EURO 2022 hero Ella Toone's grassroots story
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My dad always tells me a story about when I was a newborn baby and he took me to watch the football down at our local team Hindsford Football Club. He said I was dressed in a nice little white dress my Mum had put me in and he was just planning to stand and watch the game but they were a player down, so they shouted over: ‘Nick, can you come and play?’ He was like: ‘I’ve got my newborn baby!’.
He ended up playing though and then the ball went really high up in the air and landed on me and the pram went over. I was crying and my Mum was going mad because I had a football stain on my dress. So my Dad always says that was the day you decided you wanted to play football.
When I was younger, my dad always used to take me down to that same football club and I just used to play all day with the lads. I have loads of cousins and me and my brother would play with them all day on the sidelines while the club were playing. Those were my first footballing memories when I was really young.
I have a lot of family who still play down at Hindsford and my family are involved in the club, so I still go down there on a Saturday if we don’t have an away game. My brother has played there, my dad has played there and managed them, and my cousins play there, so it is in the family. It is in Tyldesley so literally a five-minute walk from my house. I think there are about four of my cousins on the team now so all of the family are down there watching.
I have an older brother and a younger brother. I didn’t live with my older brother growing up but I used to shove my younger brother in goal and would kick balls at him. He doesn’t play anymore and I reckon that is because he is embarrassed that I am better than him!
I would also play on the estate across the road with the lads in my school and stay out until our mums shouted us in for tea.
I played a lot of football at school too. I was in the boys’ team at St George’s Primary School and then at Fred Longworth High School I was the only girl in the lads’ team as well. All of the lads loved that I would play with them and all the girls would be watching and I would be protecting them from the lads booting the ball at them.
I still go into Fred Longworth High School now. Sometimes when I am not in-season I will go in on a Friday and play five-a-side with the teachers. The teachers all come and watch me play and they always message me before and after games. It is really nice.
I did play for a girls’ team growing up as well. I joined Astley & Tyldesley Girls when I was about five I think, maybe even younger. So I started there as they were the local girls’ team and then one of the coaches knew someone who worked for Manchester United’s Centre of Excellence. She said I needed to go for a trial at around the age of seven and then I stayed there all the way through until the last year of Under-15s football because there was no women’s team to progress to.
From there I went to Blackburn Rovers for two years at Under-17s and the Women’s team and then I was on a dual contract with Manchester City, so I would play for Blackburn and train with City.
But when Manchester United got a women’s team, I came back home. I have always supported Manchester United. I used to go and watch them with my Dad and always looked up to Cristiano Ronaldo growing up. I used to watch videos of him doing skills on YouTube and then I would go in the garden and practice them.
Growing up I was always an attacking player – I didn’t really like tackling when I was growing up.
They don't call me toe peck Toone for nothing haha pic.twitter.com/7sIgTCz6Zo— Ella Toone (@ellatoone99) May 15, 2017
When I was at the local girls’ team the coach would put me anywhere and I would go and get the ball off the goalkeeper and run to the other end and score.
When I got older, I just loved attacking and I was trying to do the Ronaldo skills, so I was always an attacking midfielder or winger. I didn’t mind where I played.
I look back and my Mum and Dad believed in me from a really early age. They took me everywhere – to training, home games, away games. Apart from during Covid, my Dad hasn’t missed a match. I don’t think I could have done it without the support of my Mum and Dad.
I was lucky growing up. I had a lot of lads as friends so I loved that I was the only girl in the team and the lads loved it too. They were really supportive. They just wanted me to do well.
The best PE teachers❤️ thank you for all your support 🥰 pic.twitter.com/yy2m8Zi0F6— Ella Toone (@ellatoone99) May 12, 2019
I remember we played a lads’ team in high school and the other team’s players all saw me and were saying loads of stuff. The lads on my team were sticking up for me and I think I have always had a good support network and people who believed in me right through school. All the teachers, all my friends, all the pupils, they were all really good.
It is amazing how much is being done now to encourage girls to play football. Little girls now have role models where we are on the tele a lot, we’re on social media and loads of girls are coming to games now. We just want to be the perfect role model for them and show them that they can achieve what they want to achieve.
The game is really growing and hopefully, it grows even more and we can get more young girls into football.
It was harder when I was younger because it wasn’t in the media as much or on the tele as much but I always remember people talking about Kelly Smith and I loved the way she played. I have watched a lot of stuff back now being older and watched her game and she was really influential when I was growing up.
Proud best mate today 💗 pic.twitter.com/68s64cQRTL— Ella Toone (@ellatoone99) July 31, 2016
Becoming a professional footballer was always a massive dream for me. When you are younger you don’t always expect it to happen but the game has grown a lot and I have managed to fulfil the dream of being a professional footballer.
I have loved it. I have worked hard and I’m so pleased that I have achieved the dream.
To anyone thinking of playing football, I would just say jump into it. Push yourself out of your comfort zone because you might love it and you will make loads of friends. That was one of the main things for me growing up and it still is now. You make so many amazing friends and meet so many new people, so push yourself out of that comfort zone and go and enjoy your football.
Tyldesley's own Ella Toone
England star takes us around some of her grassroots haunts where she honed her skills