With a surname like hers, 14-time England women’s international Natasha Dowie seemed destined to go into football. While her father, Bob, is a coach and former Director of Football at English Premier League side Crystal Palace, her uncle, Iain Dowie, was a renowned frontman in the Premier League during the 1990s, becoming a fans’ favourite at the likes of Southampton and West Ham United.
Regarded as one of the most prolific goalscorers in the English women’s game, Dowie became the second generation of her family to score at international level in 2013, following in the footsteps of her uncle who was one of Northern Ireland’s all-time leading talismen. Naturally, Dowie’s family has had a significant effect on the career of the two-time Women’s Super League winner.
"My Dad’s been my coach since I can remember kicking a football, and still now he’s my coach,” said Dowie, in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "He’s definitely been the biggest influence on my football career, I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
"And my uncle, of course, a big footballing name. He’s helped me with my coaching badges and he’s always been supportive. He’s very busy so he hasn’t been able to watch me as much as my dad has, but we’re such a close family.
"I know I’ve always got his support, too, but he says because I scored more goals than him that I don’t need his advice!* *It’s special that we’ve both been able to play at senior international level and score, it’s such a hard thing to achieve."
Born in Abu Dhabi, striker Dowie joined newly-promoted Doncaster Belles ahead of the 2016 WSL 1 season after a guest spell at Melbourne Victory in Australia’s W-League, where British expats such as Jess Fishlock and Kim Little have also enjoyed playing on loan.
"I always wanted to play abroad and when this opportunity came up to go out there as a guest player for seven games, I had to go,” said Dowie. "Our season in England finishes in November time and the Australian league runs through November, December, January, so it fits in quite well with the WSL and NWSL. I definitely think you’ll see more players from those leagues going out to play in Australia."
Now back in England with Doncaster, Dowie has played a prominent role in the WSL since its official start in 2011, having won back-to-back leagues with Liverpool Ladies in 2013 and 2014, as well as finishing the 2013 campaign as the league’s top scorer. In that time, she has witnessed the women’s game enjoy considerable growth, with attendance records continually being broken and the public profile of the league’s stars continuing to increase.
"It’s frightening how much the women’s game has changed, particularly in the last three years since I’ve gone professional," she said. "The biggest changes for me are going full-time, training every day and earning enough money now where you don’t need to have another job.
"You see women footballers on TV, see their faces everywhere and they’re getting rewarded with MBEs. I definitely think since the Women's World Cup as well, with the success the team had in Canada winning bronze, the game has grown massively."
National team ambitions
Despite being one of the domestic game’s most lethal strikers – finishing the 2015 season as joint top goalscorer alongside Sunderland’s Beth Mead with 14 goals in all domestic competitions – Dowie has found her time with the national team limited in recent years.
Her omission from the Lionesses’ 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ bronze-winning team came as a shock to many, even more so when considering her goalscoring prowess. While she hasn’t featured for England since September 2014, Dowie still has her sights set on returning to Mark Sampson’s national team fold.
"It’s been tough for me with regards to England,” revealed the 2013 FA Players’ Player of the Year. "I feel like I’ve dipped in and out and with regards to my form at club level, I do feel like I should have been involved a lot more than I have done.
"It is hard, though, as there are so many great strikers in the league nowadays – you could pick a striker from every team now – so Mark Sampson has got a good selection headache. But if Mark is looking for a prolific goalscorer, I like to think I’m that – I’ve always been top scorer wherever I’ve been. He might be looking for something else, though, a certain style of player and maybe I just don’t fit that category.
"Like every girl, I want to play for my country, especially with the EURO coming up. I’d love to get back involved and I still feel I’ve got a lot to show on the international stage and feel I can help the team achieve even bigger things than bronze medals."