This footballer scored almost 1,000 goals, but you’ve probably never heard of them

On Boxing Day 1920, a total of 53,000 people gathered inside Everton's Goodison Park. Thousands more stood outside, unable to get in.

That afternoon, the Goodison crowd would witness one of the most influential players in the history of women's football. She was only 15 years old, and her name was Lily Parr.

Over the course of a career spanning more than 30 years, lasting until her mid-40s, Parr would score an incredible 986 goals. A true trailblazer of the women's game, a statue was unveiled in Parr's honour at the National Football Museum in early June. Commissioned by Mars, it's the first female football statue in the UK.

Parr's career began in 1919, exactly a century ago, and she quickly joined the women's team at the Dick, Kerr & Co munitions factory in Preston. At just 14, she scored 43 goals in her first season. No wonder there was such excitement when Dick, Kerr's Ladies faced her hometown club St Helens at Goodison a year later.

A left winger who stood at 5ft 10in tall, Parr became renowned for her ferocious shooting. "She had a kick like a mule," team-mate Joan Whalley once said. "When she took a corner kick, it came over like a bullet. If you ever hit one of those with your head... I only ever did it once and the laces on the ball left their impression on my forehead and cut it open.

Lily Parr Statue
Lily Parr Statue

Parr became adept at finding the net from extraordinary angles. "I've never seen any woman, nor many a man, kick a ball like she could," said Lydia Ackers, another team-mate. "Everybody was amazed when they saw her power. You would never believe it."

Parr was one of the first professionals in the women's game, and scored all five goals in a 5-1 win over France in 1921. The goals continued relentlessly for the rest of her career - particularly at club level, when Dick, Kerr's Ladies were renamed as Preston Ladies.

In 1937, she was on the scoresheet as Preston thrashed Edinburgh 5-1 to win the 'Championship of Great Britain and the World'. Her final game came in 1950, aged 45 - she scored as England beat Scotland 11-1.

In 2002, Parr was the only woman among the first 23 inductees into the English Football Hall of Fame, alongside legends like Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Stanley Matthews. She was chosen ahead of World Cup hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst, who had to wait until 2004.

As England's women play in this summer's tournament, the new statue of Parr will serve as inspiration for the Lionesses. In the United Kingdom, women's football has no greater icon.

Sponsored by Mars

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