Debbie Bampton will forever be remembered as the captain during England’s first World Cup campaign in 1995. She has had a robust club and international career both as a player and as a manager. Bampton has 95 appearances for the national team while also winning the treble with the Arsenal Ladies in 1992 and the double with Croyden twice.
Debbie began her career during a time when many in England still ridiculed at the thought of women playing football. She used to play at school with her friends, wearing football shorts under her skirt and storing socks from home in her bag. When she was only 11 years old, she saw an advertisement in the paper for a local club team and decided to give it a shot. Despite going in with the expectation that she would be a midfielder, they stuck her out on the right wing fearing that she would get hurt. Throughout her childhood, Bampton was also playing judo but gave it up for football when she was 16.
Debbie began her career at the age of 14 for Howbury Grange which, at the time, was managed by her father, Albert. In 1987, Bampton moved to Italy to play professionally for Despar Trani 80 but spent only a season there. This was the extent of Bampton’s professional career. At the time, there were no professional leagues for women in England and the financial burden of living abroad was too much. Although she gave up her job in England at the time, she still owned and had to pay the mortgage on her house. Despite being a professional, she was earning the same sort of wage she did back in England and often had trouble receiving payments. It was a shame for Bampton, as she noted that she “became much more comfortable with the ball” (Hodgson). While back in England, she would have to wake at six for her day job chauffeuring members of parliament through the capital’s traffic.
Bampton made her England debut against the Netherlands in September 1978 while still in school. During the 1984 European Competition for Women’s Football, Bampton hit the winning goal against Denmark to send England into the finals. Bampton became captain the following year after the retirement of Carol Thomas, England’s second-longest serving captain to this date. However, Bampton suffered an injury in 1991 and Gillian Coultard took over as captain. Just before the 1995 World Cup, Bampton controversially took back the captaincy from Coultard. At the time, Coultard and Bampton were roommates. This split the England squad. In an interview later on in her career, Bampton stated that “a lot of people wanted Claire Taylor (Liverpool) to be captain, but it was always something [she’d] always wanted to do and so [she] just enjoyed it” (Wayback Machine).
Bampton continued to be captain for England leading into the 1997 UEFA Women’s Championship qualifiers. After failing to reach the finals, she had to face the ugly reality of sexism surrounding the sport. In the post-game interview, one reporter asked her, “Do the girls wear support bras?” to which Bampton sharply replied, “no comment”. Later that day, Bampton responded to the incident, saying “it was a female reporter, of all people… the sexist questions that [she] got asked was like going back in time. [She] got that 10 years ago. Blokes used to say: ‘Women playing football – do you exchange shirts on the pitch? and all that. But not now, times have changed” (Rowbottom).
“To be a female footballer at international level you have to be dedicated, so some of the questions you are asked are laughable. We want to be treated as equals. We are sportswomen whether we are swimming, playing rugby, football or cricket.” (Hodgson).
Debbie Bampton made her final debut for the England national team in May 1997. She continued her club career as a player-manager for Croyden (now Charlton Athletic F.C.) until 2000. In 1998, Bampton was awarded an MBE for her contributions to women’s football both as a player and as a manager. In 2005, she was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
- Wayback Machine. 20 May 2008, web.archive.org/web/20080520204822/http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/pages/fame/Inductees/debbiebampton.htm.
- “On the Ball with Debbie Bampton.” Wayback Machine, 7 Mar. 2001, web.archive.org/web/20010307122051/http://on-the-ball.com/interviews/debbam.htm.
- Hodgson, Guy. “Bampton still has to break down barries.” Independent, 1 Oct. 1996, www.independent.co.uk/sport/bampton-still-has-to-break-down-barriers-1356249.html.
- Rowbottom, Mike. “Women boldly go where no men have been of late.” The Independent, 6 June 1995, www.independent.co.uk/sport/women-boldly-go-where-no-men-have-been-of-late-1585233.html.