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Women's Wednesday Football Focus Series

Rose Reilly

As part of our Women’s Wednesday Football Focus Series, we will be highlighting the amazing achievements of female footballers. The Scottish Football Museum are honoured to have items relating to their successful careers, and we want to showcase these player’s incredible achievements. 

Rose Reilly is a pioneer and trailblazer in women’s football. Reilly grew up in Stewarton, Ayrshire, and from a young age, had a passion for football, once recalling that she swapped a doll she got for Christmas with a football from another child. When Reilly was seven years old, she asked to play with the local boys’ football team, and the manager said yes on the condition she cut her hair and changed her name to Ross, and she agreed. While playing for this local team, Reilly attracted the attention of scouts from Celtic Football Club but was unable to be signed once they found out she was a girl. A couple of years later, Reilly played for Stewarton Thistle Ladies, and while playing for this team, she was a pentathlon contender for the Commonwealth Games. 

When Reilly and her friend Edna were in their late teens, they managed to get sponsored by The Daily Record to get a trial with the French club Stade de Reims, a team managed by sportswriter Pierre Geoffroy. By 1974 Reilly had signed with the professional French club Reims. After six months, she was signed by A.F.C. Milan and played for four years, winning two league titles. Reilly also played for other Italian sides such as Lecce, Catania and Trani. This photograph, which you can see when you visit the Scottish Football Museum, is a team photograph featuring Reilly. 


Team photograph featuring Rose Reilly, On Display at the Scottish Football Museum.

Although Reilly had earned ten caps for Scotland, in 1975, she received a lifetime ban from the Scottish Women’s Football Association. During the 1978-79 season, she won championship titles in both Italy and France, playing for Lecce on a Saturday night and then playing for Reims on a Sunday afternoon. Reilly won the Serie A Golden Boot twice during seasons 1978 and 1981, scoring 43 and 45 goals. In 1984 Reilly captained the Italian side, which won the Mundialito (precursor to the World Cup). She was voted best player in the Italian team and scored one of the goals in the 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final. This Italian women’s jersey was worn by Reilly when she played for the Italian national side. You can see this shirt when you visit the Scottish Football Museum. 


Rose Reilly’s Italian Jersey, On Display, Case 26, Scottish Football Museum.

Reilly retired at the age of 40, having won eight Serie Eight titles, a French title and four Italian cups. In March 2007, Reilly was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame, with a place in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame the following November. Reilly is one of only 14 footballers and managers in the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame. Reilly has received numerous awards including; a special PFA Scotland Merit Award in 2011, becoming the first female recipient, and in 2020 was awarded an MBE for services to Women’s Football. Reilly had a sports centre named in her honour in East Ayrshire, and in 2022 a pub in Govanhill was also named after her. Reilly’s life could soon be made into a movie as Chris Young, a Scottish producer, is planning a feature film depicting her story. Reilly is a trailblazer in women’s football and a huge advocate for women’s football, and we are honoured that we have items from Reilly’s amazing career. 

By Robyn McCready.


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