Kelly Smith MBE is a legend in women's football. She is England's all-time top goal scorer and six-time Women's FA Cup winner with Arsenal Women.
Her journey to the top of women's football didn't come easily. But Kelly had one crucial supporter – her dad, Bernard.
Bernard is among the 50% of UK dads who encourage their daughters to play football, according to research commissioned by SSE.
We spoke to Kelly and Bernard about how they built a lasting bond through football. Their story shows how important a dad's support is, even if he doesn't realise how much of an influence he's had.
Kelly started playing football at age five or six, and showed promise early on. Bernard says she “just had something a little extra”, and committed herself to strengthen any weaknesses in her game.
They spent hours together in the car going to and from games in those early days, talking about “anything and everything”. Bernard credits the trips with their strong bond, and Kelly says the car became "her little safe haven" with her dad.
Their investments paid off, and Kelly was offered a scholarship to play football in America aged just 16. Although he was sad to see his daughter leave, Bernard supported her, knowing it was the step Kelly had to take to make it as a professional.
The transition was tough on Bernard but it was even harder for Kelly. Homesickness and a broken leg left her feeling low and wondering if her dream was over. Bernard got on a plane and flew to New Jersey, bringing his girl back home to recover and get back to playing the game she loves.
Bernard credits Kelly's seven years in America with giving her the mental toughness she now shows as a player. Despite her soft-spoken character off the pitch, she calls herself “an animal” once she gets onto the field.
Bernard's proudest moment came when Kelly made her international debut. He admits to getting tearful at the sight of his daughter singing the national anthem in her England jersey. It would be the start of the most successful career any woman has had for England. Kelly went on to earn 117 caps and an all-time record 46 goals for the Lionesses.
Kelly is in no doubt about the role her dad played in her achievements, saying “if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have reached those levels at all”.
When we agreed to sponsor The SSE Women's FA Cup we made a commitment to women's football in England.
The women's game is enjoying its highest ever profile. This year's SSE Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium had a record crowd. A further 1.5 million were watching on live TV at home.
England's performance at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup captured the British public's attention. The Lionesses came home from Canada with bronze medals and a new level of public love and support.
Women's football still has more room to grow, and even more people to reach. Our four-year partnership with The FA will increase the game's audience and give more girls the chance to play.