“I’m pretty sure every girl in Huddersfield, Kirklees – and England – will be asking their parents for a football!”

That was the reaction from Alison Bamforth, chair of Huddersfield Town Women FC, after England’s women made history by beating Germany in the final of UEFA Women’s Euros 2022.

Alison was among the 87,192 fans at Wembley to saviour a victory which could prove a watershed moment in the history of the women’s game.

The Lionesses roared to a 2-1 extra-time victory – and the whole country was captivated, enthralled and inspired.

It’s the first time since 1966 that England have won a major football tournament and it’s shocking to think that back then – just 56 years ago – women’s football was banned!

Alison, who took over as chair of Town Women last year, admitted to shedding a tear at the final whistle and said: “I’m not sure the enormity of the achievement has quite sunk in yet.

“Wembley Way and the fan parks were buzzing all day and I’ve never seen so many flags and so much face paint! The crowd was really diverse and there were so many families, people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Alison Bamforth at Wembley

Alison believes this is a watershed moment for women’s sport in this country and said: “It’s history in the making.

“This trophy, and the tournament overall, is just massive for women’s football in this country. The record-breaking attendances at all the games proves once and for all that there is an appetite in this country to watch the women’s game.

“I can’t begin to imagine how many young girls have been inspired by their Lioness heroes to take up the game. I’m pretty sure every girl in Huddersfield, Kirklees – and England – will be asking their parents for a football – plus a Lionesses shirt for Christmas! There were so many young girls in the crowd being inspired by their England heroes.

“This tournament victory for England has to take women’s football up yet another level. Come on, investors, let’s give our talented Huddersfield Town Women players the opportunity they need to fulfil their potential to be in the next England Women’s team storming to victory.”

Huddersfield Town Women FC play at the Stafflex Arena at the Leslie Sports Foundation complex at Storthes Hall.

Businessman and philanthropist Graham Leslie CBE, who set up the foundation with his son Craig, has always been a huge supporter of the women’s game, even decades ago when girls wanting to play football was frowned upon at schools.

Graham, a former chairman of Huddersfield Town and the driving force behind the building of the John Smith’s Stadium, helped pioneering Huddersfield-born sportswoman Clare Taylor play football with the boys at school back in the late 70s and early 80s.

Clare, now 57, represented England at both football and cricket and was awarded the MBE in 2000 for services to women’s sport. She was the first woman to represent England in the World Cup in both sports.

When the Kirklees Stadium was first opened, Graham ensured there was a women’s game on first to encourage fans into the ground earlier.

Graham said England’s triumph had been “incredible” and while the players were amazing, the person who appointed manager Sarina Wiegman (pictured above) deserved much credit. “That was the tipping point,” he said.

Graham described England’s victory as “Roy of the Rovers stuff” and added: “The passion, enthusiasm and the skill level was quite remarkable. The football was end to end and it was great entertainment.

“We need to champion women’s football and sponsors should be falling over themselves to help women’s football grow and develop.”

Former Town Women chairman David Mallin, who stood down in June last year after 12 years at the helm, supported his own daughter, Kate, in her dream to play football.

Kate, 32, has been at Town Women since she was 10 and has played around 500 matches, scoring 200 goals.

David said: “I watched the game from home with my wife Jane. We have both followed our daughter’s football for more than 20 years and were naturally excited to see a great England performance.

“Within our club we already have more than 100 players at junior and open age level. We’re currently starting up a new under 10s team for the 2022-23 season. Hopefully this success will allow the game to continue to progress – as it should.”

David said he wanted the women’s game to continue to grow – and be supported by men’s clubs.

“It’s football, whether played by men or women and women deserve equal status,” he said.

Kate Mallin in action

Daughter Kate, Town’s longest-serving player, was inducted into Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association’s Huddersfield Town Heritage Project Hall of Fame last year. 2021 marked the centenary of the Football Association’s ban on women’s football. The ban was eventually lifted in 1971.

On England’s success, Kate said: “It means everything to the country. It’s a fantastic achievement for women’s football in England.

“As a current player we now need the full support of the men’s clubs which unfortunately isn’t always available to us at the moment.

“When I started playing at nine or 10 it was unusual for girls to play football but today it’s normal and they have many more opportunities.”

Echoing her thoughts is Huddersfield Town Women manager Glen Preston who said: “This win means so much to the entire nation but none more so than the people who have built the women’s game up from the very bottom for many years.

“I was on holiday watching it in a pub with my wife and three daughters. It felt wonderful to see my children inspired by such a magnificent occasion.

“I hope it inspires young female athletes all over the country to take up football or whatever sport they are passionate about. This is an amazing platform to grow the game and women’s sport as a whole.”

There isn’t just one women’s football team in Huddersfield, of course. Huddersfield Amateur Ladies head coach Richard Brearley wants the sport to grasp the opportunity to grow and progress.

He said: “This is massive for women’s football in this country. However, this is only the beginning. We need as many girls and ladies playing as possible. We need people to support, watch and back ladies’ teams at all levels. There’s an opportunity here. Not to be missed.

“I am immensely proud. The Lionesses have achieved great things – it’s much more than winning the Euros. It’s a victory for ladies’ football as a whole.

“Collectively we need to ensure this success snowballs. Being involved in the ladies’ game is always an uphill struggle. Schools, clubs, leagues and the FA need to move with the times to ensure the correct opportunity is there for all.

“Barriers need to be removed and there’s no room for prejudice. The Lionesses have shown that persistence pays off.”

The celebrations in Trafalgar Square

Nathan Martin, of Golcar United Women, wants to see greater equality of opportunity and said: “The Lionesses have shown everyone that gender doesn’t come into football!

“Man or woman, football is football and should be supported in the same way. Women’s football – and especially women’s grassroots football – is so under-rated and under-funded which is so wrong on so many levels.

“This could be the change of amazing things to come in women’s football. I mean 87,000 people cheering them on, it’s absolutely amazing to see.”

Luke Haigh, a coach at Huddersfield Town Women and head coach at Marsden FC, said: “It’s an unbelievable achievement for women’s football and puts it firmly on the map.

“People will maybe now sit up and take notice that women’s football is well and truly on the up.

“I’d like to think this will inspire all the local schools and communities to come together to push girls/women’s football even further.”

Lauren Griffiths, 31, who plays for Town Women, said the enormity of what had happened still hadn’t sunk in.

“Winning the Euros is fantastic for the country generally, and for all football fans across the country. For the players to showcase their talent and bring home the trophy is the inspiration that most younger players will remember for the rest of their lives.

“I went to the opening fixture and the atmosphere was amazing. It’s hard to believe that not so long ago tickets for the games were being handed out for free, and now the games are attracting record attendances.

“If you can see it happening then it’s easier to believe that it’s achievable. So for girls all over the country they’ve just seen that being involved in football is a big deal and can be projected on the biggest platforms.

“There’s so much more support and structure in the women’s set up now that it paves the way for more girls to be successful in the sport.”

Former Town Women keeper Laura Carter, who retired last season, was at Wembley and described the atmosphere as “breathtaking.”

She added: “The media attention this should create for the women’s game will be massive and hopefully it will inspire many more young girls to realise they can actually make a career out of doing something they love!

“Every men’s team should be upping the support for their women’s team after seeing this.

“It’s great that future generations have these girls to look up to as role models.”