Ex-Manchester United manager, Casey Stoney has spoken out about Alessia Russo’s sublime goal for England on Tuesday and shared why she signed the youngster for United in the first place.
However, the pair knew each other way before Russo signed for The Reds in 2020.
Speaking to The Times, Stoney recalled when she was captain of Charlton and Russo was her mascot.
“I remember Alessia Russo as my mascot as a young girl in 2006, when she was in the Centre of Excellence at Charlton Athletic and I was captain of the senior team.
“Having that opportunity as a mascot gave Russo a taste of women’s football in this country, and now she is one of the leading stars.
“it really shows the impact of ‘if you can see it, you can be it.’”
Russo had been studying and training in the States prior to signing for the Reds at the start of the 20/21 season, a season that began with a number of exciting players coming to play for United.
“I spent time speaking to Anson Dorrance, her coach and mentor at the University of North Carolina in the US, where she went to college.
“I signed Russo for United because she’s a true all-round forward; she’s strong, she’s quick, she can hold the ball up and she can get in behind.”
After scoring three times in four games for United at the start of her first season, she got a serious hamstring injury which required surgery and sidelined her for the remainder of the campaign.
Stoney talks of her resilience, “She has been on a real journey to get to this point, both mentally and physically. The pandemic has been a big factor in her present success. If the tournament was played last summer, as it was originally scheduled to be, she would not have made the squad because of that injury.”
Continuing her analysis of the 23 year old’s tournament so far Stoney remarks, “Everyone was a bit surprised by her second goal against Northern Ireland in the group stage, where she pirouetted through the defence. I wasn’t, because I used to see that every single day in training.
“It was the precursor to Tuesday night’s fantastic back-heel — she has that ability and thought process to try something others would not.”
Russo is also a team player, and has a good support system around her Stoney says.
“Not only is she a fantastic player, but she is a fantastic human too. She comes from a great family and is very grounded, and that helped her to settle in at United.
“I’m sure it has aided her seamless transition into the national team. It is no surprise that she has grasped every opportunity she has been given.”
Meanwhile, former striker Tony Cascarino also heaped praise on the England international.
“As a kid I recall watching Johan Cruyff performing a skill that no one had done before and thinking: “Have I just witnessed that?” I had a similar feeling when I saw Russo score that extraordinary back-heel goal for England in their semi-final win over Sweden. It was a seminal moment.”
He continues, “To have the belief and audacity to attempt a back-heel in those circumstances was remarkable.
“What really struck me was the great force with which she sent the ball past a defender and through the goalkeeper’s legs. The Italian striker Toto Schillaci once managed a really powerful goal with his heel for Inter Milan in the 1990s, but this kind of effort is very rare.”
As the praise continues to roll in for Russo, preparations begin for Sunday nights final where England will face Germany at Wembley.
Though Russo has done more than enough to prove herself to Sarina Wiegman, she will most likely find herself on the bench at kick off but her impact as a supersub is undeniable and she will no doubt get her chance to shine in the biggest game of her life!
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