Pioneering women’s team Manchester Corinthians to get blue plaque

19600721 British Guiana now Guyana Margaret Whitworth Manchester Corinthians tour of South America
Margaret Whitworth with the rest of the team in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1960.

A blue plaque and other tributes to the pioneering women’s football team Manchester Corinthians will be unveiled on Friday 6 October at noon at the site of their formation at Fog Lane Park, Didsbury.

In attendance will be over 20 women who played for the club between 1949 and 1983 and representatives from the Football Association, including former England player Kerry Davis.

One of the former players in attendance will be a 92 year old who first joined the team at formation in 1949, while others participated in trophy winning tours across Europe and South America during the fifties, sixties and seventies.

The Corinthians raised significant amounts of money for charity during their existence while also promoting football and female endeavour at a time when participation in the sport was often frowned upon.

During the 1950s, playing as an unofficial England side, the Corinthians won a major European tournament in Germany and were supported on their travels by legendary Manchester City men’s goalkeeper Bert Trautmann.

Manchester Corinthians mural. 'Washing in the duck pond', by Gavin Renshaw
Mural at Fog Lane Park: ‘Washing in the duck pond’, by Gavin Renshaw

In 1960 they found success in an unofficial ‘World Cup’ (officially the first ‘Torneo Internacional De Futbol Femenino’) in Venezuela as part of a significant tour of the West Indies and South America.

Former player (outside right) Margaret Whitworth recalls: ‘We were treated like film stars. There were crowds everywhere we went. Playing in
front of 56,000 was thrilling and the way women’s football was treated was so different to how it was back in England at the time. Here we had to play on park pitches or at other sports grounds, but there we played in major football stadiums.’

During the late 1960s the club’s management played a leading role in the creation of the Women’s Football Association. Both the Corinthians and their sister club the Nomads were founder members but their manager Gladys Aiken became a member of the governing body’s committee. By this time their determination was to see the growth of the game and lifting of all barriers.

The Corinthians continued to play and by the end of the 1970s they were frequently coached by the Manchester City 1956 FA Cup winner Dave Ewing at City’s Platt Lane training complex.

Mural by artist Gavin Renshaw.
Mural by artist Gavin Renshaw.

During the 1980s a ground move led to the club being renamed Woodley Ladies, and that club ceased to exist by the end of the decade. Many of the Corinthians from the late 1970s and 1980s became players with Manchester City’s women’s team during its inaugural season of 1988-89.

Today at least one former Corinthian, Lesley Wright, plays walking football at the highest level possible and continues to coach women’s football, continuing the Corinthian influence through to the modern day development of the sport.

The plaque and murals were funded by an appeal which included significant donations from the Football Association and Manchester City Council, alongside dozens of individual donations. The community group, the Friends of Fog Lane Park, have been instrumental in ensuring the Corinthians are remembered and that this aspect of the park’s life is properly recorded and acknowledged. The murals were designed and painted by artist Gavin Renshaw.

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