1996 - Croydon 1-1 Liverpool (AET) - CROYDON WON ON PENS

Sunday 28 April 1996, 3pm
The New Den, Millwall FC, South East London
Attendance: 2,110Sponsor: UK Living TV
(formerly Knowsley United)
Hope Powell (38)Karen Burke (22)
Croydon won 3-2 on penalties
Line-up (4-4-2): Line-up (4-4-2):
1.Louise Cooper1.Rachel Brown
2.Anita Dines (sub 115)
5.Donna Smith
9.Brenda Sempare
6.Columbine Saunders
2.Leanne Taylor
4.Clare Taylor (c)
5.Jill Thomas
3.Julie Griffiths (sub 119)
10.Kerry Davis
7.Tina Mapes
8.Debbie Bampton (sub 9)
3.Carole Osborne (sub 89)
6.Sammy Hayward
7.Karen Burke
8.Becky Easton (sub 89)
11.Joy McQuiggan (sub 78)
4.Hope Powell (c)
11.Tara Proctor
10.Jody Handley
9.Maria Harper
Alex Cottier (sub 9)Debbie Holland (sub 78)
Caroline McGloin (sub 89)Leanne Duffy (sub 89)
Sarah Mulligan (sub 115)Gayle Formston (sub 119)
Sammy Wilson
Andrea Cowan (GK)
Player-manager: Debbie BamptonManager: Joby Humphries
Referee: S. W. Mathieson
Linesmen: A. J. Green & M. R. Halsey
Reserve: G. L. Ives

This was the year football was “Coming Home” with England hosting Euro ‘96, the men’s European Championship. Women’s football in England though was a long way from being made to feel at home.

The FA Women’s Cup final remained behind the TV paywall, now stationed in the backwaters of satellite TV, broadcast as-live later in the evening by UK Living who were also the competition’s sponsors.

Croydon player-manager Debbie Bampton was one of the biggest names in the game. She had won more than 80 caps for England and had already finished on the winning team in WFA Cup finals for Howbury Grange (1984), Millwall Lionesses (1991) and Arsenal (1993). Despite her profile, her contacts and her experience, nothing came easy in women’s football.

“We are not affiliated to a professional club and have had to work hard. Even getting tracksuits has been difficult,” she told the press.

Injury meant Bampton only lasted nine minutes on the pitch but at least that afforded her the opportunity to fully concentrate from the dugout. Speaking to us today, Bampton says: “Every FA Cup win was special, but doing it as a player-manager was just that little bit more so. When every decision ultimately rests with you, then to lead your team to a trophy is incredible. That’s what football is all about.”

For Liverpool it was a case of third time unlucky having now been FA Cup runners-up in 1994 (as Knowsley United), 1995 and 1996.

England midfielder Karen Burke put Liverpool ahead midway through the first-half when she tucked home a pass from Joy McQuiggan. Hope Powell equalised seven minutes before the break after good work by team-mates Carol Osborne and Tina Mapes.

With no further score the match became only the second women’s FA Cup final to progress to extra-time. With 60 seconds of the extra 30 minutes remaining Liverpool manager Joby Humphries hoped he had a secret weapon at his disposal. He sent on substitute Gayle Formston, scorer of the winning penalty in the semi-final shootout against Arsenal.

The final whistle blew just seconds later with Formston not even having had a chance to touch the ball. The Women’s FA Cup final was going to penalties for the very first time and the tension was palpable.

As fate would have it, it was Formston who missed the crucial kick as she skied her effort well over the bar to hand the Cup to Croydon. Speaking to us today she says, “It was literally my very first touch. I usually knew where I would place penalties but I noticed Louise Cooper was standing to one side and she was very tall, so it put me in two minds.”

Cooper says, “It was my best moment in football. I have never felt as much pressure as that day. We celebrated our League and FA Cup Double on an open top bus and I have a photo of me and mum on the top deck. She died five years later and that’s one of my favourite memories with her. Being together and celebrating that achievement.”