Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb): Belles and England great
Born: c.1959, Worksop
Occupation: Sales receptionist (1983, 1985), Clerk (1986)
A Worksop-born Sheffield Wednesday supporter, Hanson cut her teeth in street football with the boys in a Nottinghamshire mining town, much like future team-mate Jackie Sherrard.
As a bright prospect with Carr Fastener (a factory team from Stapleford) she made Tommy Tranter’s England squad for the 2–0 win over France at Plough Lane, Wimbledon, on 7 November 1974.
She sat on the substitute’s bench alongside Carol Thomas and Liz Deighan, who came on to make the first appearances of their illustrious Lionesses careers.
At just 14 years old Hanson was there for the experience. But if she did make it on the pitch she must be England’s youngest ever senior player.
The programme for England’s match against Sweden at Ullevi on 15 June 1975 listed ‘Loiraina Dobb’ at number 7. The Swedes won 2–0 to inflict England’s first defeat.
Hanson’s opposite number Ann Jansson hit both goals in the game played over 30 minutes each-way before a Swedish WNT record crowd of 2,963.
Fifteen-year-old Pia Sundhage debuted for Sweden, the first of many duels Hanson fought out with the all-time great. Hanson later put on record that Sundhage was the best player she ever faced.
In January 1976 she scored for Carr Fastener against QPR in an WFA Cup tie, but her team lost 8–1. It became clear she’d have to play at a higher level to protect her England place.
At the 1976 Pony Home Championships, schoolgirl Hanson was attached to Nottingham Rangers. She joined Notts League rivals Doncaster Belles in 1977.
In the 3–0 win over Belgium at The Dell, Hanson won a 14th cap. It was England’s first match on a top tier ground and attracted a record crowd of 5,500.
Hanson then quit England duty for a spell. She snubbed the unofficial 1979 Euros, being described as “retired” in Sue Lopez’s Women’s Football magazine report (Lopez’s scare quotes).
A few England players drifted away at this stage, disgruntled at the sport’s lack of progress. UEFA’s women’s sub-committee (all-male) had folded, so the prospect of proper tournaments receded.
In 1979 Eileen Lillyman of Bronte was drafted in as a replacement sweeper, but broke her leg the following year.
Hanson was recalled by England boss Martin Reagan in May 1982 for a friendly with Sweden in Kinna. Reagan made changes after seeing his side horsed 3–0 by Norway at Cambridge in October 1981.
She formed a front three with Tracy Doe and Janet Turner as England took credit from a bruising 1–1 draw.
Swedish FA records attribute England’s goal to Hanson, but Reagan’s report in the WFA News is clear that Doe did the damage.
Lorraine married Belles gaffer Richard Hanson on 20 November 1982 at Worksop Priory Church. On the first day of their honeymoon she played for the Midland region vs South East region at Leicester!
Romance had blossomed when her car broke down and Richard swooped with the offer of a lift to training and matches.
That season she put the Belles in their first ever FA Cup final, heading the winner in a tense 2–1 semi-final win over Friends of Fulham at Imber Court Metropolitan Police Ground.
The programme for the 1983 Cup final at Lincoln’s Sincil Bank named Hanson as the only England player in Donny’s squad.
She wore number 9, leading the line in the Belles’ 3–2 victory. But for England she nailed down a spot at centre-half during the Euro 84 qualifying campaign, alongside Angie Gallimore.
According to Cathy Gibb’s match report, Hanson conceded a “dubious” penalty in the Euro 84 semi-final at Crewe, despite her “faultless” performance.
Hanson played well in the final but suffered heartbreak when her kick was stopped by Elisabeth Leidinge in the Lionesses’ shoot-out defeat at Kenilworth Road, Luton. It was her 27th cap.
She scored both Donny’s goals in their 2–4 1984 final defeat by Howbury Grange. She was denied a hat-trick by a “last minute despairing Sallie Jackson tackle”.
In 1985 she played in the final at Craven Cottage, but England midfielder Brenda Sempare led the Belles a merry dance in Friends of Fulham’s 2–0 win.
Hanson started England’s first two Euro 87 qualifiers, but was absent from the 85 Mundialito. She also missed the Belles’ 1986 Cup final defeat by Norwich, as she was three months pregnant.
After welcoming daughter Jenna, she came back in 1986–87, only to find Kaz Walker installed at centre-forward. Walker promptly hit the goal trail, and didn’t let up for 20 years!
Doncaster Belles recaptured the Cup in 1987 at the City Ground and retained it the following year with a 3–1 over Leasowe at Gresty Road, Crewe.
Hanson left Donny after 12 seasons in 1989 and was thought to have hung up her boots.
In fact she did no such thing! In 1993–94 she was leading a sizeable colony of ex-Belles at Rainworth Miner’s Welfare.
Playing under former Belles boss Mick Sherrard and his daughter Jackie (rehabbing her knee injury), Hanson was restored to her striker’s berth.
She enjoyed an Indian summer to her fine career, averaging an astonishing four goals-per-game for the East Midlands League minnows.
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