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Yalla Shoot :Wembley Wonders Man Utd Ladies feature story

On 11 August 1996, the Littlewoods Charity Challenge trophy was up for grabs in another fixture played as a curtain-raiser to a men’s game at Wembley – on this occasion the Charity Shield between Alex Ferguson’s 1995/96 Double winners and Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, who had finished runners-up in the top flight. “The FA provided us with a big coach and United gave us another new kit – a red one! – and we were so well looked after with food and everything,” says Geoff. “It was an absolutely brilliant day, and that was before a ball had even been kicked at Wembley.”

Although the Reds, led on the pitch by captain Donna Douglas, were all amateur players, after a number of years playing together under Konopka, the settled side was playing their best football, helped by their regular training sessions  at The Cliff training ground in Broughton, Salford, which was also the home of Ferguson’s squad during the week at the time, as well as the now legendary youth sides of that period. 

“During the season, we’d be able to train at The Cliff once a week, and we didn’t have to pay for it or anything,” says Geoff. “Nobby [Stiles] was there coaching the kids in the session before us and was always very nice. We’d stand by waiting for them to finish, and he’d come over holding a big bag of balls, asking me how things were going and if we were going to win the league that season. Nobby was always very interested.”

Boosted further by their participation at ‘Eurofest 96’ at Stamford Bridge earlier in the summer – an exhibition tournament which included Chelsea and United’s women’s teams, as organised by then Blues’ chairman Ken Bates to run alongside Euro 96 – the nerves were kept in check for Douglas and her Reds team-mates as they returned to the Wembley turf ahead of their August meeting with the Magpies.

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