Women's World Cup: Home support inspires Sophie Bradley

By Nigel AdderleyBBC Sport in Leverkusen
Bradley enjoying World Cup experience

Twenty million Germans will be glued to their screens on Saturday to see if their star striker, Inka Grings, can inspire the hosts to victory against Japan in their Women's World Cup quarter-final.

And the notoriously demanding Brazilian fans will be praying that their stand-out performer, Marta, can continue to sparkle when they face the United States.

In Nottingham, meanwhile, the residents of a care home will be cheering on one of their own.

When she is not performing impressively at the heart of England's defence, Sophie Bradley supplements her £16,000 central contract from the Football Association by working part-time in the care home run by her parents.

The youngest member of Hope Powell's squad is playing in a World Cup for the first time, and really came to prominence when she replaced captain Faye White for the final group match against Japan.

Despite it being her full debut in a major tournament, the 21-year-old's combination of assuredness and athleticism contributed hugely to the 2-0 victory which put England through to this Saturday's last-eight encounter with France in Leverkusen.

Regular watchers of the women's game will not have been surprised by the maturity of Bradley's performance, though.

Despite her youth, she captained Leeds to their Premier League Cup win against Everton last year, before moving to Lincoln for the start of the inaugural Women's Super League.

Women's World Cup archive: England beat Japan in 2011

Despite her success on the pitch, she believes her life outside football is very important.

"I love it. It really puts my mind at ease," she told BBC Sport. "I really love looking after people as well as playing football. It's the way I was brought up really.

"All the ladies at the rest home have been watching me. One of them wrote me a letter that my dad brought out to Germany, so it's really good to hear about their support and that they can see someone they know playing football on TV.

"When I ring home I hear about how they're cheering me on and I've been getting texts from people who work at the rest home.

"It's brilliant and I think it's nice for the ladies and gentlemen that I care for to see what's happening. Hopefully they will have a few England flags waving for the quarter-final."

The centre-back's day-to-day life is certainly hectic.

Matches or training with Lincoln Ladies usually involve at least a 100-mile round trip from her Nottingham home, and she fits her individual fitness work around her shifts, where her sporting career is often the topic of conversation.

"They're always asking me about how the football is going. Because I train with Lincoln a lot during the week, they sometimes see me in my football kit.

"I go in quite a bit even if I'm not working to just see them - and they love to talk about it."

Despite only making her international debut at the start of the 2010-11 season, Bradley is being tipped as a future England captain.

But would she ever consider joining the likes of Kelly Smith and Alex Scott as a full-time player abroad?

"I'm not too sure about the future. I just take it as it comes.

"At the moment, I'm enjoying playing for Lincoln and I'm loving playing for my country as well.

"If the chance came up, maybe I'd look into it but at the moment I'm happy working at the rest home with the football to the side of that."