By Phil Bailey.
It is fifty-six years today that the Wales Women’s hockey team recorded their first ever victory against England, beating them by 1-0 in front of 50,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium.
Wales had been playing against England since the very first game on the 22 April 1900 in Bangor, when England ran riot and won by 13-0.
The long wait for victory and success against the old rivals made the 1963 win an historic date in Wales’ hockey history.
The Times reported that the Welsh victory was built ‘around a magnificent performance by Hughes, at centre half, the opportunism of Gray-Williams, and the unfailing cover of the hard pressed defence’ it was truly a performance that epitomised Welsh grit and character.
The game was played in steady rain with storm clouds hovering overhead and watched by 50,000 spectators who were packed into Wembley stadium to witness Wales’ victory.
Wales had to defend with resilience from the very start of the game with Margaret Jones, the Welsh keeper, keeping England at bay. Wales did have the ball in the net against the run of play when Eira Matthews scored, only for it to be ruled out for offside.
England continued to press had but half time arrived with the score at 0-0.
At the start of the second half England continued to attack when suddenly Sheila Gray – Williams, the right inner, gathered the ball on the 25, raced past the past English defender and played her shot just inside the English post, giving the Welsh side a 1-0 lead.
Wales now had a slender lead and continued to resist waves of English pressure. When the final whistle went ‘every Welsh stick went in the air together; history had been made’.
The match-day programme recorded that the Wales side consisted of ‘eight teachers, a lecturer, a chemical salesperson and housewife’.
The side was:
GK: Margaret Jones – John Summers Club and Flintshire
RB: Mair Evans – Steel Company of Wales and Glamorganshire
LB: Lynne Thomas – Llanelly Ladies and Carmarthenshire
RH: Eirianwen Thomas – Penarth and Glamorganshire
CH: Jane Hughes – Llanelly Ladies and Carmarthenshire
LH: Jean Mead – Wellingborough Ladies, Northants
RW: Beti Wyn Burnell – Bangor Ladies and Caernarvonshire
RI: Sheila Gray – Williams – Winchmore Hill
CF: June Brown [Captain] – Penarth Ladies and Glamorganshire
LI: Eira Matthews – Penarth Ladies and Glamorganshire
LW: Margaret Richardson: Kent