Jackie Sherrard: “The best pure footballer at the Belles”
Born: 9 June 1966, Belper
Position: Centre-half, midfielder
Debut: Sweden (H) 30 October 1983
Occupation: Production clerk (1987), Clerical supervisor (1991), Materials and systems manager (1994)
A gifted all-round sportswoman who reportedly played field hockey for England at under 21 level. Turning her attentions to football, she became a key figure for England and in the classic Doncaster Belles team of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Growing up in Jacksdale, a Nottinghamshire mining village, Sherrard played street football with the boys. One lad, Tony Hill, grew up to pen a soporific memoir about his love of Manchester United: If the kids are United (1999). An otherwise forgettable tome at least had the grace to recognise Sherrard’s achievements:
I used to play football regularly with an England International, Championship and FA Cup winner. Her name was Jackie Sherrard, and we used to play on the local rec as kids. No one even questioned that she wanted to play football with the lads; she was always one of the first to be picked when selecting teams and could run rings round most of us. And of all the lads dreaming of becoming a footballer and playing in the FA Cup Final, the only one of us to make it was a girl.
Sherrard played her early club football for the prototypal Nottingham Forest then Arnold LFC, before joining Doncaster Belles in 1982. She could play as a centre-half or in central midfield.
Donny won the WFA Cup for the first time that season — seeing off St Helens 3–2 in the final at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank stadium.
In those days the route to the national team was through regional trial matches and Sherrard represented the Notts League and the Midland Region.
Martin Reagan gave 18-year-old Sherrard an England debut on 30 October 1983, in a 2–2 friendly draw with Sweden at The Valley.
But she was not selected for the Euro 84 final stages. Reagan kept faith with an experienced back five containing Sherrard’s club-mate Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb) and Angie Gallimore, who had played in the qualifiers.
Three years later she played for England in Euro 87 in Norway, starting the semi-final at Melløs Stadion versus Sweden in the number 7 shirt. England surrendered the lead to lose 3–2 after extra time, following a two-goal salvo from Gunilla Axén. Some sources credit Sherrard with England’s second goal.1
After their win in 1983, Donny Belles suffered three successive heart-breaking defeats in WFA Cup finals. They returned to Sincil Bank in 1984 but were beaten 4–2 by Kent outfit Howbury Grange, captained by Debbie Bampton and managed by her dad Albert.
In 1985 Donny lost 2–0 to Friends of Fulham on enemy territory at Craven Cottage. Although Hynes and McAdam got the goals, the game became known as the ‘Sempare Final’ after a legendary performance from Fulham and England midfielder Brenda Sempare.
1986 saw Donny losing to Norwich Ladies by the odd goal in seven, in another de facto away match at Carrow Road. Luckless Sherrard had started all three defeats.
Sherrard hit the opening goal in the 1987 WFA Cup final versus St. Helens at the City Ground in Nottingham. Tracey Davidson saved a penalty from Saints’ Alison Leatherbarrow before Karen Walker sealed a 2–0 win for Donny in the second half. The final whistle sparked jubilant scenes.
The Belles’ win had been inspired by the return of Prodigal Daughter Gillian Coultard from her exile at Rowntrees WFC of York. St. Helens were booted out of the following season’s competition after manager Keith Mayer slagged off the WFA’s shambolic post-match arrangements.
A year later Sherrard put Donny 2–0 up in an eventual 3–1 win over Leasowe in the 1988 final at Crewe’s Gresty Road. Future Belle Michelle “Mickey” Jackson struck Leasowe’s goal from the penalty spot.
Sherrard’s most memorable game for England was the 1988 Mundialito final, when two goals from Linda Curl overcame hosts Italy 2–1 after extra time.
She also played at England’s first full international at Wembley in May 1989 when goals from the outstanding Pia Sundhage and Lena Videkull sent England to a 2–0 defeat by Sweden, before the men’s Rous Cup game with Chile.
In the 1980s, the Belles would travel to away fixtures on wooden benches in the back of Jackie’s dad’s van. Mick Sherrard also managed the team from 1984 to 1987, and shared the role with Paul Edmunds in 1987–88.
Choosing football over hockey, Sherrard became a fixture in the successful Belles team of the era.
Donny recaptured the WFA Cup in 1990 after a shock quarter-final defeat at the hands of Leasowe Pacific in 1989. Coultard hit the only goal in a tense win over Friends of Fulham at Derby County’s Baseball Ground, with Sherrard in the number 4 jersey.2
In 1991–92 Sherrard contributed 13 goals from midfield as Doncaster Belles carried off the first ever national title, with a 100% record. They added another Cup win to seal a historic double.
She was described by Doncaster Belles manager Paul Edmunds in Pete Davies’s I Lost my Heart to the Belles (1996) as: “the best pure footballer at the club.” A remarkable tribute, considering her team-mates read like a Who’s Who of all-time greats: Coultard, Walker, Broadhurst, Borman.
Sherrard accrued 42 caps for England. She scored in a 2–0 friendly win v Soviet Union at The Dell, Southampton on 7 September 1991. A paltry 345 were in attendance to see it.
She was crocked in a Euro 93 quarter final v Italy 17 October 1992, suffering damaged knee ligaments. Goals from Walker and Spacey saw England escape Solofra with a 3–2 defeat.
During her rehab she served as first team coach at Rainworth Miner’s Welfare, where her dad Mick was manager and several ex-Belles were on the playing roster.
After a long recovery with setbacks along the way, she played 90 minutes for the Belles reserves v Huddersfield Town at the tail end of the 1994–95 season.
Consistent defending for the Belles saw her recalled to an enlarged FA-run England squad for the friendly with Germany at Deepdale on 27 February 1997. She was not in the match day squad for England’s 6–4 defeat.
1. Swedish FA records credit England’s goals to usual suspects Kerry Davis and Linda Curl, but the UEFA programme for Euro 1997 listed Davis and “Jacqueline Sherrad” (sic) as the scorers.↩
2. This article originally said that Sherrard did not play in the 1990 Cup final win. It was amended on 9 May 2015 to reflect that she did: Chris Lightbown’s match report in the Sunday Times does not list Sherrard, but on closer inspection Loraine Hunt is listed twice. Sherrard was listed in the match programme and other reports so it seems she did play.↩