Doncaster Belles: Interview with original Belle Vue Belle Jill Betts

Jill Betts, former Doncaster Belles player. Picture: Marie Caley D5241MC
Jill Betts, former Doncaster Belles player. Picture: Marie Caley D5241MC
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Jill Betts got a kick out of football long before it became fashionable for the fairer sex to do so.

A member of the original 1969 team – then known as Belle Vue Belles - Jill recalled: “We just played friendlies for a while and then we realised that we were pretty good so we decided to join the Sheffield Ladies’ Sunday League.

“We won that and later moved on to the Nottingham League in the early 70s where we were also successful.”

Life as a Belles’ player then was a world away from that of today’s first-teamer.

“We didn’t have any facilities and often went home in our dirty kit,” said Jill. “Money was tight in the early days and we only got by by selling raffle tickets

“My dad wasn’t working and we didn’t have a lot of money so I got myself a paper round and a milk round in order to be able to pay the subs.”

Despite her lack of height, Jill was the team’s keeper for about five or six years before successfully switching to an outfield role when 17.

“Because the balls were so much heavier and harder to kick high than they are now, being a small keeper wasn’t that much of a problem,” she said.

Jill played alongside a young Gill Coultard, regarded by many as the best player to ever pull on a Belles’ shirt.

Said Jill: “Like me, Gill was only about eleven when she started. She was a very good midfielder and went on to captain England.”

Included among Jill’s career highlights was playing against QPR Ladies in a WFA Cup semi-final, and scoring a hat-trick – the only one of her career – against the touring Swedish national team.

Jill lost touch with the club after hanging up her boots when getting married in her late 20s.

She has, however, followed their much-publicised fight to retain their WSL status.

“Like a lot of people I don’t like what the FA have done; it seems to be all about money these days,” she claimed.

“One of their problems is they can’t put enough bums on seats.

“I know something like 8,000 signed their petition, but how many of them have ever seen the team play?

“Everybody has heard of the Doncaster Belles and I think the town should get behind them.

“The club should have got all those who signed the petition to buy a raffle ticket and asked them to buy a season ticket.

“I think one of the main problems is that a lot of the girls aren’t local.

“I don’t know any of their players, apart from Sue Smith who I met recently at a players’ reunion at the stadium.”