 50 years.
Despite the ban, parallels continued to be drawn. Joan Whalley was a schoolgirl pal of Sir Tom Finney and the two could often be seen playing football together on Waverley Park in Preston. They both dreamed of playing football, Tom for PNE and Joan for DKL. They both got their wish and they both played on the right wing. Arguably they were the best two right wingers this country has ever produced! Both now sit in the Football Hall of Fame, Sir Tom inducted in 2002 and Joan in 2007.
In 1965 they succumbed to the constraints of the ban and folded. Deepdale is their spiritual home and it is fitting that the tribute is sited here, in view of ‘The Splash’.