Dick, Kerr and Co. are famous not for what they produced but for their Ladies football team.
In this, Eve Ainsworth’s second novel about the team, their progression to international matches is told alongside the story of Freddie, brother of one of the factory workers, Hettie who is heavily involved in the team. Freddie has returned from the trenches of the First World War in 1917 wounded, not just in his leg resulting in a limp, but more difficult to explain to his parents, what we would now call PTSD. He finds it hard to sleep waking up with nightmares. He also had a head wound which resulted in bad headaches and worse than all this is his guilt over the death of a friend. His new skill with a camera eventually offers him a way out, along with his friendship with a new member of the team, Jessie, who finds him the opportunity for a job and also a way to deal with his experiences during the war.
This is not then a story just about women’s football in its pioneering days, but has the added depth given to it by Freddie’s story. Freddie’s relationship with his father who has pain of his own but struggles on with his job, is difficult as neither man understands the other as they do not talk to each other, but gradually Freddie learns to talk and also stand up for himself in the newsroom at the paper where he starts work, so the reader sees him visibly progress towards not being defined by his traumatic war experience. Beside this, the reader follows the excitement of each game with enough detail given to satisfy those who know about football and not bore those who are not desperately interested!
It is perhaps difficult now to grasp how ground-breaking this team and others like it were, demonstrating so clearly how the role of women changed for ever during the Great War. Eve Ainsworth, an under-rated writer I feel, has written much more than a football story for girls in a story with real depth but also broad appeal.