Ellen White has only just become the England record scorer – but she's already looking over her shoulder.
The Manchester City forward knows just how good this Lionesses team is, not least because she plays with a few of the squad at club level. This is one of the best England sides of White's career, too… so can they deliver this summer?
We caught up with her to find out.
England expects: FFT chats to Ellen White
Will the glasses celebration be returning this summer... or something new?
If someone wants to put forward something different for me? [Laughs] Nah, I’ll stick with what I’ve got! I’ve seen a lot of people doing it with a big smile on their face – it’s fun and people tend to talk to me about it, so if I’m selected and manage to get a goal, I think I’ll go with what I know...
You broke the Lionesses’ all-time scoring record in November (opens in new tab). What did it mean?
Obviously, it’s amazing to achieve something like that. It was spoken about a lot towards the back end of last year, but I didn’t want to talk about it because I hadn’t actually achieved it. Kelly Smith held that record for a number of years and I really look up to her as a massive role model. She’s an absolute legend, so achieving that was very special – you could probably see. I didn’t expect to get so emotional, but to have all my team-mates around me made it a special moment. It’s something I’ll look back on more when I’ve finished playing, because I just want to keep going and get more goals.
Wayne Rooney had Harry Kane breathing down his neck. Is there anyone in the squad you look at and think, ‘Oh, she’s definitely going to beat me’?
There’s a lot of them! Beth Mead has scored a load of goals for England; Lauren Hemp is still really young and a phenomenal talent; Alessia [Russo], too... I could go through the whole squad. I’m proud not just that we’ve got so many good players coming through, but that we’ve got so many young players who are so established in the team as well. They have so many caps for their age.
Do you feel this is the strongest Lionesses squad you’ve ever seen?
I feel like I’ve been really lucky over the last 12 years to have played with some of the best in the world – we’ve just not quite got over the mark. At the moment, we have a nice balance of experience, youth and that middle group in their 20s who are pretty experienced but still young. I’m very lucky to be among players who have been in the Champions League, Olympics, finals, won FA Cups, big tournaments. To collectively achieve something would be incredible.
England ran the United States so close in their last tournament game, in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals. What do you take from that three years later?
That’s quite a tricky one: I still think about that match regularly and wonder, ‘If only I wasn’t a size 6 football boot...’ [White had a crucial goal disallowed for offside by VAR (opens in new tab)]. They’re one of the best teams in the world, but we genuinely believed that we could beat them and go on to win the World Cup. In the end, it came down to those small margins, that gamesmanship – they were very clever in the way they’d go down, play for fouls, play in the corner. That’s clever and smart; they had a bit of the nastiness that we needed to push ourselves over the line. Obviously, you have to play well and score goals, but you need that element of luck too. You need that edge to your team. We didn’t have it in that game and they did. Hopefully, we can draw experience on those moments to take us forward.
One person who’s been there and done it is your very own coach, Sarina Wiegman. How important is that?
It’s amazing for us to have someone like her who’s achieved something internationally in the women’s game [at Euro 2017] – and to have won something at a home tournament, with the amount of pressure that was on the Netherlands. She’s got so much experience and we want to soak up every ounce of what she knows. We’re very proud that she’s our manager and we’re just trying to work on the philosophy that she’s been building with us since September.
How is she different from previous bosses?
Every manager is different, but Sarina is an unbelievable leader – you can tell that she’s good at communicating and very calming. From the get-go, she set her stall out with what she wants from us and her philosophy. I feel like you can see from each camp how we’re developing and learning. The WSL has been professional for four years. How much difference has it made to the national team?
We’re all very lucky to be pro footballers and do something that we love every single day. If you’re training every day, you’re going to be fitter, faster, stronger, more competitive – and in a more competitive league, which we saw last season with it going down to the last day. You’ve now got a huge amount of internationals from all around the world wanting to play in our league, which is pretty incredible. It means we’ve got a number of players who are playing and training week in, week out with some of the best in the world. Selfishly for an English player, I’m happy that a group of us are in the WSL. We have few in America like Rachel Daly, but it’s brilliant for our national team to include players who are here every day.
Finally, after three semi-finals in a row, what can we expect to see this summer?
I think for us, being hosts of the Women's Euros and seeing what the men created last year with that buzz and excitement, we really want to repeat that. We want the whole country to get behind us, to be proud of us, and we’ll be doing everything we can to put everything on the line. Hopefully, you’ll see that in the performances. There’s so much that comes with a home tournament, and if we can look back and be proud of the team, that would be amazing. We’ve just got to try to control what we can. At the same time, we need to show some passion for the supporters and everyone at home.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.