Former England captain Carol Thomas said a sold-out Wembley would have been in her “wildest dreams” when she led the side to the 1984 Women’s Euros final.
Thomas was skipper of the national side in the first edition of the tournament, which had only four teams, including a two-legged final which England lost on penalties to Sweden.
Having been the first woman to win 50 caps for England, and captain the side in seven consecutive tournaments, Thomas also remains one of only four people, man or woman, to have captained England to a major tournament final, along with Bobby Moore, Harry Kane and Faye White.
England kick off their 2022 tournament on Wednesday in front of a sell-out crowd at Old Trafford against Austria.
Envisioning a sold-out Old Trafford and Wembley is a far cry from what Thomas recalls from her playing days.
“At that time, it was a great honour to get selected for England, obviously, and we all had full-time jobs in those days, so we went to work nine to five and then – because we were playing for England – we needed to do that extra training,” Thomas, who is working with LinkedIn, who are a national sponsor of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, told the PA news agency.
“So we’d come home from work and do extra training on our own, basically, and then we’d do training for our local club teams, so it was quite busy, but well worth it.”
During her career, England were often confined to playing at non-league stadiums and, when Thomas made her debut in 1974, it was just three years after the Football Association had lifted its 50-year ban on women playing football.
“It was difficult but we had a good squad of players and, as I said, we did extra training and we enjoyed playing and representing our country,” added Thomas.
“So, really, we didn’t think about it as being a hardship. I mean, it was hard, because we had to pay money to play for our country really.
“A lot of the girls had to take holidays to play England games. I was lucky, who I worked for in Hull, they gave me time off, so it didn’t cost me any holidays or anything like that, but there was quite a few girls who had to use holidays and some that couldn’t get to matches because of that.”
When asked what she would have thought of England selling over 500,000 tickets for a home Women’s Euros, Thomas said: “That would have been in our wildest dreams. To think that, years in the future, they’d be playing a Women’s Euros in this country.
“Old Trafford is a 70,000 sell-out and the final at Wembley, that’s a sell-out, so it’s just amazing and shows how far women’s football has come, which is a good thing.”
:: Carol Thomas was speaking to the PA news agency while on a walk from Crewe, the site of the first women’s Euros match in 1984, to Old Trafford as part of LinkedIn’s ‘Follow in Her Footsteps’ campaign to spotlight female role models.