Maureen Martin (née Reynolds): Teak-tough England defender and Cup-winning Norwich manager
Born: c.1952, Norwich
Debut: Belgium (A) 1 May 1980
Occupation: Office manager (1981), Company director (1986)
Norwich-born Maureen Reynolds made her England bow against Belgium in May 1980, a low-key 2–1 defeat at Albertpark, Ostende in Martin Reagan’s first match.
She picked up caps against Wales and Sweden in 1980, then scored a brace in a 5–0 friendly win over Ireland at Dalymount Park, Dublin, 3 May 1981. This match was notable for the debuts of Gillian Coultard and Angie Gallimore.
Reynolds remained in the squad for the next game against Norway at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium. England’s chastening 3–0 defeat led to changes.
A “greatly concerned” Martin Reagan – always more given to reason than ranting – noted that the second goal came direct from a corner, for the first time in his two-year tenure.
Following a downturn in Reynolds’ fortunes at club level, she was not in the party picked for the next game in Kinna, Sweden in May 1982. She dropped out of the reckoning for England’s inaugural UEFA campaign in 1982–1984.
Like many of English football’s female pioneers, Reynolds’ childhood overlapped with the FA’s demented 1921 ban.
That meant she came to the game relatively late at 19. Playing, and scoring, in a friendly match for local outfit Costessey LFC saw her bitten by the bug.
It also brought her to the attention of Lowestoft Ladies, known as The Waves, the best team in the area who moved quickly to snap her up.
A host of regional baubles followed for Reynolds, starting with the 1975 East Anglian League and League Cup double. Spearheaded by England ace Linda Curl, the team also had a great knack in the All England 5-a-side Championship, winning in 1976, 1977, 1979 and 1980.
But in those days the Holy Grail for all women’s teams was the national WFA Cup. In 1978–79 Reynolds skippered ever-improving Lowestoft to the WFA Cup final at Waterlooville FC’s Jubilee Park.
There they faced the dominant Southampton WFC team of the era, who had appeared in every single final to date – this was their ninth on the trot!
Despite a Player of the Match performance from Lowestoft goalie Rita Fossey, Saints’ prolific England winger Pat Chapman’s close-range goal on six minutes consigned The Waves to noble defeat.
The leadership qualities of Reynolds, an office manager in her day job, came to the fore as a tough-tackling defender and captain, but she also took an important off field role as club secretary.
The Waves made history in March 1981 when they faced Maidstone at Carrow Road, Norwich, in a double header with Norwich City men’s match against Arsenal.
Boardroom shenanigans in July 1981 saw Reynolds sensationally quit as secretary and captain, while Fossey quit as treasurer. The Lowestoft Journal breathlessly reported Reynolds was then “kicked out” of the club.
Instead, she turned out for Biggleswade LFC in 1981–82.
It must have rankled with Reynolds when Lowestoft finally scooped WFA Cup gold without her, seeing off Cleveland Spartans at Loftus Road in May 1982.
But workaholic Reynolds was already putting her next scheme in place. After quietly coaching a kids’ team at a local youth club for seven months, she deemed them ready for adult football, unveiling Norwich Ladies “The Fledgelings” in April 1982.
Reynolds roped in Andrew Anderson, the bloke who designed Norwich City (men’s) club badge, to create its female equivalent.
As founder-player-manager-secretary, Norwich Ladies was very much Reynolds’ baby. She used her shrewd businesswoman head to sniff out sponsorship with Robinson’s Motor Services and Photostatic Copiers.
When Lowestoft Ladies’s league collapsed and the team broke up, Reynolds buttressed her youthful Norwich side with England’s Linda Curl and Vicki Johnson. The upstarts then made light work of the East Anglian League in their debut 1982–83 season, bringing home the League and League Cup.
For 1983–84 Norwich switched to the Chiltern League in search of a higher standard of competition. They sourced a minibus for the 100-mile trek to away fixtures.
Having to enter in the League’s second division meant a year of farcically lopsided wins. This reached its nadir when Linda Curl infamously plundered 22 goals in a 40–0 drubbing of Milton Keynes Reserves on 25th September 1983. Goal-hungry cop Curl helped herself to 97 of Norwich’s 176 league strikes that season.
Disaster struck for Reynolds in the 1–0 third round WFA Cup defeat by Hemel Hempstead. Her ankle was badly broken in two places and had to be fused back together with a steel plate. That brought the curtain down on Reynolds’ glittering playing career and ended her dreams of an England recall.
With more time for coaching, Reynolds ran the league select team and assisted the Midland Region boss Richard Hanson (hubby of Donny Belles and England great Lorraine). Together they dethroned the North Region who had dominated the WFA’s regional competition.
Norwich kept improving and reached the WFA Cup semi-final in 1985, only to suffer an anticlimactic 5–0 battering by Doncaster Belles at Carrow Road.
They went one better the following year, after adding the excellent Sallie Ann Jackson to the squad. Jackson was another Lowestoft refugee who had already pocketed three Cup winner’s medals (1982, 1984, 1985).
The 1986 final at Carrow Road saw Norwich gain revenge over Doncaster Belles, edging out the Pride of Yorkshire in a seven goal thriller. Miranda Colk, Sallie Jackson, Linda Curl and Julie Bowler got the goals.
As part of a Renaissance in Norfolk football it sat alongside, and arguably eclipsed, Norwich City men’s League Cup win the previous year. In a little over four years Reynolds had led Norwich Ladies from nowhere to the promised land of WFA Cup glory.
The Cup win was the elusive third leg of a treble but women’s football in those days was a volatile business. No sooner had the champagne gone flat than seven players quit the team – after clashing with “strict disciplinarian” Reynolds.
A 2012 interview with Donna James of Village Book revealed Reynolds (Maureen Martin by marriage) has bravely battled Arthritis and Fybromyalgia in her later years.
Rightly, she remained fiercely proud of her footballing deeds. Her unwavering faith, canine companion Kinsey and the occasional white chocolate Toblerone keep her in high spirits!
Further reading: Reynolds’ In their Own Words feature at the WFA History website.