HER dad was a Hartlepool hero, a footballer described as “no-nonsense”.
By all accounts it meant no-nonsense as the hobs of hell.
Folk still recall the Darlington derby when Keith Nobbs lost half a dozen teeth, got up and returned, spitting blood, to the fray.
Now his 16-year-old daughter, as combative and as committed as her proud father, is set to emulate his success.
Jordan Nobbs has already represented England at under-15, under-17 and under-19 level.
On Monday she will be in the Sunderland team which meets Arsenal at Derby in the final of the FA Women’s Cup.
“She’s just a natural,” says her dad. “Right from when she was small you could see that she had the balance and the coordination to be a footballer.
Where others would try to dribble everywhere, Jordan would have her head up, looking for the pass.
“When I came into the game, women’s football was hardly heard of, almost frowned upon.
Now it’s a really skilful game, and the girls who play at the top level are true athletes.”
One of the other differences may be that Jordan, a central midfielder, scores goals. In 334 Hartlepool starts between 1985-95 her father, now 47, managed just one.
“It was against Peterborough, long distance shot, defence never moved,” recalls Keith, now Hartlepool’s football in the community officer.
Not intended to be a cross then? “Definitely not,” insists Keith, affably.
The record books disagree, the Echo adding that it was from “the narrowest of angles.”
It came in a 2-1 home win against Aldershot, November 6 1985, his 18th game for the club and, the Echo added, his first goal.
We were hardly to know that it would also be his last. Keith Nobbs, says the book A Century of Poolies, was “far from deadly in front of goal.”
Once Jordan scored four in a game. “I don’t know where I get it from,” she says.
KEITH and Kerry Nobbs live in Bishop Middleham, near Ferryhill – the village where he grew up – with Jordan and their son Liam, who’s taking FA coaching badges.
Since her mum worked for a travel agency, Jordan had already seen a fair bit of the world before joining the England set-up as a 12-year-old.
Now she has a personal trainer, support plan and dietician, flies business class, is chauffeur driven in a Mercedes, stays in the same hotels as the men’s team, returned on Wednesday evening from an Under-19s qualifying tournament in Hungary.
Between it all, she’s weeks away from GCSEs at Sedgefield sports and community college and has just won a scholarship to Loughborough, where she’ll combine A-levels, B-tech and, inevitably, football.
Bright, articulate and wholly dedicated, she happily accepts the disciplines necessary to play at the highest level. “I train five times a week but I still get to see my friends, maybe have a pizza, on a Friday night. We can still have a lot of fun.”
She’s just 5ft 3in tall, works particularly hard on strength, has an air of the young Billy Bremner – it may just be the all-white kit – but has been said to bear a resemblance to Fernando Torres. The Sunderland Women’s website talks of her “tremendous engine.”
Tommy Miller, Hartlepool’s long-serving chief scout, recalls the little girl always kicking around Victoria Park.
“She’d turn up for all the courses, sandwiches and boots in her rucksack. Jordan’s a lovely footballer now.”
Jordan joined the Sunderland centre of excellence at eight, was in the England Under-15 squad at 12, led the under-17s to the World Cup semi-final when just 15 and has now graduated to the under-19s. Inevitably she hopes to make the senior side; few doubt that it will soon happen.
“No matter who we play we’re usually the smallest and the slimmest, but I don’t think it matters. It’s much more about strength, skill and stamina,” says Jordan.
Her mum agrees. “When women’s football began to be noticed a lot of them were tomboys, quite a lot of weight about them.
“Now the top players are really dedicated and pick up a lot of other skills.
“Jordan’s very sensible and academically doing well despite missing five weeks of school for the World Cup. She’s also a real chatterbox, which she gets from me. You can hear her talking to the other players all the time, a real communicator.”
Monday’s televised final against the all-conquering Arsenal Women’s team represents one of Jordan’s biggest tests yet – though Sunderland beat second-placed Chelsea 3- 0 in the semi-final.
“We’ll have to raise our game, there’s no question of that. They’ve a lot of players in the England senior squad but we do have a chance if we play like we did against Chelsea. We’ll definitely not back off.”
It’s spoken like her dad’s daughter. Like those of more 16-year-olds, her website page lists Steven Gerrard as her favourite footballer – but the “biggest influence” remains Keith Nobbs.
A NOTE from John Armstrong and an email from Dave Morrison pursue much the same theme – veteran cricketers who don’t let age and the odd injury deter them. (John’s injury was very odd, the sightscreen fell on him.) John, “nearly 65”, is back playing for Etherley II in the Durham County League despite, he says, being all aches and pains.
Dave, the wicket-keeper with the hands like a bone doctor’s back room, has returned to Barton in the Darlington and District, last Saturday claiming a stumping and an unbeaten six against Lands.
“The skills never leave a class player,” insists Morro, 66 later this month.
Charlie Walker, the dear old Demon Donkey Dropper of Eryholme, fared rather less well on his return after his heart attack last summer, one-for-eighty-odd.
Charlie’s 68, the others just bit bairns by comparison.
Does anyone older still play North-East league cricket?
