“You don’t have to be the best at something to make your dreams come true, just look at me,” stated a very modest Ellen White in her retirement letter.
It came at the end of a glorious, record-breaking career which ended after a crowning glory – helping the Lionesses to a historic European Championship victory.
“This (message) is for the next generation and potentially the next lioness,” she continued.
“Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something or achieve your dreams.
“I was once told I couldn’t play in the boys’ team and I would never play for England. Now I am retiring having made 113 caps with 52 goals for England and a European champion.
“Hard work, dedication, passion and love for what you do are a great recipe.
“Go out there and be the very best version of YOU!”
The fact she dedicating her domestic and international achievements to the team-mates, coaches, her family and the many others who have helped during her career – rather than revelling in her solo successes – will surprise few who knew her.
As a player she was often selfless, sacrificing herself for the team, despite operating in a position (striker) where being selfish often brings greater individual accolades.
The Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA) were delighted to be granted time with Ellen to look back on her career, discuss her future targets and thoughts on the future of the Lionesses.
Q – You enjoyed an incredible career which came during a time when the women’s game has gone through a breath-taking transformation. How do you look back on the challenges you faced and overcame during that period?
“For me growing up I got banned from playing when I was nine,” she recalls.
“I was the only girl on the team and so that was obviously not the nicest thing to experience and obviously being told you’re the only girl and can’t play in a boys’ team is quite challenging, but now the girls and boys are allowed to play in mixed football.
“We’ve still a way to go in terms of that grassroots perspective in terms of the opportunity and accessibility and getting into every local community, but I think there’s been a big change and a big step up from when I was a kid!”
Q – You stated in your retirement letter that you are now “pretty free” although you’ve also revealed you’re expecting your first child later this year – congratulations by the way! Aside from motherhood, what are you looking to do more of now you’ve stopped playing?
“Ha, thank you. Well, I also put in my retirement letter that I really am passionate about the grassroots level and creating opportunities for young people and the next generation to be given the chance to do something that they love.
“The Co-op fund I’m involved with is something that will help set up new clubs and facilities around the country and that’s something I’m delighted to be involved with.
“For me personally it’s obviously a very different transition from playing football but it’s one that I’m really enjoying and something very different but being able to speak about things like this is really incredible for me.”
Q – What are the key areas you want to help develop?
“I think we really need to keep tackling mental health and being active.
“Growing up there weren’t any football centres or anything growing up in my area and that’s why my dad set up a little football centre for where all the local kids could come and play football in a really safe environment and enjoy it.
“Now if you go 25-30 years later the amount of communities now that have football clubs, sessions and having the opportunity for girls and boys to play sport is incredible.
“We can always do more though and having the ability to promote local community projects that the country really needs now and into the future.”
Q – The Lionesses seem to have gone from strength-to-strength under Sarina Wiegmann. What do you think is possible for the team come the World Cup later this year?
“The Lionesses, it’s incredible that we can now say we’ve won something and we know what that feels like.
“We can go into a tournament knowing what we’ve done previously and how we can hopefully go on to achieve something really incredible.
“I think they’ve got a really great opportunity to go to the World Cup and hopefully do something really special.”