In Life at the Top, featured first in our official matchday programme, we find out more about our first-team stars and their careers to date. Next, we speak to England international Jordan Nobbs.
When did you first want to become a footballer and why?
It’s not a difficult question to answer in itself, but it’s hard to pinpoint one specific moment. I feel like football’s always been in my life. When I was little my mum used to say that I would kick everything. I joined a team when I was seven and I don’t know really know whether it was because I wanted to become a footballer – I just think it was literally what I was born with. If I’m going off when I was young then I don’t really know a specific moment, but I think once I started from the age of seven there was no looking back.
Can you remember your first encounter with a football? or Maybe your first game?
When I first joined Sunderland 24/7 I was seven or eight and we used to play behind a Morrisons car park on a field against the boys. My nan, grandad, mum and dad would all make packed lunches and sit on deckchairs for the whole day every Saturday – I just remember that and football just being what I loved every single day. It didn’t bother me where we were playing or anything like that, so that’s a moment that sticks in my mind from when I was young.
Did you ever play any other sports when you were young?
It was literally only football. I could do other sports, but I was only interested in football. That was it for me.
Did you ever meet any famous players when you were younger?
I met Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn when I was young, and they were the two strikers for Sunderland who were such a duo! That’s the era I watched Sunderland play in.
What was the first team that you can remember playing for?
Sunderland 24/7. It was an all-girls team in an all-boys league and it was great. It was some of the best football and I loved it. I think your first team is the most crucial for you enjoying football and wanting to play on.
What position did you play as a youngster?
Centre mid. I’ve been an out and out centre mid ever since I was seven, although Mark Sampson had me as a right winger for England.
You started young for England, too. Do you remember that?
I was 12 when I was picked for the England Under-15s and I think it was the first time ever that the Under-15s had a competitive game. We played Wales and I captained the side at a young age. I was 13 by then and I scored a 40-yarder, so that was a really good time and I remember that moment really well.
What was your best game as a youngster?
I remember I went back to a five-a-side tournament and I knew a lot of the girls there that I’d played with when I was younger. I was scoring loads of goals and I kind of felt like I’d stepped up to another level, so it was a nice feeling to compete against the same players a few years down the line, but feeling stronger and really enjoying it. I guess I realised how far I’d come.
Who were your early influences in the game when you were younger?
Firstly my dad. He gets spoken about a lot in the media, but I can’t take for granted him playing professional football and then passing that knowledge onto me. I used to play in my nan’s back garden with spades and a hosepipe as the net, so we used to play with a little ball and on holiday we’d play with a tennis ball on the tennis courts, so from a young age he gave me extra preparation and training, as well as being an amazing guy. I love him very much.
I’d also say Mick Mulhern from Sunderland. He was a coach there and when Sunderland didn’t get into the WSL in 2010 he passed on great words to this club and I’m truly grateful for a manager to be like that and to want me to go to a top club. I think without managers doing that and being a little more selfish I could be in a different place right now.
Who offers you the best advice?
It’s not advice, but when my nan and grandad passed away, I used to go on the ferry to Sunderland games with them and knowing how much they put into me and how proud they were, I just wanted to make them proud. Knowing all the hard work that they put in is enough motivation for me. It’s more than words.
Did you ever want to quit football as a youngster?
No, football was always everything to me. One of the biggest struggles for me, though, was getting injured at the World Cup and being at that tournament and not being able to show my potential. I’ve been football through and through from the off and you soon learn that there’s going to be ups and downs.
Was there a key moment that set you on the path you’re on now?
I think maybe Sunderland not getting into the WSL, which brought me to Arsenal. I was picked for England very young, and for Middlesbrough and Sunderland I was always bumped up an age group, but I think maybe when you’re young whatever team you play for you just want to enjoy it and do your best. As soon as I saw this place it was a no-brainer to come here.
What do you remember from the day you signed?
Because I lived and breathed it my whole life anyway, I felt like – apart from the money side of things – it was still what I always did and what I wanted to do.
What do you remember from your first senior game?
My first game was in the Champions League, I scored and we won 7-1 – or something like that. I just remember the kit being a little too big! I’m not going to say it was easy, but it all just kind of slotted into place. I felt like I was meant to be there and it was a great day.
What’s been your greatest moment as a pro?
In 2011 we won a domestic treble and the whole reason I came here was to win trophies. That year I also received the Players’ Player award from the Arsenal girls. With the likes of Kim Little, Katie Chapman and so many other great players here it was a privilege to be voted for by them.
What’s been your hardest moment as a professional?
I’d probably say moving away from home. As soon as you’re on the pitch everything kind of goes away and you’re happy, but I think the off-the-field stuff and not being able to go round your mum’s and dad’s for a quick cup of coffee or being able to see them for five minutes when you’re a little low is hard. Moving away from home has been the hardest part about being a footballer for me.
What’s surprised you most about being a pro?
Probably for it to be as professional as it is now, what with the media interest, the way it’s on TV and how this club has invested in me as a player. Even my mum is like, “I know how much you love football, but I never thought you’d leave home,” and I think it came as a bit of a shock to me. I don’t ever think that I doubted it and ever thought of a second plan, but I never thought that it would hit these heights.
What do you think you could learn from your younger self?
Being able to see it as just a game of football sometimes. It’s not the be all and end all and I think sometimes it would be useful to be able to take away a bit of pressure from yourself. For example, I look back at the World Cup thinking that my bronze medal doesn’t mean a lot to me because I didn’t show my full potential, even though I was there and played a full 90 minutes, which many people can only dream of. I can be a bit hard on myself sometimes because people would have dreamed of playing at a World Cup, yet I wanted to do more for the team, help the team and really be a bigger part of it all.
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