I N T E R V I E W S

On the Ball with Debbie Bampton


If there was one female footballer in the country, that could honestly say they had 'done it all', then it would be Debbie Bampton MBE. Having played for England across three decades and won the F.A. Premier League double twice as a player and manager, she has unquestionable experience in the sport. Refreshingly, she also has opinions to go with it.

You made your debut for England in 1978, captained them during the '95 World Cup and played a total of 95 times for your country:

“Yeah, I was only 16 when I was selected for a trip to Holland. I only played the last 20 minutes of one game and hated every second of it and the kit only just fitted us. I think some of the older girls nearly split their shorts!

“I have 4 caps, 1 from the WFA and 3 from The F.A. for playing in major competitions like the European Championships. I never got to keep them though, because my mum and dad keep all of my medals. I only had my MBE for a few days before she took that as well!

“I had the England captaincy from 1985 - 1991, then I got injured and Gill Coultard took over. Then, just before the World Cup in '95, I got it back. It was difficult, especially as Gill and I were roommates and at that point the England squad was split. A lot of people wanted Claire Taylor (Liverpool) to be captain, but it was something I'd always wanted to do and so I just enjoyed it.

“I would have liked to have reached 100 appearances, but with playing and managing it was becoming too stressful. Still, it wasn't a particularly a nice way to finish. I was going through a bad time in my life and decided not to go to play in Norway, after Ted Copeland left the decision to me. Players in the men's professional game like Paul Merson and Tony Adams get support from their manager, but he showed no real concern. I was never asked back - that was me and England finished. End of story.

“Ted is an exceptional coach, but his man-management skills are not comparable. Considering the resources available to him, he did a good job, but he should really have just been the coach, with a manager alongside him. He was too insensitive to work with women. His wife actually used to say after games, "You played well. I hope Ted told you that." We'd say - you've got to be joking! He has a great sense of humour, but he would treat you like his best friend and then next thing, not want anything to do with you. Girls can't accommodate that kind of behaviour.”

Your dad found you your first team?

“All of those years ago (!), we didn't know women's football existed, so I just used to play at school with the lads. I used to wear football shorts under my skirt and put my socks in my bag. When I was 11, there was an advert in the paper from a team and I went along. I was tiny and wanted to be a midfielder, but they used to stick me out on the right wing, worried that I might get hurt, playing against adult women. That really annoyed me.

“I used to play judo as well, but at 16 I chose football. The only thing that bothers me about that choice is that in an individual sport you only rely on yourself, whereas, there have been times in my football career that I've thought other players weren't as dedicated, which is frustrating. Even as a manager, I see people with out-standing ability just wasting it.”


What's the best place you've visited through football?

“It was always my dream to play in America because I thought women in sport were accepted there. But with England it was a big disappointment, because all that we saw were the pitches and hotels. We might as well have been at home! I was sponsored to go to New Zealand in the 80's, but I was injured and didn't get to play. In hindsight, I shouldn't have gone, because I would have got better medical treatment for my knee here, though I often wish they could see me play - that I did recover. I also went to Italy when Kerry Davies was out there.

“The BBC filmed a documentary about Kerry in her first season, but it's a shame they didn't follow it up, because she was there for 5 seasons and became much more settled. I went out to see what it was like and was asked to stay. It was great - sun and football - but we had problems getting paid. I didn't bother Kerry, but I had a mortgage at home to pay. At that time there were players from all around the world there, it's shame that the Italians haven't progressed after such great era.”

As an outsider now, do you think the national side has improved?

“I don't think many things have changed. I find it frustrating knowing Hope's moans as a player and that those things haven't been changed. Training twice a day, for example. Even professional male players don't do it. If you're not used to it, surely its going to drain you, yet they still do that.

“There are obviously things that Hope does, that I wouldn't necessarily do. Managers' teams are often different to the way they played. Hope was a creative player, but she had 3 destroyers in the middle against Norway. Another thing is, we used to be told and I've heard Hope says it too, “Watch out the youngsters are coming.” Where are they then? I am definitely impressed by Katie Chapman at Millwall and I like Amanda Barr of Everton and the Hunt twins - I see them week in week out. But, the U18's drew with Ireland and lost to Spain and Norway, while Gill is still one of the best players in the country at 36!

