Lionesses aim to keep pride intact

Pete Davies looks at the trials of Millwall's better half

When the Millwall Lionesses won the WFA Cup in 1991, it seemed great things were in store for the distaff side of the Den. Instead, the team broke up; some went to Arsenal, others founded Croydon, and only two senior players remained.

Lou Waller was one; now 27, she is 5ft 3in of midfielder as tenacious as she is slight. "We had to shunt all the teams up," she recalls. "The reserves became the seniors, the juniors became the reserves." For the next few years, Millwall were sending out 14-year-olds - but they stayed together and grew up, and now they are in today's Women's League Cup final against Everton at Barnet.

Many of the squad are still under 20 but, says Waller: "They've got far more experience than most players of that age, and we're getting the rewards for it."

Given the straitened times at Millwall, it is a tribute to their community scheme (and to Waller herself, employed specifically to develop girls' and women's football) that they've made it to another final. As their manager Jim Hicks says: "Any positive news just now, the club's got to use it. We've always felt we were an integral part of things here, so it's nice to have something to show for it."

Whether they get a trophy to show for it depends, of course, on Everton. Formerly Leasowe Pacific, they only became part of the Goodison set-up this season; they have never been in a final before, and on paper Millwall have the edge. The Londoners have had five players in the England squad this season; Pauline Cope is widely acknowledged to be the best goalkeeper in Britain, Waller is a composed anchor at the hub of the team, and the wide midfielder Tina Lindsay has the wit and pace to alarm any defence.

Waller, however, does not underestimate Everton for a minute. "They're well organised, fit and strong, hard to break down, very good on set pieces - and Maureen Marley at centre-half's a good athlete."

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