As part of Sky sports news’ As head of the Lionesses series, Carol Thomas – the second-ever England women’s captain – talks about some of her career milestones, how the landscape of women’s football has changed and her advice to current captain Leah Williamson.
At 20, Thomas was named England women’s second official captain from 1976 to 1985, taking over from Sheila Parker.
She made her national team debut in 1974 and was the first Englishwoman to earn 50 caps for the Lionesses.
Thomas has achieved many firsts in her career, but when asked to take us back to the beginning of her journey, she shared Sky sports news: “My father played football in Hull and I had an older brother.
Football history was made at Wembley Stadium in 1966 and the image of Bobby Moore with the World Cup for England was an important inspirational moment for a young Thomas.
“Then came the World Cup in ’66, I was 11 at the time. Of course, that influenced me a lot. Luckily we had our own works league in Hull back then, there was a lady living near me who played for one of them and.” She invited me to join her team.
“And especially since the ban was still in place at the time – the ban on playing for women was not lifted until 1971 – and we were not allowed to play on adjacent pitches. So we played parks and yards wherever there were contributions.”
A pioneer of the sport, Thomas doesn’t think she was the loudest on the court, but she did demonstrate leadership.
She said: “I didn’t want to be a captain but I think it comes across. I’m basically quite a shy person but I like to think I encouraged the girls and ladies in the right direction. When I became captain, I wasn’t a screamer or anything, I like to think I set a good example.”
Also in the 70s, Carol became one of the first FA qualified coaches for women. She says it went hand in hand with captaincy, adding: “It helped a lot because I took part in the first-ever women’s coaching course at Lilleshall.
“We were about 15 or 20 I think. And I was fortunate to be just one of three who passed this course. So I was one of the first FA women’s coaches.”
When asked to describe the moment she realized she was going to be the next England captain, Thomas mused, “I mean, I had no idea. It’s been two years. I only played five games.
“It was the start of the international pony championships, which were the international home championships. And we played Scotland and Wales and the night before Wales played Scotland [Tommy Tranter] pulled me aside and said he would make me captain. I was over the moon Absolutely.”
Thomas was the first England captain to win an international tournament – the home games against Scotland and Wales in 1976. Adding to her achievements, she was also the first captain to captain England outside of Europe at the 1981 Portopia tournament in Japan.
Thomas says she was a little nervous about taking on the captaincy but added: “I enjoyed playing the game and the girls around me who were playing at the time, we were like a big happy one Family.
“And so there weren’t any problems. I just played captain my way and obviously it worked for me because I was captain for 11 years.”
As in Japan, Thomas was also the first captain to lead England to a European Cup final against Sweden in 1984. Even though they finished second, Thomas can’t hide her pride in leading the team for the game.
“I was so proud to be captain, not only to play for England but also to captain my team in the first-ever UEFA Women’s Championship final, very proud to have led them to that final.”
Thomas won her first cap against France in 1974 and later became the first Englishwoman to win 50 caps for England – one of the many important milestones in her career.
“A great achievement. And I was so proud again,” she said. “I’ve had so many firsts in my career, it’s really incredible.
“And like I say to the grassroots girls I speak to, they keep playing and having fun and they get to see the world. You get to see great things when you play women’s football.”
Thomas captained England for seven consecutive tournaments and, after a long captaincy, the record was finally broken by Faye White in 2011.
The landscape of women’s football has changed over the years and Thomas said: “It’s always developed and there’s obviously more money coming in since the mid-90s when it came under the FA umbrella. They’ve got WSL now and a lot of the girls who play for England, most of them are professionals.
“So that helped the game and I like to think we were just a little stepping stone to get them to where they are now in women’s football.”
Asked if she would like to captain England’s modern side, she said: “If you had asked me when I was just starting out as a 19, 20-year-old, I would have liked to have had the opportunities that the girls have now. All I would say to them is enjoy and make the most of your time playing women’s football at the highest level.”
Thomas gave Leah Williamson, the current England women’s captain, some of her advice ahead of this summer’s Women’s Championship.
She concluded: “Tell the team to get out there, enjoy it and just play the best you can. They did all the coaching, they did the training and hopefully the results will come for them. And I’m sure she’s going to be a great captain.”
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Follow Euro 2022 on Sky Sports
Stay up to date on Euro 2022 this summer via Sky Sports and Sky Sports News.
The coverage will be moderated by Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker alongside Jessica Creighton and Kyle Walker. Meanwhile, Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett will provide analysis throughout the tournament.
They are also joined by veteran England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.
The experts and presenters will work from the Sky Sports Women’s Euro 2022 mobile presentation bus, which will follow the Sky Sports News team across the country to the various stadiums where matches will be played.
In addition, Sky Sports’ Essential Football Podcast will be rebranded to Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast for the tournament from 21 June. Hosted by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui, it will feature exclusive news and player interviews, as well as strong programming around the tournament.
Euro 2022: The Groups…
Group A: England, Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland
Group C: Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland
Group D: France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland
Euro 2022: the schedule…
Wednesday July 6th
Group A: England v Austria – kick-off 8pm, Old Trafford
Thursday July 7th
Group A: Norway v Northern Ireland – kick-off 8pm, St Mary’s
Friday, July 8th
Group B: Spain vs Finland – kick-off 5pm, Stadion MK
Group B: Germany v Denmark – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Saturday July 9th
Group C: Portugal v Switzerland – kick-off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Group C: Netherlands v Sweden – kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Sunday 10 July
Group D: Belgium v Iceland – kick-off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Italy – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Monday 11 July
Group A: Austria vs Northern Ireland – kick-off 5pm, St Mary’s
Group A: England v Norway – kick-off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Tuesday 12th July
Group B: Denmark vs Finland – kick-off 5pm, Stadion MK
Group B: Germany v Spain – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Wednesday July 13th
Group C: Sweden v Switzerland – kick-off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Netherlands v Portugal – kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Thursday 14 July
Group D: Italy v Iceland – kick-off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France v Belgium – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Friday 15 July
Group A: Northern Ireland v England – kick-off 8pm, St Mary’s
Group A: Austria vs Norway – kick-off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Saturday July 16th
Group B: Finland vs. Germany – kick-off 8pm, Stadion MK
Group B: Denmark v Spain – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Sunday 17 July
Group C: Switzerland v Netherlands – kick-off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Sweden v Portugal – kick-off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Monday 18 July
Group D: Iceland vs France – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Group D: Italy v Belgium – kick-off 8pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Wednesday July 20th
Quarter-Final 1: Winners Group A – Runners-up Group B – Kick-off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Thursday 21st July
Quarter-final 2: Group B winners – Group A runners-up – Kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Friday 22 July
Quarter-Finals 3: Group C winners – Group D runners-up – Kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Quarter-Finals 4: Winners Group D – Runners-up Group C – Kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Tuesday 26th July
Semi-Final 1: Quarter-Final 1 Winner vs. Quarter-Final 3 Winner – Kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27th
Semi-final 2: winner of quarter-final 2 – winner of quarter-final 4 – kick-off 8 p.m., Stadium MK
Sunday 31 July
Winner Semi-Final 1 – Winner Semi-Final 2 – Kick-off 5pm, Wembley