Sophie Bradley: England defender's career revolt pays off

Sophie Bradley
Nottingham-born Sophie Bradley started her career with Nottingham Forest Ladies

England defender Sophie Bradley has revealed she was steered towards a career in tennis before setting her sights on a life in football.

The Notts County Ladies defender is currently fighting her way back from a horrendous knee injury but she admits her biggest challenge was convincing her father that a young girl could break into a "boy's world".

"I've got a brother who is a year older than me and he always played football so my dad always took me along with him to the park to kick a ball," the 25-year-old told BBC Radio Nottingham.

"But my dad would never let me play football; he always wanted me to be a tennis player so I did tennis, and football on the side."

Nottingham-born Bradley's focus quickly turned solely to football, and after arranging her own trial at local club Gedling Town, her father quickly got the message.

Bradley relishes Notts Ladies opener

But what was the reason for Russell Bradley's reluctance to steer Sophie down the football route?

"I think he thought I could get a career out of tennis and, at the time, you couldn't one out of football," said Bradley, whose side meets last season's Women's Super League One runners-up Chelsea Ladies in their first league game at Meadow Lane on Sunday.

Thankfully Russell Bradley soon recognised his daughter's talent and passion for the game and is now her most devoted fan, following her all over the world.

Certainly football as a career did not really seem like a viable option for a woman even 15 years ago. But times have changed.

Women's football in Britain is booming, with some of the best players in the world arriving on these shores to compete in the WSL.

The game now generates huge interest, can boast rising crowds and is enjoying growing participation at all levels.

At the turn of the century, that position seemed highly unlikely.

Certainly it would have seemed a world away for the young Bradley who, despite being the best player in her mixed-sex primary school team, was told she could no longer be captain because she was a girl.

Sophie Bradley
Bradley made her England debut in 2010 and played for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics

She said: "I was captain of the boys' team, the head teacher came up to me and he said 'I am ever so sorry but some of the boys' parents have complained that it's embarrassing that a girl is captain of the team'".

Bradley was demoted, but didn't care.

"I was probably nine or 10 and I just wanted to play football so it didn't bother me that I was no longer captain," she added.

"The boys would say 'why are you playing football, you are a girl, you can't play football'."

Since then, she's played in the Olympic Games in front of nearly 80,000 fans at Wembley, won 26 caps and represented her country at a World Cup.

Can't play football? For Bradley it's turned out pretty well.