England's Sophie Bradley embarks on long road to Euro 2013

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
Women footballers need 'more money'

There is no doubting Sophie Bradley's love for the game of football or her dedication to success.

The Lincoln and England defender has committed most of her life to it and she is about to embark on another season of hard graft as the national team sets their sights on the European Championship this summer.

Following fitness testing at St George's Park, England boss Hope Powell will take her squad to a training camp at La Manga this weekend and they can expect to continue with a pre-season training programme which will include two sessions a day, six days a week.

It is the kind of regime which can test an elite performer to their limits, while also questioning their motives for playing the game.

But speaking to Bradley at her parents' home in Nottingham, it is clear the financial rewards are not the reason why she competes.

"I wouldn't say we get the rewards in terms of money because you go to your job and after that you have to train," she told BBC Sport.

"It's more for the love of the sport, I would say, because we do all that training and we go to work as well.

"It's hard, but mentally you just have to put yourself through it to get the rewards of being selected for the Euros."

Bradley receives £16,000 a year for representing England, together with a semi-professional contract at Women's Super League side Lincoln Ladies.

It means, like many other England team-mates, she has to supplement her income and does this by working part-time at her father's care home in Nottingham.

The 23-year-old admits she is one of the "lucky" ones, as many players cannot find jobs that afford them the same flexibility.

So that is why she believes they should be fairly rewarded for the part they have played in helping the profile of the women's game grow over the past two seasons.

"I work for my dad in a rest home looking after the elderly and for me and my family, my football comes first," Bradley explains. "So if I'm in work and then I get called up to play or train, as long as it's OK with my dad then, I'm able to do that. For other people it's not possible."

The success of women's football in England has coincided with Bradley's rise to prominence and her father has played a key role in her development.

She started her playing career at Nottingham Forest, where her dad was the coach, and progressed to Leeds where she was part of the team which won the Premier League Cup final in 2010.

When the WSL formed in 2011, she joined Lincoln Ladies but is still joined by her dad when she goes out for runs and jokes that he still likes to think he can beat her.

Bradley, who says she would put her "body on the line" for her team and is a good reader of the game, now forms a centre-back pairing for club and country with skipper Casey Stoney and they have clicked instantly.

On her major tournament debut at the 2011 World Cup, Bradley made a big impact by replacing former skipper Faye White and helped England keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over eventual champions Japan.

Similarly, her Olympic debut came against Brazil at Wembley as Great Britain ran out 1-0 winners in a match played in front of 70,000 at Wembley.

"Playing alongside Casey helps me a lot," Bradley said. "She is a brilliant player and someone I look up to. In training and in games she is always there to help me out and on the pitch it is easier when you also play with someone at club level - we each have a good understanding of how the other plays."

That partnership will be tested to its limits this summer as England aim to go one better than when they reached the Euro 2009 final, before being thumped 6-2 by Germany.

But the duo have already shown their tenaciousness in England's unbeaten qualifying campaign on the road to Euro 2013.

Although Bradley is a joy to talk to, there is one point in the interview when her steely determination is plain to see. It is while talking about how much she hates losing.

That has happened only once in her 17 England appearances, yet she clearly bristles when the quarter-final defeats for England in the last World Cup and for Great Britain in the Olympics are mentioned, although she believes those losses will inspire the England team in Sweden.

"We learned a lot from the quarter-final defeats and hopefully that won't happen again," she added. "It will be massive going into the Euros with that fire in your belly and I think we will all have a point to prove that we can go that next stage further.

"For me, going to Euros is something I've never done as a senior player, so to get selected and win something there would be my ultimate dream," she added. "That's why I play football, because I want to win things."