A Blackpool football legend is reluctantly hanging up her boots – but Mac Barlow bowed out with one last hurrah at Bloomfield Road.
The Blackpool FC Ladies stalwart toasted her 50th birthday with a final game at the club’s Bloomfield Road home as Pool took on traditional rivals Preston North End, one of her former clubs.
But Barlow’s boots are not being unlaced for good as she vowed to remain heavily involved in coaching for the Blackpool FC girls’ section.
She may even take up walking football to continue a love affair with the game that started when she was eight years old, but one which was threatened by a hip operation.
Barlow started playing in the North West Women’s League at Thornton ICI and won the Most Promising Player award in her first season, 1979-80.
It was a good omen for the left-footed utility player, who over the next 38 seasons amassed countless highlights and unforgettable memories.
She played at Millwall’s original Den for Preston Rangers in the Women’s FA Cup and at Wigan’s old Springfield Park, also turning out for Blackpool Wren Rovers, Blackpool FC and Preston North End.
Off the pitch, the Blackpool-based mother of two works for the Royal Mail.
Mac, which stands for Michaela, thanks her school friend Jayne Rushton for instilling her love of the sport while they were at Moor Park Primary.
Mac told The Gazette: “I didn’t plan to play until I was 50!
“I got into football through my friend Jayne. We went to the same school back in the days when women were not allowed to play in the lads’ teams.
“Now it is completely different and the women’s game has developed so much.
“I first started when I was eight years old. I was always sporty and it went from there.
“I’ve been involved at Blackpool FC girls since 2004.
“In 2008 I got to play with my daughter Kelly on a couple of occasions for Blackpool and there have been so many memorable games for me.
“There was a cup final with Blackpool Wren Rovers. I wasn’t expecting to feature but due to an injury I came on in the 15th minute.
“We were 3-0 down at half-time but we managed to take the game to extra-time and won 4-3! I will always remember that.
“Another one that sticks in the memory is a game at Bangor. “We went there needing to win 13-0 and it was 0-0 after 20 minutes.
“It was one of those games where you had to be there to believe it.
“We had missed a penalty but then they had a player sent off and we managed to get the 13 goals!”
Mac linked up with Blackpool FC in 2008, helping the Girls to win the Lancashire division two title in her first season, the division one title in her second and the North West league in her third.
More successful seasons have followed and Mac added: “My husband Ray has been great and a lot of people have seen our kids Kelly and Andrew grow up over the years.
“I’d like to thank Rod and Josie Prescott, Blackpool FC and so many other people for their help over the years.
“I never wanted to stop playing but it is because of my hip. I might do some more refereeing because I enjoy that or I might get involved in walking football. I will still be kicking a ball somewhere!”