In an interview with The Athletic, Ella Toone has reflected on her celebrity status following the Lionesses success at the Euros and analysed the zero to hero journey she and the rest of the squad have been on.
Toone scored the opening goal of the Euros final against Germany at a packed out Wembley stadium.
According to The Athletic, Toone gained 160,000 followers on Instagram following the final and became a household name overnight.
Days later the Paparazzi snapped her with a pasty between her elegantly manicured nails.
“I didn’t see one camera in Ibiza or when I was eating my pasty,” she told Katie Whyatt. “I would have looked a bit better in the pictures if I knew they were there. I think we expected our lives to change but I don’t think we expected how much.”
Since the Euros, a pub in Tyldesley, her hometown has had a mural of her painted on the wall and she has switched on the town’s Christmas lights.
Although she tells Whyatt it has sunk in now she has returned to club football, she still struggles to find the words to describe their achievements.
The United star has the final goal saved to her phone as she admits, “Sometimes, I’ll put it on before bed, just to relive that little moment again. I’ll never get bored of watching it.”
She continues, “It’s a bit of a pinch-me moment, I think. ‘I actually just scored in a Euro final in front of all those fans’. That’s something I never thought would happen. That’s why I like to watch it back and just think how far I’ve come.”
She recalls the moment the goal went in, “In the moment, I just remember the keeper coming out and me thinking, ‘I can’t do much else other than to go over her.'”
“When I hit it, I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s going in’. But it felt like 10 minutes before the ball actually went in. It felt like a lifetime. I just remember running off, celebrating on my own. And when it hit the back of the net, the whole stadium erupted. Everyone decided then to celebrate with me.”
With her mum being a gymnast and her dad playing water polo, Toone tried her hand at both sports before settling on football.
According to The Athletic article, she was promised £10 by her dad for every goal she scored in her early matches, she went on to score 10 goals.
“He said that I used to get the ball off the goalkeeper, run through the whole team and score.”
From what Toone recalls the money paid for a new pair of football boots.
She went on to sign for childhood club Manchester United by week two of a six week trial.
She fondly remembers playing on the Old Trafford pitch at half time as an eight year old and picking a blade of grass off her boots, keeping it until it died.
Due to United not having a senior women’s team at the time she spent some time at Blackburn and rivals City.
Skinner talks fondly of his star number 7, “She’s got super high standards — like, ridiculously high of herself,” Skinner says. “Sometimes she expects too much of herself. She expects to be perfect in each moment.”
He analyses her movement, “she’s got the swivel hip movement that can get her into any space quickly.”
The Athletic pulls up a few examples of this, starting with her goal against against Bridgewater United last year in the FA Cup. Toone cuts into the box, drives between two players and, faced with a final defender, strikes low into the far corner.
She scored a similar goal in England’s 10-0 win over Latvia, scooping the ball right from the goal line, Toone cuts left across Sandra Voitane and finishes at the near post.
She shares her thought process; “When I’m receiving the ball on the edge of the box, you want to do a skill, get half a yard and get a shot off. Against Bridgwater she gave me the inside, which was good because I was coming off my right foot. Against Latvia, I remember her body positioning was a bit off. It gave me the chance to cut in and around her.”
She explains further, “You look at your defender. Where is she giving you? Is she giving you the inside of the pitch? Is she giving you the outside of the pitch? Can you face her up, stand her still and then change direction and change your speed? You could be running really fast at someone and they don’t know how to defend it, and you manage to get past like that. Can you slow your defender down? Can you speed them up?”
She talks about the 1-5 skills that were drilled into her and the other academy graduates at United from an early age.
“Every training session, we’d have 20 minutes of skills. Number one is toe taps with the inside of your foot. Number two is toe taps with the sole of your foot. Number three is little toe, big toe, going over the top of the ball. Number four is a roll, which I always do now. It’s like a habit. Sometimes, I don’t even know I’m doing it because I’ve done it that much growing up. Number five is big toe to little toe but you go over the other way.”
“It’s about knowing your position but also if you can play off another position as well. If the No 9 comes short, the 10 might run behind and you pick up different pockets of space. We work on a lot of combination play and overloads in different areas, finding spaces and playing through the gaps.”
Previously, Skinner has referred to her using the German word Raumdeuter which translates as ‘Space Interpreter’. Whyatt says that United and England have been bolder by using Toone in this way.
Toone concludes, “I’ve always had quite a good football brain. At a young age, I was quite good at getting on the ball and turning, so it was easier for me to find spaces. Now, I can look into the analysis part of the game and find the spaces we can exploit.”
It’s clear to see why Toone is currently in the form of her life, playing the best football of her career when she is taking all this information in and using it to her advantage on the field.
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