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BELLE of the BALL.

Gillian Coulthard describes herself as the Bryan Robson of women's football and intends to bow out in the same spectacular style.

Robson ended his top class playing career as a double winner at Manchester United and Gillian is aiming to say farewell in similar fashion.

The stage may be a smaller but, at 32, she is the Captain Marvel of women's football, captaining Doncaster Belles and England. Now she reckons this season could be her last and wants to mark it with a Cup and League double and her 100th cap.

Gillian signed for the Belles as a 13-year-old schoolgirl and was called into the England squad the same year.

Now, 19 seasons later, she says: "This could be the last time around for me, so I want to make it a good one.

"When I was young I modelled myself on Steve Coppell but as time has gone on you could say I've become the women's equivalent of Robson.

"He was always in the scruff of it, making tackles and then scoring a goal at the other end, and that's my type of game."

Gillian played her first international at 18, and was the first woman to score a goal at Wemley for England against Northern Ireland eight years ago.

It has made the Coultard name famous enough to require an X-directory number but she has never made a penny out of it.

"I do feel a bit aggrieved when men can earn in one week what it takes me a year to make in my day job. When I look at the money, I wish I was a man," she says.

"Far from making anything, football's cost me a fortune. We even pay pounds 25 subs with the Belles as well as doing a lot of fundraising, because it costs pounds 12,000 a year to run the club."

Gillian, a production worker with the hi-fi company Pioneer, has refused several offers to turn pro with European clubs. "The first was from Italy when I was 17 and that was just too young," she admits. "There were others from Italy and Finland later but I thought that if it went wrong I would be back with no job.

"But it was a mistake, I should have given it a chance."

Gillian, the youngest of eight children, started playing on the park in Thorne, near Doncaster and was recommended to the Doncaster Belles by her PE teacher.

"Last season was good, I scored 17 goals. I was Players Player of the Year and got the supporters award. If this season is my last, I'd like to finish on a high note."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Alexander, David
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 12, 1996
Words:442
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