Ray Kiddell’s pride as England’s Lionesses prepare to roar in World Cup quest
- Credit: Archant
Norfolk FA President Ray Kiddell is proud to have played a leading role in England women's fairytale run to the World Cup semi-finals.
The Lionesses face holders Japan in the early hours of Thursday morning in Canada for a shot at the ultimate prize after an historic run under head coach Mark Sampson.
Kiddell was a visionary force in the development of the women's game during his 17-year stint as chairman of the FA women's committee. The FA Life Vice-President insists whatever the outcome against the Japanese, the game in this country can cash in on the growing popularity of the Lionesses' exploits.
'When you start to get 50,000 for internationals, like the other night when they beat Canada, and 45,000 for a game against Germany at Wembley you can see the way it is going,' he said. 'It will be interesting to see what happens when the women's FA Cup final is played at Wembley for the first time in August.
'They will get a tremendous reception when they come back into the country, it might not be on the scale of Italia 90, when you couldn't get out of Luton airport, but I feel there is enthusiasm for the game now. You look at the coverage in the national press and you can't believe how far it has come.'
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Kiddell was a key figure in the move to make the game a summer sport and pushing for a women's Super League.
'It really took off in 2005 when I came back from the European Championships and said to the then FA chairman Geoff Thompson and chief executive Brian Barwick we had to do something about this. We had reached a certain level but it needed a big push,' said Kiddell, who is also Norwich and District Sunday League Life President. 'We had a series of meetings and some of the ideas I had were to change to a summer game and try to get as many Premier League and Football League clubs involved. Both those crucial things have come about with the Super League. You look at Holland, for example, where the women teams are part of the club. Arsenal is the prime example in this country.
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'In previous World Cups I have been out there but my health is not as good as it has been. I saw the Canada game and I thought they played very well. Mark Sampson has a great knack of putting the right people in for the right games. If I go back to 1992 when I took it over I don't think any of that side would make the current squad, which tells you how far the game has developed.
'You perhaps may see Japan as a name in football and not be concerned but then you remember they are the World Cup holders and that tells you how difficult it will be.'