Lynda Hale: Flying winger with a cannonball shot
Born: c.1954, Southampton
Position: Right winger
Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972
Occupation: Trainee machine operator (1972)
Most of the following info about Hale’s achievements comes from the indispensable works of her former team mates, Sue Lopez (Women on the Ball, 1997) and Wendy Owen (Kicking Against Tradition, 2005)…
Youngsters Hale and Davies had been blooded by coach Dave Case, first with Patstone United then in the combined Southampton team.
Lopez (1997) said of her team mate Hale that she: “had an amazing right foot that enabled her to power her way past defenders, and had, perhaps, the hardest shot of any woman.”
The work of football historian Gail Newsham means Hale can now be put into context alongside Lily Parr of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies, an earlier player who also lay claim to the hardest shot title, albeit with her left foot rather than right.
Like Parr, Hale’s rocket shot was as much to do with technique, or timing, as it was brute strength.
This was in evidence at the 1970 Deal Tournament, under the watchful eye of FA supremo Sir Denis Follows.
Sir Denis went along under his own steam and was left purring at the quality of football on show. Particularly a fizzing shot from Hale which he fondly recalled years later: “nearly broke the crossbar”.
This brought the WFA their most significant convert to the cause and a powerful ally against the more backward elements in the FA. Sir Denis played no small part part in finally getting the 1921 ban lifted. He afforded the WFA the space they needed, to not exactly thrive, but to keep plugging away.
In 1971 Southampton beat Ayrshire cracks Stewarton Thistle 4–1 at Crystal Palace to secure the first ever Mitre Trophy (also known as the WFA Cup). Hale started the match and Sir Denis and his wife were present as guests of honour.
In 1971 Hale visited Rome after befriending an Italian player when Southampton faced Sue Lopez’s Roma in a series of matches in the USA.
This was much to the fury of Southampton and the WFA, who were already whipped into a lather by a moral panic about professional Italian clubs “poaching” the top English players.
No one really knew where the money was coming from for all these pro teams and “unsanctioned” national team tournaments.
Perhaps inspired by reading The Godfather (the film came out the following year), Saints boss Norman Holloway reckoned the Mafia were involved.
Holloway’s moany letter to the WFA got a reply saying that Stanley Rous, the English president of FIFA, was personally looking into the allegations.
In any event Hale was not seriously considering a transfer to the pro ranks, according to Lopez.
Hale won the WFA Cup again in 1972 and in 1973 she scored in Southampton’s 2–0 final win over Westhorn United: “a fine strike,” said Lopez.
Before the 1973 Cup final Hale had scored 22 goals across 18 League and Cup matches that season. Not a bad return for a wide player, but over on the other wing Pat Chapman had plundered 82 (eighty-two!) in 21 matches.
The 1974 final was famously lost to Fodens, but Southampton bounced back to reclaim the trophy in 1975 and 1976.
In 1977 Hale scored “a superb solo effort”, the winner in a pulsating 3–2 League Cup final win over rivals QPR. But Southampton lost 1–0 to the same opponents in the WFA Cup final at Dulwich Hamlet.
A measure of revenge was gained in the following year’s final when Southampton’s Sharon Roberts, sister of notorious Spurs hatchet man Graham Roberts, put in an early ‘reducer’ on QPR’s Hazel Ross. QPR fell apart and lost 8–2, Pat Chapman helping herself to a double hat-trick.
Again Southampton bounced back, beating Lowestoft 1–0 to win the 1979 edition of the Cup. But the team was on the wane, and got beat by Cleveland Spartans at the quarter-final stage in 1979–80.
A last hurrah came in 1981, but by then Hale had moved on to form a nearby club called Solent. Versatile Clare Lambert later came through Solent’s ranks to emulate Hale and play for England.
In 1972, 18–year–old starlet Hale made it through a costly and gruelling set of regional trials into Eric Worthington’s first ever official England squad.
That November she patrolled the right wing berth in England’s first ever official match, a 3–2 win over Scotland at Ravenscraig Park in Greenock, near Glasgow.
With England 2–1 down in blizzard conditions, Hale beat two defenders and the goalkeeper in a race to the ball and her composed, low finish from inside the area brought England back on level terms. Jeannie Allott hit England’s winner from the other flank.
A grainy black and white photo reproduced in Wendy Owen’s book shows Hale in the squad for the 3–0 win over France in April 1973, but wearing a substitute’s sweatshirt.
She started England’s fourth match, against Northern Ireland at Twerton Park, Bath, and hit two goals under the floodlights – the second a “35-yard lob”.
She was also listed on the team sheet as England thumped Scotland 8–0 at Nuneaton in June 1973, under interim coach John Adams.
But competition for places was especially fierce in Hale’s position. In the 1973 England v Possibles match, the culmination of that season’s trials, Hale’s opposite number seven was Lesley Stirling, the tough Lancastrian from Preston North End.
By November 1974’s 2–0 win over France at Plough Lane, Hale’s place on the right had been taken by QPR’s Sandra Choat, who won praise for her tricky wing play.
The match programme for England’s first ever defeat, against Sweden in June 1975, lists Hale at number 3. With no other obvious left-back in the team it seems like she was filling in.
Hale was apparently not fancied by Tommy Tranter and her England career was much shorter than some of her Southampton colleagues’.
Missing out on the 1978 Belgium game before a record crowd at The Dell must have been a particular disappointment.
But she certainly played her part: Who is to say where we would all be if Hale had not caught the eye of Sir Denis Follows and given him his Road to Damascus moment?
Or if she had not equalised and England had suffered an embarrassing draw—or even defeat—to the Scots?
Or if her Italian transfer rumours had not got the authorities’ knickers in a twist, prompting them to take tighter control of women’s football and (eventually) run it properly?