This season, staff and students at the Centre continue their series on the pioneers who contributed to the growth and development of the game. Today, Dr Katie Taylor, who has recently taken up an academic post at the Centre, profiles Kerry Davis, the first black woman to play for England.
She was the first black woman to play in an official England international. She played 82 times for her country, scoring 44 goals.
Davis grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and experienced racism when the family moved to the village of Harriseahead. Davis recalls the abuse as one of the worst experiences of her life. Football was her escape, and she joined Sandbach Ladies at the age of 11, where she played alongside adult women.
Between the ages of 16 and 23, Davis starred for Crewe Alexandra Ladies, and while she was there, she made her England debut in 1982, scoring two goals against Northern Ireland. Davis featured in the 1984 UEFA European Competition for Women’s Football – where England lost to Sweden in the final on penalties. The following year, England beat Italy 3-2 in the 1985 Mundialito (Little World Cup) final, and Italian teams spotted Davis’ talent.
She signed for Lazio in November 1985. The following year, she moved to ACF Trani, who became runners-up in both Serie A and the Coppa Italia in her second season. After her fourth campaign in Italy, this time for Napoli, Davis returned to England and once again played for Crewe. Unlike in Italy, where she could play football full-time, Davis worked in a factory alongside her football commitments.
In 1992, Davis joined Knowsley, who became Liverpool Ladies in the summer of 1994. Davis’ last team was Croydon Women, whom she joined in December 1994. She won the league and cup double with Croydon in 1996, before leaving in 1999.
In 1995, Davis also played in the first Women’s World Cup that England qualified for. She was involved in all four matches in a competition that saw England knocked out in the quarter-finals in a 3-0 defeat to Germany. Davis made her final appearance for her country in March 1998 in a 1-0 defeat to Germany. She remained England’s top female goalscorer until Kelly Smith overtook her in 2012.
The FA took over running women’s football in 1993, and Davis blames poor record-keeping by the organisation for the lack of awareness of the women who played for England in its earlier years. She has called for the establishment of a website to recognise, honour, and celebrate the players from her generation and those that came before her. In doing so, some of England’s pioneering female players will become better known.
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