“Sometimes there will be people who do not believe in you, but if you have that belief in yourself then you’ll go far,” insists Ella Toone – and she should know.
In the summer of 2018 she was at a crossroads in her life. A full-time contract at Manchester City had failed to materialise and she feared her goal of a life as a professional footballer might be over, but she persevered.
Just months later she would receive a “dream” approach from the club she had supported since childhood – rivals Manchester United – as they finally relaunched a women’s team.
She would make the iconic number seven shirt her own.
Last year she then made her senior England debut and this summer the winger scored a stunning opener in front of over 87,000 people at Wembley, as the nation went on to claim a first-ever European Championship title.
“It just feels crazy when I think how far I’ve come since I stared out in my career to now,” she tells the WSA. “It’s amazing and scoring in the Euro final against Germany in front of all those fans at Wembley really was a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment.”
“The advice I always give young girls is to make sure you’re enjoying it, not putting too much pressure on yourself and if you keep working hard, you can achieve amazing things.”
Watch Ella Toone’s England hattrick vs North Macedonia
Ella Toone trained with Manchester United’s academy as a child but with no elite women’s setup at that stage she had to look elsewhere for a long-term career in the sport.
A spell with Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City followed before her move to back to the red side of Manchester as they joined the FA Women’s Championship for their inaugural season.
Signing a contract, scoring goals and helping the team to promotion were all high on her honour roll for her first professional season with the club, but wearing the iconic number seven shirt throughout the campaign was another “incredible” achievement.
“It was massive,” she recalls of the moment she learned she would follow the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Obviously, Manchester United is known for the number seven shirt and it's iconic so when I was given that, I said ‘is that really my number?’ because of how big the number actually is!
Ella Toone was inspired by Ronaldo and has gone on to make more appearances for Manchester United Women than any other player.
“Growing up I always had the number seven shirt (on replica shirts) because I watched Cristiano Ronaldo all the time and used to go in the garden and practice his skills.
“He was everything I wanted to be as a footballer on and off the pitch, so yeah, he was my role model and to be the first female number seven player was massive.
“It does come with responsibility, but I just think you've got a play for you, for the club, for the badge. I want to be someone’s role model by doing that and hopefully a lot of young girls can look up to me wearing the number seven shirt.”
Toone is modest, she of course already is a role model to thousands of young girls and boys around the UK, but her mission is to keep inspiring on the pitch, but also off it.
‘From Tyldesley to Tokyo’ - Ella Toone competed for Team GB at the Olympics in 2021.
She received a PFA Community Award last season and recently gave her backing to a Tesco and Groundwork UK campaign which supports community projects throughout the UK.
“It's obviously really tough (for many people financially) right now, which is why I'm so proud to be involved and try and do as much as I can,” says the England international.
“I'm really passionate about helping out with the communities and going back to my grassroots club when I can because I always remember where I came from and the face that I wouldn’t have got this far without all that support when I was younger.
“It's just nice to sometimes switch off from (my own) football, go down to local communities, meet new people getting involved in sport and make a little girl’s day if I can.”
Women’s football has undergone a significant transformation over the last decade and Ella sees a positive future for the young female footballers who seek to follow her path to the professional game.
“Women's football wasn't as big when I was growing up, as it wasn’t televised and it was quite difficult for players,” she recalls.
“I didn't really have that female football role model growing up, but now it's crazy and this summer (at the Women’s Euros) was amazing for that. We had sell-out crowds the whole way through and so many people supporting us in the stadiums.
“Our main thing was, yeah, obviously we wanted to win the Euros, but it was always about the growth of the women's game and what we can do as a team to help that.
“Now we want to carry that into the WSL (Women’s Super League) this season and in our first two games already you can see the difference in the amount of support.
“It’s just the start of our journey though and we want to keep improving.”