England’s forgotten captain Carol Thomas was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday, as her pioneering contribution to women’s football was finally recognised.
Thomas, 66, captained England’s women to the 1984 European Championship – where they lost on penalties – and was first female player to reach 50 caps for the Lionesses.
Sportsmail’s interview with Thomas last month highlighted how her achievements had been overlooked for decades and she spoke of her hopes that she would one day be given the recognition she deserves.
Carol Thomas is finally getting the recognition she deserves for her storied playing career
On Tuesday the 66-year-old was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame
And on Tuesday that acknowledgement finally came. Thomas was surprised by the current England squad and manager Sarina Wiegman at St George’s Park as she was formally inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Thomas had no idea the presentation was happening and believed she was there to watch the players training.
But as the session finished, her family and some of her old England team-mates arrived to break the news.
Thomas (above) was a pioneer of the women’s game but has struggled for recognition – she sat down last month to speak with Sportsmail about her life and career in football
‘It was totally unexpected,’ said an emotional Thomas. ‘I thought I was just coming down to see St George’s Park, watch the girls train here then go home this afternoon. That was such a surprise to see the girls that I used to play with in the 70s and 80s – and then my family turned up!
‘My family have been pushing for me to be in the Hall of Fame but I didn’t think it was going to happen. It’s such an honour to eventually get there.
‘It’s been a long battle but it’s definitely been worth the wait. It was such a surprise today and it was absolutely brilliant for it to happen at St George’s Park, the home of football. It’s the icing on the cake for me and well worth the wait.’
Thomas was embraced by every member of the England squad, who all posed for photos and cheered when she was given her award.
England’s current squad celebrated the moment with Thomas as she held aloft the gong
‘That was amazing, the reaction from the girls that were training today,’ Thomas said. ‘They all came over and congratulated me, which is great. I’ll never forget that.
‘Sometimes our era, we used to get the impression that the girls of today maybe didn’t think that we existed. But that reaction to me today was completely the opposite. It was absolutely fabulous.
‘We like to think of ourselves as pioneers. We paid money to play for our country. We travelled everywhere, we didn’t have places like this to train at. We were training on local parks.
‘To see from our beginnings to where the women are playing now, it’s absolutely brilliant. We are just so pleased to have been a small part of it.’
While Thomas enjoyed watching Wiegman’s squad in action, there was no desire to dust off her boots and join them on the pitch. ‘Not the way they were running about. We’ve talked about walking football today, I might give that a try!
And where will she put the award? ‘We’ve just completely redecorated the living room so it will find pride of place, no problem!’
Thomas captained England’s women to the 1984 European final — where they lost to Sweden