Tomorrow is the latest Manchester derby in the Women’s Super League. There’s a long history of competition between teams representing the women of Manchester City and Manchester United. City’s team has been in existence continually since November 1988 when Donna Haynes and Heidi Ward both scored two goals in their first game (v Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park).
I was at the City Ladies (as they were then known) first game and I was also at their first league derby in September 1990 when City defeated United 4-3. It was a fantastic day, watched by around 150 people.
City’s goals came from Rhoda Taylor (8 min), Rachel O’Shaughnessy (43 mins), Jenny Newton (50 mins) and Lesley Peters. City’s manager Neil Mather told me as part of my research for the Manchester City Women book: ‘United were the top side, you know, and beating them was so good for morale. The men’s team were a good side in the early 90s when City Ladies carried on developing, you know. This was the Howard Kendall era, and City had top five finishes. City were one of the top five or six teams in the country at the time, so it was fabulous for women’s football to have Man City, you know.’
Helen Hempenstall played for City that day and she described her memory of the day for my book: I remember when we played United (30/9/90) and Neil (Helen’s boyfriend, now husband) and all his mates came to watch us. There were a lot of people there that day. United had a decent team then. It was always a difficult game against United. They had a right-winger… We never got on. Every time we played each other we were at each other all the way through the game. Me and Carol Woodall were having a go at her. The referee told Lesley Wright “Tell both your full backs to shut their mouths otherwise they’ll both be off!” We just didn’t get along and before every game I thought I’ll get in their first. ‘I’m having her.’ Neil Mather still talks about it.
‘I think Lesley Wright kept the team together. She kept it all tight at the back. I played at the back with her and I learnt a lot from her. Because I was next to her I knew how important she was. If I missed something she always got it. She always encouraged me and kept shouting ‘different class, different class’. You learn from the people around you and I listened to her. Before every game she came to speak to me. She’d put her arm around me and reassure me. She’d tell me not to worry about anything. Most of the time travelling to away games I’d go with Lesley in the car. We used to have a laugh. I remember one day we were travelling to an away game some distance away and we stopped for petrol and all got out. I lit up a fag and everyone else jumped back in the car screaming! I didn’t even think! When we got to the ground they all told Neil Mather and I think he worried that he could’ve lost half his team. At another game I was sat in the middle and as we got out the person before me slammed the door back. It hit my head and I had a big lump for the game.’
The story of that game and of the first 30 years or so of City Women’s existence can be read in my book on the club. It’s called Manchester City Women: An Oral History and is basically the women telling their stories of playing for the club and how they got into football, plus statistics covering the journey from friendlies in 1988-89 through to competition and the modern day successes.
You can buy the book via this link (every copy is signed by me):