FORMER Swindon Spitfires Bev Maull and Sylvia Dean say the club has come a long way as it prepares to mark its 50th anniversary.

The club itself was founded in 1967 by Ron Hyde, whose daughters were part of the Swindon Town marching band.

However, they weren’t the only women’s team around at the time as Leicester City Ladies, who are also still running, were formed in 1966.

Just over 100 miles south, the Spitfires were quietly doing their own thing and with a core of nine players, they played their first fixture when they faced Calne YC in June that year.

Dean, who lives in Moredon, was one of the nine core players to play on that day, and recalls the first time she pulled on the red pinstripes fondly.

“I scored three goals that day. I don’t remember the game that much, it was all a bit of a learning curve,” said the 65-year-old.

“I do remember Mr Hyde, who was the manager, he was absolutely brilliant. He was a really generous man who deserves so much credit for the Spitfires.

“He paid for everything, all our kit and he made the bookings for our coaches when we went away, he was such a kind man. I don’t think the Spitfires would have lasted two seconds without him because there wasn’t a lot of money sloshing around.

“He bought us a coach which broke down many times and made us late to games, I remember changing behind hedges.

“I’m very proud of the Spitfires, I met some fantastic people and it was the best time ever.”

Maull joined the Spitfires, who got their name following a suggestion from the then-Watford chairman Jim Bosner when the girls went to watch Swindon Town at Vicarage Road in January 1967, three years later.

After 47 years she remains an integral part of the club as she and her husband Chris, who also helped set up the club, are now working as club secretary and club president.

The 61-year-old also believes the women’s game is a world away from when it was in its infancy 50 years ago and has only gone from strength to strength, with the club now having eight teams in total.

“Now the FA has taken it on it has grown so much. That’s the pleasing thing we used to just have the one ladies team but now we have junior sides,” she said.

“Football in those days, you only had 11 players, we had an old leather ball which you didn’t really want on your head.

“My first football boots were some that my brother in law gave me - they were more like a rugby boot with steel caps.

“The girls now have so much more technical ability than we had because we weren’t playing in teams, now they can do all sorts with the ball.

“Even in schools our teachers used to go mad if we went to kick a ball when I was playing netball but now, there are school football teams.”