Ahead of the finals in her home country, senior England midfielder Jordan Nobbs looks back on her own youth days from her first U15 goal aged 13 to the European U19 title.
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When England take the field as UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship hosts on Tuesday, their players may well have Jordan Nobbs as an inspiration.
The midfielder was first called into an England squad at U15 level aged 12, and was still only 13 when she scored on her debut against Wales. By 14 she was captaining the U17s, and in 2008 led them to the semi-finals of the inaugural European Championship in Nyon and the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand. Since captaining the UEFA European Women's U19 Championship-winning team of 2009, England's first major female honour, Nobbs's senior career has blossomed at Arsenal LFC and this year she made her full international debut, also travelling to Sweden in the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 squad. She spoke to UEFA.com about her rise up the youth ranks.
UEFA.com: To get to where you are now, what sacrifice have you had to make through those teenage years?
Jordan Nobbs: Obviously I've had to miss a lot of school work, I wasn't in school very much when I was younger, and obviously I had to move away from my family. But overall I'm glad that I did take those sacrifices, because I don't [think] I would be where I am now if I hadn't.
UEFA.com: What motivated you to do all that?
Nobbs: I think it was the love of football, to be honest. I think when you want to play football, you know that's what you want to do, and if doors keep opening I think you've got to take those chances, because there's not many chances that you can get sometimes. So I'm glad that I did take them.
UEFA.com: Five years ago you played in the first European Women's U17 finals; there's one coming up now in England; what would be the biggest piece of advice you would give to the young England players now who are about to experience the tournament?
Nobbs: We got into the semi-final, but once you've played that many games, you know, when you're only young, it's definitely something that you've got to then push, and get to the final. So I think that you have just got to be ready when you go, you've got to be fit, you've got to be training hard, and hopefully if you do that then you can progress to the final.
UEFA.com: What's your fondest memory of that age group?
Nobbs: I think it has to be the World Cup, to be honest. I think if you asked anyone who went there, even at this age now, they would say that was one of the best highlights in their career. And I think I always will say that. I mean, it was in New Zealand, we were there about five weeks, we got to see everything, play in a World Cup, so I think that's definitely my highlight.
UEFA.com: The next year you went to Belarus and won the U19s, what was that victory like, because it is one of few trophies England have won recently...
Nobbs: Yes. When we went there, all the girls had a feeling that we could win the tournament. You always think that, but we had a great vibe, everyone in training was firing and I think we didn't concede for a very long amount of games there. So it was hard, but we won a gold medal at the end of it, so it was worth it.
UEFA.com: A lot of you are now breaking into the senior team; do you feel that team really could provide the core for England in the future, because you've proved you can go out and win something, and so many of you are being promoted now?
Nobbs: You've got to have a winning mentality, and I think that we have actually gone on and won a major tournament at England level, it shows that we do have that winning mentality. And hopefully that can carry on throughout the age groups, and I think that's why we've got to the seniors now.
UEFA.com: When you're part of a youth age group that's so successful, does it give a sort of special bond between the players who have been part of that?
Nobbs: I think it helps, always having extra training together with the same players. And like you say, we were training, playing together for a long time, even years; so I think that definitely progressed us for when we did play in those major tournaments, that we knew exactly what each one would be doing.