Portsmouth-born USA coach Jill Ellis gained her passion for football in the UK

United States coach Jill Ellis doubts her passion for football would exist had she not been brought up in England.

Ellis was born in Portsmouth and supported Manchester United as a child but moved to the US with her family as a teenager.

The 52-year-old is now preparing to take on the country of her birth as her US side, the holders, face England in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup in Lyon on Tuesday.

Ellis said: “I was a Pompey lass. I can’t say I always supported Pompey – I’ve been a Man Utd fan since I was seven. But I have a lot of fond memories, (there were) a lot of great people and I spent a lot of summers up in Edinburgh.

“My whole British culture and growing up is still with me, for sure. I’m very grateful for that because I don’t think, had I grown up in another country, the passion for football would be where it is.”

Ellis did not have the opportunity to play organised football while she lived in England, however, as the women’s game was still to reestablish itself in the aftermath of it being banned by the Football Association.

Ellis led the US to World Cup glory four years ago
Ellis led the US to World Cup glory four years ago (Francisco Seco/AP)

Those chances came after she moved to the US, and they in turn eventually led to a career in coaching. She rose through the college coaching system and into the national team set-up. She was appointed as full-time USA coach in 2014 and oversaw World Cup success the following year.

Her British life continues to influence her though, not least in citing Sir Alex Ferguson as one of her coaching inspirations. She met the former Manchester United manager once, at a FIFA event.

“I bumped into him in a hallway,” said Ellis, whose side beat France in the quarter-finals to set up the England clash. “He was super gracious, charming, nice.

“That was a brief interaction but I’ve read his books and, being a young Man Utd fan way back in the day, I was all in.”

Ellis will pit her wits against Phil Neville
Ellis will pit her wits against Phil Neville (Richard Sellers/PA)

Her opposite number at Lyon’s Groupama Stadium, Phil Neville, spent the first half of his playing career under Ferguson.

Ellis expects to see the Scot’s influence.

She said: “Obviously I grew up as a Man Utd fan so I can’t speak enough about just how he was as manager. He got the best out of his players and was ruthless at times.

“In that regard, having been around Sir Alex on an internal level, as Phil was – everybody affects us, influences us, you take a little bit of that away.

“Some things you like, some things you don’t. In our lives we are all affected by the people we come into contact with so I am sure that’s had the same effect.”