Welcome to Manchester, with Ella Toone
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Having the opportunity to kick off the home EUROs at one of the most iconic stadiums in world football would be a dream come true for most of the players but in the case of Toone, it's a day she has imagined more than most.
The 22 year old grew up in Tyldesley, ten miles from Old Trafford, used to attend Red Devils matches with her dad and played for Manchester United’s Centre of Excellence from the age of seven until 15, when the lack of a women’s team saw her move away to Blackburn Rovers and then Manchester City.
But as soon as United launched their women’s team, Toone was back in red and has lived out her dream of starring at Old Trafford in the Barclays Women’s Super League.
But Wednesday night has the potential to be even more special, as Toone will be hoping to feature for England when they kick off the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 campaign against Austria in front of a packed-out stadium.
And we sat down with the creative midfielder to discuss all things Manchester for anyone visiting the city for the first time...
A tour of Tyldesley
Ella Toone takes us around some of her grassroots haunts from growing up as a youngster
I know a lot of the girls like Ezra and Gil. There are actually so many coffee shops in Manchester though so you're best-off asking Kiera Walsh, Ellie Roebuck and all of them.
But I'm someone who likes to go out in Manchester and get some nice food. I really like a steak so I'm going to say go to Rosso or go to Hawksmoor.
Honestly, you'll come to Manchester and there's so much to do. I'm sure you'll enjoy it because it's the best thing in the world.
What about bars?
Yeah, there are a few bars to be fair. There's Revolución de Cuba and Albert’s Schloss, they're quite vibey. It's more somewhere you go to have a drink and have a dance. One of those ones.
I would never go and look at like museums and stuff. I feel like in Manchester there's so much stuff to do and to go and see. Everyone likes different things, don't they? So I'm sure you'll find something to do in Manchester.
Obviously, the rivalry in Manchester is massive and everyone knows that. The stadiums that we play at, Old Trafford and the Etihad, are unbelievable stadiums. But I think the main thing in Manchester are the crowds and the people.
I feel like Manchester United have the best fans in the world. I always say that but just seeing the passion of football and supporting the club and the love for the club is just special in Manchester.
On the tournament?
I think this one will be massive for women's football and the growth of the game. I think obviously, a lot of us when we were growing up, it was difficult because women's football wasn't as big as it is now. So it was quite hard to look up to women footballers [in the same way you can now].
I think with the publicity of women's football and just the growth, it's getting so big. So the fact that this is a home EUROs, hopefully we can just inspire the next generation of girls and hopefully leave them something that they'll always remember – like remembering us stepping out at Old Trafford for our first game and things like that. I think it's going to be massive for those young girls watching. And we just want to be the best role models we can be for them.
Off the pitch: Ella Toone
Find out more about the Lionesses star away from football...
I always remember Kelly Smith. I think she was an unbelievable player and was a goalscorer. When she played, she played with her heart on her sleeve and she gave everything.
I think it's so exciting now for us to be in the position where we can be role models, for young girls and boys growing up and watching us. I think it's special that there are so many more role models now in women's football.
I mean, it still doesn't seem that real. I feel like when the first game comes, that's when it'll probably feel real. I think as a group, we're quite good at just taking each day as it comes and learning and not thinking too far ahead. But being in the moment and being together.
I'm sure when we step out for the first game, that's when it will all really, really hit that we're playing it in a home year.
What will you do if you score at Old Trafford?
Well, I've always dreamt about scoring at Old Trafford, and I've always in my head ran over to the Stretford End. No matter where I'm scoring, I'm running to the Stretford End.
I never usually do a knee side but for some reason when I dream about scoring at Old Trafford, I'm knee sliding.
I've dreamt about that a lot of times, way before this tournament and obviously a lot now with the first game being held there. To score at Old Trafford would be a dream of mine.
No, we haven't anything like that yet but I might throw an idea out there. But I'm not a tattoo girl, so I'm not sure. I'm not sure about that one. But I'm sure a lot of the girls [will, so] I probably will end up with a tattoo. A lot of the girls got the rings when we went to Tokyo.
What does success look like?
I think for us as a team, it's going out and inspiring the next generation of young girls to get involved in football. And to just enjoy the tournament as much as we were going to.
Obviously, as a team, we want to go on and achieve great things, we want to go out and make the nation proud, and I think that's one of our main things: to go out there and just enjoy it and to bring the country together.