Nobbs: I'm proud of what I have overcome after a rollercoaster few years
England midfielder Jordan Nobbs discusses the toughest few years of her career and her hopes for EURO 2022.
Jordan Nobbs is the first to stress she is taking nothing for granted following the hardest few years of her career. But after missing out on a World Cup and Olympic Games in recent years, the midfielder will be doing everything in her power to secure a place at this summer’s home European Championship.
Nobbs’ combination of talent and work rate meant she was tipped for the top from a young age.
The energetic midfielder captained England at the Under-17 World Cup in 2008, helped the Young Lionesses win the Under-19 EUROs a year later and by the age of 24 had already been part of senior squads for two European Championships and the 2015 FIFA World Cup.
Add into the mix a trophy cabinet which included two FA Women’s Super League and four Women’s FA Cup winner’s medals, to name a few, and Nobbs was already a crucial part of not only Arsenal’s but also England’s side.
However, on Sunday 18 November 2018, during a game against Everton at Haig Avenue, Nobbs had already scored when she went to press the ball and after a routine challenge, knew she was in trouble. Straight away.
Her ACL had completely ruptured. Her 2019 World Cup dream was over. She told the Arsenal physio as much that day.
Surgery to reconstruct her ACL proved successful but it took ten months before she was back on the pitch for Arsenal, which was a month after England had finished fourth at the 2019 World Cup in France.
Nobbs explained: “I was back in about ten months. Naturally after the operation, God, you hardly move and you are basically learning to walk again for the first few months.
“I wasn’t back on the pitch again for six or seven months so it is a long period of no grass and no ball. But it is the way it goes. It is a horrible injury, which you don’t want anyone to get, but you can overcome them.
“Even when you get back playing, it still takes a lot of time to get back to your natural self because your mind protects the knee.
“It was a tough time but it has been a few years now and I am in a good, healthy place right now.”
Being with the Arsenal squad on the sidelines when they secured their first Barclays FA WSL title in seven years helped Nobbs, and a week later she was able to lift the trophy alongside stand-in skipper Kim Little.
Then the three-time FA WSL winner’s resilience and mental strength was clear to see when she decided to tackle the heartbreak of missing out on the 2019 World Cup head on by accepting the BBC’s offer to be a pundit for the tournament.
“Some people were saying to me ‘wow, that will be a great opportunity’ and others were saying ‘O my God you’re going to the World Cup that you are missing through injury’,” Nobbs said.
“But it was a fantastic opportunity which I had to grab with both hands and take as a positive in terms of experience, which was fantastic for me.
“It made me realise that I actually love that side of football; watching all the games, learning about all the players and having a good time actually.
“It was nice talking about the girls and the team when I knew them so well.
“There was even one time where they scored and they came to celebrate near the corner flag and Jodie [Taylor] was looking up at me. It was tough but you have to take the best out of what you can. I am very thankful to the BBC for giving me that opportunity.”
Despite having to effectively learn how to walk again, Nobbs was back impressing for Arsenal during the 2019-20 season before the COVID pandemic halted the campaign.
Then last summer it came as a surprise to many when she was left out of the Team GB squad for Tokyo 2020, before there was yet another setback, when she suffered an ankle ligaments injury during the pre-season win over Chelsea, as Nobbs was again forced off the pitch on a stretcher.
The 29-year-old said: “We definitely thought it was worse than what it was. Obviously it was still a two-month injury but we were thinking it might be four months out or an operation because you naturally think the worse.
“But it was a very tough time, getting that injury at the start of the season. I was in a great headspace and had worked hard in pre-season to be fit and ready to go. But it is one of those things which happen in football and I just stayed as mentally strong as I could to get back to where I am today.”
She continued: “It has definitely been the hardest few years of football for me. It has been mentally a really tough rollercoaster. I am obviously proud of myself for overcoming what I have.
“It isn’t just me that it has happened to, as it happens to other players too, but I think I was on a pretty good run and the timing of my injuries have not been very nice.
“It is one of those things which come with football and I have just tried to remember how good it feels to play on the pitch and that has always been my goal when I get injury; do everything right to get back to that moment again and that feeling of playing.”
Nobbs & Lotte Wubben-Moy | Questions
Jordan Nobbs and Lotte Wubben-Moy are the latest pair to take on the box of Questions.
The injury in pre-season meant she was out of contention when England’s new head coach Sarina Wiegman took charge of her first matches in September and although she was back playing for Arsenal again when the October camp came around, by her own admission it was ‘totally understandable’ that she missed out again, considering the lack of game time.
But come November, Nobbs was back in the England squad and acknowledged missing out in October meant her body was in a better condition and she had more matches under her belt when it came to having the chance to impress Wiegman in training at St. George’s Park.
Speaking before the victories over Austria and Latvia, Nobbs said: “It was an amazing feeling to get the call-up. It felt like my first call-up again. It was that excited feeling and you never take those moments for granted. I am so happy to be back around the girls and getting to meet Sarina.”
She added: “I have only been here a few days but you can tell straight away by the atmosphere and the way the girls are and how training went that Sarina is straight away very approachable and easy to speak to.
“I think that is a great thing to have, where you don’t feel on edge and you are here to play your football and learn as much as you can from her.”
Nobbs started playing for Sunderland at the age of seven after a trial day which saw her meet fellow England international Demi Stokes on the same day.
The pair were among a host of talented players produced by the North East during that time, with Lucy Bronze and Lucy Staniforth also playing for Sunderland and the likes of Steph Houghton and Jill Scott in older age groups.
After starting out with Sunderland, the midfielder joined Norton & Stockton FC, where she would play against a Blyth Town team which included Bronze and Staniforth, before moving on to the Middlesbrough academy.
Nobbs went back to Sunderland to sign for the first team at the age of 16 and had already established herself as a first team regular when she joined Arsenal two years later.
An England senior team call-up followed in 2012 before she marked her debut against Italy in 2013 with a long-range strike.
The former Sedgefield Community School pupil now has 67 caps and eight England goals to her name, and when asked if missing out on the World Cup in 2019 and Tokyo 2020 gave her extra motivation to try to reach this summer’s home EUROs, she replied: “Always. I think I have motivation for every single game because I am very competitive, I want to win and I want to help the team as much as possible.
“I am not looking too far ahead because of what has happened in the past but I have to focus on what I can do and that is performing and playing well.”
It was a summer where Gareth Southgate’s side were able to unite the country on their march to the final and Nobbs is hoping the Lionesses can do the same this year.
Nobbs said: “I was able to go to the games because I wasn’t away in the summer [with Tokyo 2020]. It was one of the best football games I have ever been to in my life.
“When it comes to your national team and people wanting to watch and things like that, it brings everyone together and hopefully that can be something which happens at our EUROs.
“The games are getting bigger and bigger [in women’s football] so the fact this tournament will be in England will be an incredible experience and opportunity for everyone in the women’s game.”
Next up for England Women is the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup next month, where the Lionesses will take on Canada at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on Thursday 17 February, Spain at Norwich City’s Carrow Road on Sunday 20 February and Germany at Wolves’ Molineux Stadium on Wednesday 23 February.
Tickets are available from £10 for adults and £5 for under-16s and can be purchased from here.