Women's Soccer League: Arsenal and England international Jordan Nobbs 'I used to play in Morrison's car park against the boys - you have to dream big and believe you can become a footballer'
PUBLISHED: 11:15 09 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:15 09 September 2018
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The Women's Soccer League kicks off on Sunday with Arsenal hosting Liverpool at Boreham Wood in a match which will be streamed on the BBC and BT Sport. Layth Yousif spoke with Jordan Nobbs ahead of the eagerly-anticipated game.
Arsenal and England star Jordan Nobbs is looking forward to the start of the Women’s Soccer League.
The 25-year-old midfield star helped England reach the semi-finals of Euro 2017 and scored as the Lionesses thrashed Scotland 6-0 in their opening game.
Nobbs has won two WSL titles and four FA Cups in eight years at Arsenal since the Stockton-born international joined the club from Sunderland and is the reigning Women’s Player of the Year, beating off Gunners colleague Danielle Carter and Chelsea trio Millie Bright, Katie Chapman and Fran Kirby to the gong.
The England vice-captain was also named the Women’s Super League Players’ Player of the Year last term, but even with such an impressive CV all she can think about is beating Liverpool at Boreham Wood.
Speaking to the Islington Gazette at the club’s training HQ London Colney she said: “We’re looking forward to Liverpool. It’s a big game and we want to start the season on a high.
“I’m good and injury free.
“Our aim isn’t third place in the league. We know we need to improve on that.
“Since Joe [Montemurro] came in we’ve moved up the table. We’ve been improving and developing as a squad and we’re in a great place now to kick on.
“We’re starting the season fresh and are looking to push on for big trophies. We want to win big trophies.
“This year around the team it all feels a little bit stronger.
“We’re competitive but we’ve always got great players.”
Arsenal are the most successful English club having lifted an incredible 44 major trophies in 31 years including a pair of Women’s Soccer League titles and prior to the rebranding 12 Premier League trophies as well as 14 FA Cups.
There is a strong tradition of supporting women’s football at Arsenal with the club having long been at the forefront of such progress.
While Manchester United have only just agreed to operate a women’s team, bumping Sunderland out in a re-jigged 11 team division – the North London giants founded their first female team in 1987, known at the time as Arsenal Ladies FC.
Nobbs agrees, saying: “We’ve been trying to push the women’s game as a whole and unless club’s invest in facilities it’s hard to be professional and win trophies. This club has been at the forefront of that and we’re very privileged to be under one banner here.
“Arsenal want us to be history-makers no matter what and to know that you have that kind of support is great.”
With the increased profile of the women’s game set to reach a tipping point at some stage in the near future and with coverage increasing all the time, not to mention its ever-growing popularity, the game is set to explode.
After record-breaking viewing figures at the UEFA Women’s European Championships – an audience of 165 million was reached globally, with more than 20 million fans getting involved on social media – it is no overstatement to predict Leah will become one of the superstars of the sport.
She says: “It’s incredible the way women’s football has grown. I came here when I was 17 and to compare it to now – it’s completely different. I still thought it was amazing back then but now we are on a different level.
“The facilities and what we’re provided with and the professional side of it is phenomenal.
“I can’t thank everyone at Arsenal enough for them allowing me to live my dream as a professional footballer.
“I’m glad I’m here.”
I ask her views on Sunderland making way for United, as someone who grew up with the female team of the Wearside giants.
Nobbs is pragmatic, viewing the move in terms of the bigger picture.
“If teams can come in and be professional then that’s great for the growth of the game.
“It’s hard to develop girls if the facilities aren’t good enough. Girls need that professional environment and it’s so important to have.
“It’s exciting that United have joined. Unfortunately for Sunderland they were one of the clubs that just fell short. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they’re back.”
“I used to play in Morrison’s car park against the boys. You have to dream big and believe you can become a footballer.”
Arsenal’s determination to grow the sport is down to many, including people such as Tom Hartley, responsible for managing football development programmes at the club, included their renowned ‘sister club’ programme.
One player who was deeply involved last season was Heather O’Reilly, who visited many of the 30+ girls and women’s amateur clubs involved in Arsenal’s excellent sister club programme.
Nobbs agrees, generously praising her former American superstar colleague, who moved back to the States this summer after impressing everyone during her time at the club.
Whatever the result the Arsenal side are renowned for stopping and sign autographs for every single supporter after the match. There is a sense of belonging and camaraderie during home games at Boreham Wood and a real bond between the fans and the players.
She says: “Heather was really involved in off-field matters. She was a massive influence with the sister club programme.
“We’re normal people who lead normal lives. She’s bubbly, she’s energetic. She was a great attribute to our squad. I’m proud of her.
“As much as we can we try and sign autographs for everyone after a game.
“There is a big bond between the team and the fans. We always want to be good role models and show that we’re accessible too. We love signing the autographs.
“We can only inspire if we can relate to them and them to us.”
Despite playing at the top level of the game throughout her career Nobbs readily admits her idol is her dad, David, a tough, no-nonsense long-serving defender for Hartlepool in the 1980s.
Nobbs smiles at the memory of a childhood full of football in her family.
She recalls: “When I was born my mam said to my dad she’s got your feet. All I did was kick everything when I was a kid. I think he knew I wanted to be a footballer. “He was very competitive and I’m so proud of him. He’s a rock for me. We used to play head tennis in my nan’s garden while she sat in the deckchair watching us.
“He’s my biggest critic. He does want me to improve. He talks football 24 hours a day.
“I wouldn’t say he’s harsh but he give me feedback like ‘you need to get on that half-turn a little bit quicker’ and always wants me to develop as a footballer.
“I trust in what my dad says. He’s got a great football brain.”
After record-breaking viewing figures at the UEFA Women’s European Championships that Jordan starred in – an audience of 165 million was reached globally, with more than 20 million fans getting involved on social media – it is no overstatement to predict is about to explode.
Nobbs nods, saying: “We’re at a moment when we really can push the women’s game. With the World Cup coming up next year it’s another aspect that can help us grow,” before adding with no little pride: “It’s an amazing feel to pull the shirt on. I love this club. I can’t imagine playing for another club.
“I’m truly grateful for everything I’ve had from the club.”
Arsenal reporter Layth covers all aspects of the club. See the Islington Gazette for his regular reports from the women’s team throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter @laythy29