Thirty years after her first trip to Selhurst Park, Britain's first female sports photographer Hy Money remembers the day that changed her life as vividly as her images have captured the world's top sportsmen.

Muhammad Ali, Diego Maradona, George Best, Bjorn Borg, Martina Navratilova and Ian Botham are just some of the sporting icons she has immortalised since deciding to photograph sportsmen for a living on the Crystal Palace terraces in 1973.

But the mother-of-three's illustrious career, which included a spell as Palace's club photographer, may never have materialised but for a chance phone call from her then-husband's cricket club.

Instead of taking his children to watch Palace play Liverpool as a birthday treat for eight-year-old Martin, he opted to play cricket and send his wife instead.

The family trip would not only change the housewife's aspirations, it would ultimately open up a new career path for hundreds of women, and change the face of sports photography.

Hy Money told the Life: "Just walking to the ground I fell madly in love with the atmosphere.

"There were generations of families and everybody was heading towards the Mecca of Selhurst Park.

"The scene was so colourful it triggered something in my imagination and when everyone sang Glad All Over it made my hair stand on end.

"The action was a visual treat and I knew I wanted to photograph it.

"That day really changed my life and 35 years later football remains just as magical."

Aged 19, Hy arrived at Tilbury Docks from Bombay with £15 and a Box Brownie camera given to her by her mother.

Married at 22, she spent her early years photographing her children and developed a skill for action shots which capture the personality of her subjects.

She said: "All the photos of my children were action shots, no poses. I didn't realise what I was doing was unique. I found I could capture the vitality of football."

But in a male-dominated world, Hy faced a lengthy battle for recognition that later saw her dubbed the "Emily Pankhurst of photography" by a national newspaper.

Eventually Palace, the National Union of Journalists and Fleet Street all reluctantly accepted this woman's right to photograph matches at pitch side as well as her unique talent.

But even with a press pass she found a chauvinistic culture unwilling to accept a female pioneer, and was once refused entry to Wembley Stadium.

She said: "It was just outrageous. They said: Is there no where sacred? A woman on the turf at Wembley?'"

A photograph of a Palace reserve player led to her first byline in the Daily Mirror, and 30 years later, her vast collection of work charts the changing times and faces in British and world sport.

Now in her 60s, Hy still holds a certain corner of south London very dear to her heart, and was in Cardiff on May 29 with her family to see Palace reach the Premiership.

She added: "I love Palace and always will because they gave me my first break."

- Hy Money's rare and largely unseen collection Sporting Legends is showing at the recently restored Wealden House, in East Grinstead.

The exhibition is free of charge, opens from 9.30pm to 5pm Monday to Friday and runs until Friday, September 17. For more information call 01342 335335.