From World Cup to warehouse: Doncaster football legend Gillian Coulthard's amazing career

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She scored England’s first ever World Cup goal – and as the Lionesses go in search of glory in this year’s contest, Doncaster football icon Gillian Coulthard will be cheering them on.

Former national captain Gillian, now 60, was a pioneer for the women's game, being capped 119 times for the Lionesses between 1981 and 2000 and was the first female player to hit the century mark in appearances.

Her big moment came in 1995 when she netted a penalty against Canada in Sweden to write herself into the history books as the first-ever women's goalscorer for the Lionesses at a World Cup.

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She now works in a warehouse near Doncaster - but is still committed as ever to team work, even though some of her colleagues may not know her prestigious background, which also includes an MBE.

England football legend Gillian Coulthard now works in a warehouse.England football legend Gillian Coulthard now works in a warehouse.
England football legend Gillian Coulthard now works in a warehouse.

In an interview with employers, pharmaceutical company Teva, Thorne-born Gillian said: "The most important thing I’ve learned from my football career is how to work as part of a team.

“At Teva, teamwork is important or we won’t get the job done. I look at other people and how they work, they have different skills to me, different ways of working and what they’re doing is just as important as what I’m doing. We’re all working together, working to help each other and get products out.

“I always strive to do my best. That’s what motivates me, my 8-hour shift is my 90-minute match. If I hit my targets, I’ve won. Otherwise I’ve lost. I’m used to playing as a part of a successful team, the desire to win never goes away.”

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She added: “I pick products, I drive a truck, I do replenishments, I do quite a lot of varied jobs within my shift. No two days are ever the same, it all depends on the customers and the orders. And that’s good because you know you're going to be doing something different every day.”

The youngest of a family of eight - she has four brothers and three sisters – Gillian was drawn to football early on.

She said: “I always tagged along with my oldest brother and football was what I wanted to do from a young age.

"I was always kicking a football and then I watched the FA Cup finals and thought, "I want to play for England”.

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"And I was fortunate enough to do it 119 times, to captain the England team and play at Wembley. I was the first person to score a goal for England in the women’s World Cup.

"All of my dreams came true. Believe in your dreams.

“I started playing football on our local green with other families, then I played football in primary school.

"But when I went to secondary school, I was told I had to play the girls' games, which were hockey and netball.

"Luckily, my PE teacher took me to see Doncaster Belles, a local women’s football team who just happened to be one of the best teams in England. I joined the team when I was 13 and I had my first England trial the same year. I played my first match for England in May 1981, against the Republic of Ireland. We won.

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“A player who was coming to the end of her career as I was starting mine said, "You're only as good as your last game”.

"If you don't give 100% in that game, you might not get picked for the next one, so that's how I looked at it.

"And fortunately for me, I never missed any games through injury. I was never left out of the team, other than the last game of my football career, which was against Norway.

"That was my 119th appearance and that was it. Once that happened, I thought, it’s time to hang the boots up.

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At club level, she won two National League titles and six FA Women's Cup finals during 24 years with the Belles.

She made over 300 appearances and became a key player in the side which dominated women’s football in England.

Coultard fitted in four training sessions and a match every week, despite her full–time job on the production line at a Pioneer factory in Castleford. She used her annual leave from work to play for England and rejected several offers to join semi-professional clubs in Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Finland.

She added: “Because I was first female footballer to play 100 times for England, people assumed I would have been awarded an MBE years ago.

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"But it wasn’t until 20 years after I retired from playing that it happened.

“I was at work when I received the email from Buckingham Palace about the MBE and I thought first, is it a scam. I showed it to my team leader and asked her what did she think?

"She told me to ring them. So, I rang up and said, I’ve just had this email and I’m checking to see if it’s true. The man on the phone said, “I’ve just had 30 calls with the same question”.

“I’d just come off my shift at 10pm when the list was announced and I didn’t get to bed until 3am because of the number of people getting in touch to congratulate me. It was absolutely unbelievable.

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“I still have to pinch myself really when I think about it, to be honest. I've waited that long for it, now that I’ve got it, I can't really digest it.

“To achieve success in life, always do a good job, whatever you’re doing. I like my job, I like to get those tablets out the door, to get them out to the patients that need them. Commit yourself, don’t do it half-heartedly. You’ve got to give 100%. I like to think I give 100% for Teva.”