A LEGEND of women's football in Bradford was presented with an award following her retirement after over 20 years of service.

Sally Thackray stepped down from her role as chairwoman of Bradford City Women (BCW) at the end of the season.

In recognition of her work in the women's game, the FA Women's National League invited Thackray along as a VIP to the Championship Play-offs at Valley Parade, where she received her award.

Described by National League chairwoman Carol West as a "true legend", Thackray has become a well-known figure in the game, much to her own surprise.

She said: "It's truly amazing - I'm really shocked and surprised.

"But it's a lovely feeling, it's one of the best feelings I've ever had really.

"To be able to look back and well, actually, people have noticed that and they've noticed it in a way that perhaps I hadn't noticed it.

"I've just thought, we've got to get this done, let's get on with it and you just carry on.

"I haven't stopped to see what an impact it had made.

"It's strange, you're in it, and you're doing it and you don't notice that.

"In a way it's been quite humbling that people have noticed it.

"The people that I didn't realise knew who I am, came up to me.

"And I thought, I didn't even know you knew we existed or I was anything to do with it."

The story of Thackray's involvement with BCW has very humble beginnings.

Her daughter - who is now 30 - started playing for the team at eight-years-old.

Thackray was a bystander like many others, until she suddenly had the choice of becoming a manager, or seeing her daughter and her team-mates go without football.

At 10-years-old, her daughter was moved into the under-12s who had no coach.

Thackray said: "I found myself offering to do it.

"So I went on what was the equivalent of Level One coaching in those days.

"I never had to do any coaching, I'm thankful to say, because that was done by people who knew much better than me.

"I'd always been in and around football, I'd watched a lot of football even as a kid.

"My dad used to take me down to the bottom of our road to watch West Ham train, because that's where I lived in those days.

"I've got a very good husband who's very good tactically.

"Between us we managed the tactics - it was only 7-a-side.

"I had two very good years actually: we won the league the first year and the cup the second.

"So I was waiting for the call from Manchester United because it was that year Alex Ferguson first threatened to resign!

"But the call never came alas and that was the end of my management career.

"I was just glad that those girls had had football for those two years that they wouldn't have had otherwise.

The tale than took a drastic turn and Thackray - who had become a committee member - found herself getting sucked in deeper.

In 2005, she was left on her own without any idea of how to arrange a match, or who to contact and was thrust into the position of chairwoman.

Thackray said: "It would have been so easy to say we'll just shut up shop and go home because we'd have found football elsewhere for my youngest, I'm quite sure.

"But there was all that heritage there - although it wasn't quite so longstanding then - people had worked so hard to set this club up, we couldn't just let it die without having a go.

"It was just me, and there were all these girls who wanted to play football, so I thought I had to do something."

During her time of around 15 years heading the club, Thackray has experienced her lot.

Her favourite moment came the first time City won the county cup, beating arch rivals and heavyweights at the time, Leeds United.

Thackray also speaks fondly of the players and the different personalities, while admitting she learnt a lot about behind-the-scenes football.

But, she only ever had one desire.

The retiring chairwoman said: "I just wanted to see women's football, girls football in Bradford develop.

"Especially when my daughter started, we were travelling miles to play girls football.

"Whereas now - I'm not saying it's anything to do with me, it's to do with an awful lot of people involved it - the game's developed so much, there are so many girls teams in Bradford.

"And so many more women's teams, playing at a good level and that's really gratifying to see.

"I don't take the accolades for too much of that really, because an awful lot of people have worked hard to make that happen.

"But, I've obviously done something because the things that people have said to me.

"And I've certainly built a good relationship with the men's club which wasn't there when I was thrust into the job."

That link is something Thackray knows is vital for the long-term success of any women's team in the current climate.

The FA said as much to her once, stating clubs need a proper partnership to even contemplate the Super League.

BCW suffered a torrid time in their recent campaign, as they were relegated without a point to their name.

Thackray, though, believes with Steve Winterburn the club can bounce back immediately.

She added: "After that, it's so hard because the next step is up into the Super League.

"It's very dominated by finance and you've to raise a hell of a lot of money.

"Our fundraising efforts wouldn't manage to raise the sort of money.

"We're talking about £180,000 a year to run in the Super League.

"That's a bit beyond us at the moment, but it's obviously to be a long term aspiration because otherwise you're saying that's it and we're here."

Thackray's own future will be enjoying the freedom of weekends again, especially with the new added off-field distraction of a grandson.

One thing she's certain of though, is she won't be avoiding football entirely.

She said: "I'm going to be an interested spectator and be able to enjoy it from that point of view.

"I don't plan to lose touch altogether, but I need to keep a low profile for a while to let the new people who come in get their feet under their table."

Matthew Kermode, Committee Secretary & Media Officer at BCW paid tribute to his retiring colleague.

He said: "She's got commitment, dedication, determination, passion.

"Sally loves the whole club, the women's and the men's team who she's a season ticket holder for.

"She is literally claret and amber through and through and as a person she's very caring, understanding and has lots of time for people.

"Just a really good person that you like to know."