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EXCLUSIVE: Nicola Sturgeon backs search for trailblazing Glenrothes women’s footballer

Glenrothes football player Sheila Beveridge
Sheila Beveridge in 1974

A pioneer of women’s football has been backed by Nicola Sturgeon in the search for a Glenrothes player who represented Scotland.

Women only started being awarded caps by the SFA in the 1990s after decades of being snubbed.

That included when Scotland took on England in their first international in 1972, a game that was banned from being held at SFA member clubs’ grounds and took place at Ravenscraig Stadium in Greenock.

Some of the women who took part in the game were finally given their caps in 2019 by the first minister and others have since been tracked down by Elsie Cook, former manager of the women’s side.

Glenrothes player yet to receive cap

However, one of the players – Shelagh Beveridge – has yet to receive her accolade.

Elsie, 75, has now turned to The Courier to appeal for help in finding her old colleague so that she can finally be rewarded for her role in the iconic fixture.

Elsie has led a decades-long fight for women’s football in Scotland and wants to finally right a historic wrong.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Rose Reilly, another footballer finally given her cap in 2019.

“Shelagh was a great player, just outstanding. Her tackling and control of the ball were spot on,” Elsie said.

“She was an unassuming player and her timing was precise. For a midfielder she was a quiet, unassuming lassie.

“She deserves to finally get this cap.

“I’ve been fighting for the caps from the SFA for years. These lassies that played for Scotland in 1972 should have been given their caps years ago, but it took 50 years.”

Phonecall from Jock Stein was turning point

Elsie says the SFA was living in the “dark ages” in the 1970s when it refused to recognise women’s football.

She recalls a turning point in 1974 after a phonecall from then Celtic boss Jock Stein – who asked Elsie to head up a team for an exhibition game at Celtic Park, prior to a European Cup tie against Olympiakos.

“The crowd loved it and we put on a brilliant show, and Shelagh was a part of that too,” Elsie said.

Days after appearing at Parkhead the team flew out to Italy, where they played in front of 45,000 fans at the San Siro stadium in Milan.

The team in Italy in 1974, including Elsie Cook (Back row, 9th from left)

Elsie continued: “They were both defeats, but we played very well in both of these games.

“After losing the first game 5-4, the second match was in the San Siro Stadium, which we lost 3-1.”

Elsie says Ms Sturgeon was “so happy” to be finally recognising the 1972 squad at their private ceremony in 2019.

While just four of the women received their caps on that occasion, to date Elsie has managed to track down 23 of them.

But she is now looking for help in finding Shelagh and three others from that team – Lynn Grieg, Helen Layden and Liz Rosselli.

I sincerely hope that each of the trailblazing women from the 1970s squad are able to receive their international caps as soon as possible

Nicola Sturgeon

The first minister has now given her support to Elsie’s efforts to find the last remaining team members.

She told The Courier: “It was a real honour to present the players who took part in Scotland’s first women’s international match with their caps at Hampden in 2019.

“Women’s football in Scotland is finally beginning to receive the recognition it has long deserved, and that recognition is in no small part thanks to women like Elsie Cook, Rose Reilly and her teammates.

“I sincerely hope that each of the trailblazing women from the 1970s squad are able to receive their international caps as soon as possible.”

‘Help us piece this story together’

Mid Fife and Glenrothes MSP Jenny Gilruth has also urged people with information to get in touch.

“It is important that Ms Beveridge is able to receive her cap and be recognised for her role in women’s football,” she said.

“I encourage anyone in the local community who has information about Ms Beveridge or the Scotland women’s team to come forward and help us piece this story together.”

Do you know Shelagh or any of the other missing players? Get in touch with The Courier by emailing livenews@thecourier.co.uk

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