Between the ages of nine and 12 Jordan Nobbs played for an all-girls team… in a boys’ league. The team would turn up and hear disparaging remarks from opponents and their parents, comments like “girls don’t play football”. Then they would go out and beat the boys.
“The comments would drive you on,” Nobbs told The Independent this week. “We won the league twice. A lot of the boys were shocked with what happened. It was good seeing their reaction at the end of a game. And the next time we played them they were a lot more respectful.”
Nobbs has been surprising people ever since. At 16, playing for Sunderland, she scored as the then all-conquering Arsenal suffered only their second league defeat in six years. She had already played in the FA Cup final (losing to Arsenal) and scored as England won the European Under-19 Championship.
Now she hopes to help England spring a surprise at the Women’s World Cup. “Nobber”, as she is known, went to Euro 2013 but did not play a minute as England crashed out. Two years on the 22-year-old has become a key figure in Mark Sampson’s side and is in line to make her World Cup bow when England face dark horses France in Moncton on Tuesday.
A central midfielder with Arsenal, she tends to play right midfield for England, which may mean helping to contain Louisa Necid, the “female Zidane”. If that is her task she will not be overawed.
She said: “At the Euros I had to accept I was the baby in the group and maybe not experienced enough to get the game time I would have wanted, but I learnt a lot from being part of that squad and feel I am lot more ready and experienced to be a part of the team.
“I’ve been on the top of my game the last two years, really pushing to be a major part of this squad. Luckily, I’ve been scoring goals and doing well so, hopefully, there is more to come in an England shirt.”
It does not take a lot of sleuthing to find the source of Nobbs’ competitiveness. Her father, Keith Nobbs, was an “old school” lower division defender, playing more than 400 games for Halifax and Hartlepool then winding down his career at Gateshead before injury forced him to quit at the age of 34, when Nobbs was an infant.
Nicky Southall, who went on to play in the top flight with Bolton Wanderers, was a young player at Victoria Park then. He remembered of Nobbs Snr: “A great fella. He was rock solid, a no-nonsense defender who kicked everyone, even his team-mates in training.”
“He was a centre-half,” said Jordan Nobbs of her father. “His mentality was very aggressive, he’d knock everybody out. He had a lot of injuries he could talk to you for days about. I would have loved to see him play. He’s been a major part of where I am and a massive influence. I wouldn’t be where I am without him helping me on the way. He has been a good motivator.”
The pair, said Nobbs, would play long games of head tennis in the garden of their Co Durham home. It doesn’t sound as if he was one of those parents who would let their children win unless they earned it. “We used to play all the time. Technically, he wasn’t that good, but he had mental strength and would try and get in my head and put me off. We used to have some good competitions.”
Keith now runs Hartlepool’s Football in the Community programme and coaches the under-16s. If any of his charges progress as far as his daughter they will have done very well indeed.Reuse content