TUESDAY’S piece on Premiership referee Mike Riley, lovely bloke, reminded Tow Law Town secretary Steve Moralee of what he reckons was Riley’s most high-profile dismissal. It was the 1998 FA Vase final at Wembley, combative Lawyers’ midfielder Tony Nelson sent off for failing to appreciate the dividing line between “combative” and “crazy”. The column was there. “Nelson’s dismissal was a bit hard for any referee to turn a blind eye,” we wrote, “but especially Red Card Riley.”
THE CURSE of Zoe Birtle shows no sign of losing its strange power. We told of it three years ago.
Zoe left Cambridge University in 2001, at which point Cambridge United came out in sympathy and lost their Football League status.
In 2002-03 she did a one year masters’ degree at York, just long enough for the Minstermen similarly to slide into the Conference.
Though her doctorate at Oxford took three-and-a-half years to complete, Oxford United occupied just two of them before sliding into semi-oblivion.
Zoe’s now working in Southampton, where not only have the Saints been relegated but face a ten-point deduction. “It might take a couple of years but the Conference beckons for them as well,” says Martin, her dad, from Billingham.
Dad’s a Sunderland fan.
“All I can do,” he pleads, “is look for her a decent job in Newcastle.”
MARTIN Birtle also reports the death, at 90, of former Durham County batsman Harry Thompson – among many able cricketers to have worked at Head Wrightson’s.
Others included England and Warwickshire wicket keeper Dick Spooner and Somerset legend Harold Stephenson. Harry Thompson long opened the batting for Norton, often alongside David Townsend – the last man to play for England but never for a first class county – but was unable to translate his club form to the Minor Counties game. In five matches between 1942-46 he scored just 43 runs, averaging 5.37.
WHILE others relax over the bank holiday weekend, Sharon Gayter will again be endlessly circumlocuting a running track.
This one’s near Milan, the European 24-hour championships – and World 24-hour Challenge – in which she leads a four-member UK team.
After the anguish of the stress fracture which forced her to abandon the six-day world record attempt around Croft Circuit, she’s eagerly up and running again.
In a seven-day period she covered 120 miles, including 70 of racing. “There’s always the niggling worry that the stress fracture can return, 24 hours in relentless,” she admits.
The 45-year-old asthmatic hopes for a top ten finish, believes the team can claim silver, fears the French. A new job and no holidays, husband Bill – her one-man support party – will be left home alone in Guisborough.
Sharon’s unworried. “He’s well used to cooking Pot Noodles by now.”
OUR friends at Wearhead United FC narrowly failed on Monday evening to win their first “outside” cup – not simply those contested by other league members – in 102 years. Leading after ten minutes, they held out until added time, when Coundon and Leeholme scored twice.
“The match was a credit to the Crook and District League,” says Wearhead’s Raymond Snaith.
We’re also asked to mention the Bishop Auckland Heart Foundation Cup final on bank holiday Monday (11am) between Newton Aycliffe WMC and Pelton RAOB, both Durham and District League members. The game’s at Newton Aycliffe’s newly recreated Moore Lane ground.
Through the Pelton club, organiser Norman Leighton has also obtained a Republic of Ireland shirt signed by team manager Giovanni Trappatoni. Via eBay, it’ll also raise funds for the charity.
FORMER Darlington stalwart Ken Furphy recalls in Backpass – “The retro football magazine” – the infamous occasions when Pele missed the bus.
It was 1976. Ken, 349 Quakers appearances between 1953-61, was newlyappointed head coach at New York Cosmos, advised by Matt Busby to treat every player the same.
When Pele was late for the team bus, he told the driver to go without him. When it happened again the following morning, the bus again left a man short.
“Whether he had any respect for me doing that I’ll never know, but the other players certainly did,” says Ken, 78 later this month.
Born in Stockton, he’s long lived on the Devon coast, still does a bit of local radio work.
And Pele? “He was never late again.”
THOUGH Tuesday’s column noted Colin Wake’s successful penalty in Chester-le-Street’s 1,000th Northern league game – and his own 593rd appearance – we’d failed to realise quite what a rarity it was. Five of Colin’s ten goals were in his first season, 1995-96. Before Saturday, his last was on March 11, 2003, against Marske United. He now has three this century.
THE two graduates in the Liverpool team which lost to Arsenal in the 1971 FA Cup final (Backtrack, April 28) were Steve Heighway and Brian Hall – which reminded Ian Andrew in Lanchester of a conversation between Hall and the legendary Bill Shankly on Liverpool’s post- Wembley open-topped bus.
“Hey, son,” said Shanks, remembering Hall’s learned reputation, “what’s the name of that chairman, him with the sayings?”
“D’you mean Chairman Mao?” said Hall.
When the bus reached St George’s Square, Shanks was fully briefed.
“It’s questionable if Chairman Mao’s China could have arranged such a show of strength as you have yesterday and today,” he told them. It’s why they loved him, of course.
Same feller, Ian Andrew recalls that Shankly was from the Ayrshire village of Glenbuck – but what, he enquires, was the name of the village football team?
Glenbucking the trend, the column returns on Tuesday.