Report: Scotland’s moral right to the Women’s FA Cup

The real story of Eric Worthington and the Women’s FA Cup


Annual Scotland–England match trophy was repurposed as English WFA Cup


Women’s Football Archive sounds the pibroch for footballing justice


Last hurrah: Eric Worthington’s Cup gets its swansong in 1997


England’s first ‘official’ match on home soil took place in the rarefied environs of Manor Park, Nuneaton on 23 June 1973. The failure to secure a Football League ground for the event – even in the off-season – was a measure of the lasting sabotage wrought on women’s football by the FA’s 1921 ban. Opponents Scotland had been edged out 3–2 in the teams’ first fixture the previous November. In contrast to that blizzard by the Clyde, Nuneaton was in the midst of a scorching heat wave. With England leading 2–0 at half-time, the roof fell in on the peely-wally Scots. A final score of 8–0 remains their record defeat. Pat Firth’s debut hat-trick, braces from Pat Davies and moonlighting Scot Paddy McGroarty, and a late finish from sub Eileen Foreman undid Scotland, whose captain Mary Anderson had to go off at half-time.


England’s cakewalk was masterminded by interim coach John Adams, after original manager Eric Worthington legged it to Oz as overall director of coaching.


Worthington’s parting gift was the trophy which became the WFA Cup. He intended it as a women’s soccer version of the egg-chasers’ Calcutta Cup. The match programme said:


In recognition of his short time with us Eric has presented the WFA with the handsome trophy which is to be won for the first time today and which will be the prize each time our two countries meet in the future.


After the match Nuneaton Borough director Sam Downs, dapper but probably sweltered in his suit, handed over the trophy to beaming Lionesses skipper Sheila Parker.


Photographic evidence shows the silverware changing hands was unmistakably the WFA Cup (1977–1997 version).


It appears that this trophy was pressed into service as England’s national knockout club trophy when Pony wine replaced Mitre as sponsors for the 1976–77 season.


Women’s soccer royalty Sue Lopez and Pat Gregory recently embarked on an Arthurian quest to track down the original Mitre Trophy for the National Football Musuem in Manchester.


They prefer the theory that a player “tucked it away somewhere” over the idea of Mitre churlishly taking it back.


When Scotland sensationally beat the English 2–1 in May 1977 at Downfield, local reports hailed the capture of the “Ernie Worthington Challenge Cup” [sic].


Quite what Cup the jubilant Jocks were given, if any, is open to question.


A couple of weeks previously Worthington’s Cup was presented to QPR’s Scottish captain Paddy McGroarty in front of 5,000 fans and BBC cameras at the WFA Cup final at Dulwich Hamlet.


In 1998 the FA unveiled the current FA Women’s Cup. No sooner had they done so than Arsenal skipper Sian Williams famously dropped it and bust the lid.


Meanwhile, Eric Worthington’s trophy was pensioned off and now twinkles under the spotlights of the National Football Musuem.


It had spent much of the 80s and early 90s with the Doncaster Belles, whose founder Sheila Edmunds had a sombre annual ritual of handing it back – usually only temporarily.


England routinely walked all over Scotland with such casual regularity that the idea of any trophy being at stake seems to have fallen by the wayside.




Given Scotland beat England 2–0 at the 2011 Cyprus Cup, then drew 4–4 in the sides’ last meeting in 2014, they enjoy the current bragging rights over their age-old rivals.


Is it now time this storied old trophy – this footballing Stone of Scone – was repatriated to Hampden Park?


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