“The overall standard of football has definitely improved, because of the Premier League, but we are still so far behind the times, in men's football as well. The training facilities throughout the country are abysmal. Now there is talk of a professional league, but that happened 15yrs ago in Italy! True, the only way we will catch up is if we go full-time, but I really don't know how that will happen. Some of our players wouldn't give up their day jobs, because they earn a lot of money. But, we have to do something, otherwise we might as well just play home internationals, because soon they'll be the only teams we will be able to beat.”

Would Croydon survive in a professional league?

“Croydon might not want us to go, because we've been good for each other, but I think it's only a matter of time before Croydon links up with a professional club, perhaps Charlton or Crystal Palace. But then we're doing better than teams like Liverpool and Millwall who are currently linked to men's clubs, so what could be done to make us better than we are now? Long term though, just having one team (Croydon's reserves folded last year) is a problem. We get loads of calls, but we haven't got the resources to develop players.”

Would you personally want to work in football full time?

“I'd have problems working with The F.A., because you can't speak your mind. If I was emotional about something, I'd find it hard not to. Still, if they said, "Here's the England job," like most managers in women's football - I'd say, "Yes." But I was really pleased for Hope. A lot of her life is taken up travelling - that isn't the way I'd like to live. Perhaps if Croydon links to a professional club, then there will be opportunities for myself or other girls to work.”

What about the 'media thing'?

“I really enjoy it. I've done 5 Sky com-mentaries now. I felt really nervous at first, but now I feel more com-fortable. It's not easy when you don't regularly work with your other co-commentator and because I'm still involved, I have to be diplomatic. Still, I can't say someone's having a good game if they're not.”

Another good season for Croydon but you must be sick of playing Arsenal in cup finals?

Yeah, especially when we keep losing! On paper, Arsenal are the best team in the league - without a doubt. People like Marieanne, Rachel Yankey and Ciara Grant, who I think is probably one of the best midfielders I’ve played against. It has been a strange season for them, losing at Tranmere and even drawing at Liverpool recently. There's no love lost between the two teams though. Most of the players get on alright off the pitch, it’s just a few that don't. I am an Arsenal supporter. I've supported them since I was a kid and my dad is Arsenal mad as well. It's not good for the game though, us playing against the same team all of the time. Even if Croydon don't win anything, we've still had a good season. We haven't lost for 23 months, which is hard to imagine, though it's been very close sometimes. You couldn't really say we've got one outstanding player, but when we played at home we played Arsenal and Doncaster off the park. We have an incredible team spirit. After playing so abysmally against Arsenal, we bounced back. You wouldn't have believed we'd lost if you'd seen them at training the following Thursday. It bothers our players and our supporters that we have to travel up to Sheffield for the cup final. Doncaster will have a lot more supporters than us, but I think we play better when we go away for the weekend. We bond better and enjoy the occasion.”

Do you never think - this is too much, playing and managing?

“Yeah, every week! I'm definitely retiring from playing at the end of the season (though a lot of people don't believe me). I know I'm a better manager when I'm not doing both jobs, from when I was out injured for a time. On the pitch, your emotions are all over the place, though sometimes, in the changing rooms it's good to be emotional. I do things for effect, like slamming the door, though I haven't thrown any cups, yet! Alan and I will have a chat before the game but I'll make the decisions, like substitutions. We don't always agree, but that can be a healthy thing. Jo's dad Brian Broadhurst also helps.”

It's a bit of a family affair at Croydon isn't it?

Well, my sister Lorraine used to play a little bit, but apparently it annoyed her that I got all of the attention, because if my mum wasn't taking me to judo, my dad was taking me to football. But now she comes to watch and all of the girls like her being around, so she was appointed General Manager. My dad's run the line this season and my mum's not into listening to my dad's commentary, so she does the tea in her own little 'Ann's café!”

.. and more importantly

FIRST BOOTS?

Probably a cheap pair from Woolworths. I remember having a pair of red ones like Alan Ball.
That was pretty sad!

Worst strip?

At Maidstone. It was green, yellow and clingy. Horrible.

Superstitions?

Well I did have until the League Cup Final! Over the last two seasons at away games, I would get subbuteo out to explain tactics. The girls thought it was hilarious and we never lost, so it became a kind of superstition.

Most Embarrassing Moment?

I was playing for England and the Italians were saying, "Swap shirts, swap shirts." We were walking off the pitch and so I went to take my shirt off and manager Martin Regan mouthed, "Put your shirt back on."
Obviously it's not the done thing. Mind, I should have got a sponsor for my bra.