Many Trafford residents will be familiar with the Stretford Pageant and its history. Less known, however, were the significant women’s football games involved in the Pageant’s programme.

For years, a number of renowned women’s football teams have been included in the Pageant: such as the world-famous Dick, Kerr Ladies from Preston, the Northenden Ladies, Manchester Ladies, and the renowned Manchester Corinthians. There were also a number of French teams involved in the line-up as well.


1970: Manchester Corinthians vs. Manchester Nomads

The Manchester Corinthians were a team of local women brought together under the management of Percy Ashley, at a time when the Football Association (FA) banned women from playing on FA-affiliated grounds. Established in 1949, Ashley’s team toured the world promoting the sport and demonstrating what a dedicated group of players the club possessed.

Their first appearance at the Stretford Pageant came in 1951 when they played Northenden Ladies. In 1957 a second club was created by Ashley called Manchester Nomads with the aim of enabling the Corinthians and Nomads to play each other in charity fundraisers, as well as entering both teams in competition.

Ashley deliberately chose those names because, though it’s not often realised, there were two famous men’s amateur teams called ‘Corinthians’ and ‘Nomads’ (or ‘Northern Nomads’) who were renowned for their sporting endeavour and the perception that they played the game in the right spirit. Ashley recognised the history of those names and wanted his women’s teams to represent the best sporting attitude possible.

While the Nomads were often perceived as a ‘second team’ to the Corinthians, both teams were, in fact, balanced: from time to time players were rotated to ensure a high level of competition. The Nomads themselves often played significant games in tournaments against other leading clubs of the period.

The Stretford Pageant Charity Football Match medal was awarded to Jan Lyons in 1970, when she was a member of the Corinthians team. Jan, who later played for the Juventus women’s team in the Italian league, remembers the June match at Longford Park very well: ‘The Stretford Pageant was important and we played in front of a decent crowd there. It was always a competitive game and we enjoyed it.’

Jan – who, as a girl, had an opportunity to join Stretford Harriers but chose football instead – spent two years in Italy with Juventus in the early 1970s. Back then the Italians had a more professional approach when it came to the organisation of women’s football: with a regional and national league structure. In England, however, women’s football had only just been accepted by the FA, after being banned for nearly fifty years. 

As previously mentioned, the Football Association ban of 1921 prevented women’s football games from being staged on FA-affiliated grounds. As a result, local venues such as Longford Park and White City (among others) became critically important locations to women's football in Trafford, and to teams such as the Corinthians.

The Corinthians and the Nomads won a host of tournaments and trophies over the years, including a world tournament in 1960 in South America. In 1970, shortly after they appeared at the Stretford Pageant, the Corinthians found trophy success in a major tournament at Reims, in France.

The club survived through several managerial changes into the 1980s, with some of the later team members going on to become players with Manchester City’s women’s team in its inaugural season of 1988–89.

It was the work of these pioneering women's teams in the 1950s–1970s that many see as leading the way for women’s football. They promoted the sport globally at a time when the FA stubbornly refused to accept that women could play.