Fine margins and football are a coupling that Jade Moore has become all too familiar with during her time in the England ranks. While the road to their bronze medal at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ brought pain then joy on either side of the knife edge, she knows her place in this side was defined by even slimmer ones.
Having been impressing since her mid-teens in the Three Lionesses shirt, Moore took the decision to take her career to the next level just prior to her 17th birthday, leaving home to join the national team’s development centre. But, just a week into that teenage whirlwind, she was diagnosed with two holes in her heart.
“When I reflect, it is a bit of a mad one,” Moore explained to FIFA.com, now thousands of miles away – both physically and metaphorically – from that near-life changing discovery almost a decade ago, in Philadelphia, USA, while preparing for the SheBelieves Cup.
“If one of the holes had been a millimetre bigger it would have meant they’d have had to open me up [for open heart surgery] and it would have been a completely different story.”
That minute measurement proved massive. Thanks to a device fitted to regulate her heart defect – via a vein in her groin – it meant surgery and recovery kept her off the pitch for less than a month, though, being the dynamic midfielder she is, blood-thinning medication meant it wasn’t all smooth sailing. “Any sort of knock would keep me out longer; a nasty kick on my leg would swell, bruise and become a hindrance. But my actual heart and the operation only kept me out for 3-4 weeks.”
The 26-year-old’s life has expanded outwards significantly since, fuelled by an evident drive within her. Off the field, having pushed to earn a Sports Therapy degree alongside progressing to becoming a professional, the Notts County star has turned that education into her own physiotherapy business. Having come so close to potentially losing her career as a player, Moore is in no doubt over whether her brush with major heart surgery influenced this now three-year old venture.
“It did, massively," Moore said. "I don’t think it was a conscious thing – I didn’t sit and plan it out – but I think [the uncertainty] did alter my view on the sport, on my life and, when I reflect, it does make a lot of sense when I consider the decisions I have made.”
Now she’s juggling six days on the training field and another with clients on the physio’s table. “It’s difficult enough just to play football,” she admitted, “but I wouldn’t change it, I actually thoroughly enjoy going to work, as crazy as it seems! I’m really fortunate to be where I am.”
Jousting with the world's elite
But, embedded with the national team, her focus is solely on the field and the SheBelieves Cup presents the England with a timely tune-up ahead of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017, pitting them against France, USA and Germany.
While a pre-season meet in Spain saw Mark Sampson’s side leave without a win against Norway and Sweden, Moore emerged positive that they would be in good shape when squaring up against the top three sides in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking. Having not taken part in the 2016 Women's Olympic Football Tournament, it provides a valuable opportunity to refocus the tournament mind-set for the team sitting two places below France in fifth.
“It basically replicates a tournament group stage, doesn’t it?” she said. “Three tough games and it’s really beneficial. It’s an honour for us to be here and be in this position, faced with these teams, as we’ve felt that we’ve lacked those friendly games where you learn about playing against the best.”
In Moore’s eyes, since leaving Canada 2015 with a medal, the identity among the England camp has shifted, seeing them covet the consistency of their more illustrious opponents. “That’s what we want to be known for and remembered for. That’s where we want to learn from them and it spurs us on.
“Who we beat in the bronze-medal game was a big step in the right direction to say: ‘England can compete with the likes of Germany’. We hadn’t beaten them in god knows how many years – the same with France. These are all little hurdles we as a nation are fighting against. Over the course of 90 minutes they don’t mean a lot but, in regards to the history, they do.”
While it wasn’t a rarity to see her helping out the physio at Birmingham City – her previous club – Moore is adamant she remains strictly hands-off on the international stage. “With England, I’m here as a footballer and nothing else!” Though, should any of her team-mates suffer a touch of cramp during the SheBelieves Cup, it’s clear who they’ll be hoping comes to the rescue.