The defender Keith Nobbs, plying his trade for Hartlepool in the lower leagues in the 1980s, could hardly have imagined that his daughter would follow in his footsteps as a footballer. Back in those days the women's game was frowned upon and obscure, not televised and semi-professional. But the former centre-half, renowned for his "no nonsense approach" – which included losing six teeth in the Darlington derby without needing to go off – has marvelled as his daughter, Jordan Nobbs, has risen through the ranks to become one of the most exciting young talents in the women's game.
The 20-year-old midfielder is definitely one to watch. Last week she scored a stunning goal on her senior England debut and is tipped to make a big impression on Arsenal's season as the London side take on the Italian league winners ASD Torres in a Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday – in an attempt to lift the trophy for the first time since their maiden victory in 2007.
Despite her height – 5ft 2in – it was never in doubt that Jordan Nobbs would become a footballer. As soon as she could walk she was kicking everything in sight – from plastic fruit to footballs. Her father could not have been more thrilled as the daughter he nicknamed "Girly" – better known by the less flattering "Nobber" among her England team-mates – took part in his soccer skills camps every summer and joined the local under-10s league where she delighted in beating the boys. Before long Nobbs was captaining England at various youth levels and helping the under-19 side to lift the European trophy. A move to England's most successful domestic side, Arsenal ladies, cemented her pedigree.
"My dad tells me stories all the time about how football's changed," says Nobbs with a chuckle about "the old days". "He says players used to get elbowed in the face and they just got up and carried on. One time he had a broken collarbone, or maybe a broken shoulder, I forget which, and he carried on the whole game with his arm across his chest. Another time there was a picture in the paper because he got kicked in the jaw. It was so bad that my mum walked straight past him in the hospital because his face was about six times bigger than normal and she didn't recognise him."
Has Nobbs inherited her father's hard-as-nails approach? "No, I wouldn't say so," she says with a grin. "I've definitely got that fight and determination but maybe not as brutal as my dad. I've got his legs, though, my mum always says that. I'm known for my big calves, unfortunately. It's not a good look!"
Keith Nobbs retired from the professional game with a knee injury before Jordan ever had a chance to watch him play. But he is a huge supporter of his daughter and continues to give her advice . "Whenever he watches my games, at half-time when I'm running off he'll shout me over and tell me a few things. I never take it in a bad way, I'm sure it has helped me as a player. I do tell him to shush sometimes, though. He'll repeat the same things over and over and I'll be like, 'I know, dad, I know!' He's normally right, though, to be fair."
After Nobbs was left out of the Team GB squad for London 2012 – despite winning Arsenal's coveted player of the season award – an internet campaign titled "Nobbsy for England" did the rounds. Nobbs herself had no issue with missing out on the Olympic Games, having made the cut for the final 30, but her stunning long-range strike against Italy in the Cyprus Cup last week made the point that she is now ready for senior international football.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," she said of the goal that went viral on the internet. "When I scored in the Italy game it was unbelievable. A lot of the girls know me for long-range shooting because I'm always practising – it was literally a replica of when I scored in the [under-19s] Euros for England. As soon as I took it on my feet I thought, 'Just shoot, Jordan', but you don't really expect what happens next. I was just chuffed to bits." Nobbs went on to play in the final, helping England to lift the Cyprus Cup against the Olympic bronze medallists, Canada – sweet revenge against the team that had knocked Team GB out of the Olympics last summer.
Nobbs's experience against Italy, in particular, will prove invaluable on Wednesday as many of the Azzurri's best players make up the backbone of the Torres team. Against a physical, aggressive side Arsenal will have to work hard to maintain their composure and stand a chance of progressing to the final – held at Stamford Bridge this year – an awesome carrot for Nobbs and the rest of the Arsenal ladies.
An appearance at Chelsea's home ground would kickstart a summer of women's football in which the game's profile is expected to soar, with the BBC's extra coverage and Euro 2013 on the horizon. The stage is set. Nobbs is just hoping she will be one of the stars to illuminate it.