Patients at a Nottingham care home will be cheering for England, and in particular for the Lincoln central defender Sophie Bradley, when Hope Powell's team take on France in this evening's quarter-final of the Women's World Cup in Leverkusen.
Bradley, at 21 the youngest member of the England squad, works part-time at the Edenhurst Rest Home, her earnings supplementing the £16,000 a year she gets as a centrally contracted England player, plus the expenses she receives as a semi-professional with the Super League club Lincoln.
"I like the side of my life away from football," said Bradley, whose performance in Tuesday's final group game against Japan was described as "enormous" by the National Coach Powell. "I did do some coaching at one point and I enjoyed it, but it was too much – my head was too much in the football.
"Working in the care home is completely different. I've been brought up with it because it's my mum's and dad's business, so I've been involved since I was a little girl. My duties are really varied, from helping the old people in their basic day-to-day requirements to leading singalongs, doing hair and painting nails – whatever I can do to make them happy.
"They've been watching the [World Cup] games on telly and it's brilliant for them to recognise somebody they actually know. They weren't so keen on the football, they think it's more of a boys' sport – I suppose it's that generation. But now they know somebody who actually plays, they think it's really good."
Bradley is a former England Under-19 captain and regarded by many as a natural successor in that role to the current skipper Faye White, the 33-year-old Arsenal defender she replaced for the 2-0 win against Japan, having taken over from her as substitute in the earlier group games against Mexico and New Zealand.
White arrived at the tournament having recovered from a serious knee injury and, with little recent game time behind her, she looked a little rusty in her two outings. And while she has a vastly greater experience than Bradley – 89 England caps compared to eight – Powell will have no worries about the youngster if she decides to keep her in the starting line-up alongside her Lincoln central defensive partner Casey Stoney.
Powell's team selection and substitutions have been spot-on during the group stage, most notably in the match against Japan when she made four changes to the starting XI and then saw the substitute Rachel Yankey hit the victory-clinching second goal.
"You try to pick a team that can do the best job against the opposition, and that's exactly what I do," said Powell. "I know the reasons [for the team selection to face Japan] and I'll look at it again and make my next selection. And when the team is announced, it will be the team that I think can do the best job against France."
England's best job against France has not been good enough to claim a victory over Les Bleus for 37 years, though after five successive defeats the last three games have been drawn – two of them, crucially, leading to England reaching the 2007 World Cup through winning their qualifying group and in the process knocking out France.
Powell's side head into the quarter-final on the back of their best performance of the tournament to date, but France have also impressed. Though they lost 4-2 to Germany, having had the goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz sent off in their last game, they had previously produced one of the group stage's finest displays in a 4-0 victory over a Canada team that had beaten England 2-0 at March's Cyprus Cup.
Ranked at eighth in the world, two places higher than England, the French will be marginal favourites. But Bradley, whose on-field maturity belies her years, is looking not just at today's opponents but further on into a competition in which the national team have never reached the last four.
"OK, so we've never got past the quarter-final stage," she said, "but we don't want to settle for that. We want to get to the final, that's our aim. That's why we're here – it'd be daft if you didn't want to get to the final."
Kick-off: Today, 5.0pm
Venue: BayArena, Leverkusen
TV: BBC 2, 4.45pmReuse content