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Southampton legend Lloyd reflects on tackling sexism 50 years on from winning the first Women’s FA Cup

LESLEY LLOYD refused to allow sexist jibes to derail her pursuit of playing football for Southampton Ladies.

And the former Saints skipper says it is a ‘dream’ to see how far the Women’s FA Cup has come since she won the first trophy 50 years ago.

Lloyd, 74, was 24 when Saints made history in May 1971 by becoming the first team to win the Cup following a 4-1 win over Stewarton Thistle.

That year the FA lifted a ban on women playing football that had stood for 50 years when officials deemed the game as ‘quite unsuitable for females’.

Lloyd said: “We obviously had this scenario with a lot of men saying, ‘well ladies shouldn’t be playing football, etc, etc, etc’ and that’s how it went on.

“But then we used to have some come up and watch us and, in the end, we had more men than ladies watching.”

Today Lloyd will be among a host of Cup final captains attending the delayed final between Arsenal and Chelsea — and it will be quite a culture shock.

A record crowd of around 48,000 is expected at Wembley — a stark contrast to the 1,500 to 2,000 for the 1971 final at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

A hat-trick from Pat Davies and a goal from Dot Cassell saw the Saints emerge victorious with Rose Reilly netting Stewarton Thistle’s only goal.

Lloyd added: “I can remember getting there and or manager was walking around saying, 'they haven't cut in the grass'.

“But it was our Wembley because we knew men's teams around 1910 played their Cup finals at Crystal Palace.

“My legs were shaking as I walked out of there but as soon as the game started, that was it, the nerves were forgotten. We were very competitive.

“When I look at the FA Cup now and girls playing at Wembley, I think, ‘Gosh, I wish I was 50 years younger’.

“We couldn’t have dreamt of the way it is now, the way ladies’ football has taken off. It really does seem like the beautiful game for ladies.”