Wave of youth inspiring Lionesses star White to keep improving

Sportsbeat
·4 min read
Forward Ellen White is excited about the blend of youth and experience in Hege Riise’s current Lionesses squad © Action Images via Reuters
Forward Ellen White is excited about the blend of youth and experience in Hege Riise’s current Lionesses squad © Action Images via Reuters

Ellen White may be one of the most established members of the current Lionesses squad, but the Manchester City star insists the new wave of senior internationals is driving her to continually improve.

While forward White has 92 caps to her name, six members of Hege Riise’s squad will be looking to make their England debut against Northern Ireland on February 23, while a further four have so-far made less than ten appearances at the highest level.

With a number of upcoming stars to contend with for a place in the starting XI - such as uncapped Bristol City forward Ebony Salmon - 31-year-old White is buoyed by the challenge of proving her worth in the team.

"I must be ancient,” she joked. “We’ve got some very, very talented youth players coming through into the international game, and selfishly a lot of them are English which is really exciting!

“It pushes me, it develops me, and I want to push them. I want to develop them because they’re our future, and ultimately they’re going to take the reins at some point.

“I’m 31 but I still want to work hard and develop, and with the mixture of youth and experience in the squad at the moment hopefully I can feed off the others and do that.”

It is nearly 11 years since White made her first appearance for the Lionesses, scoring in a 3-0 win over Austria at Loftus Road. For those striving to do the same on Tuesday, it will be a very different experience.

“Making your debut is an incredible achievement and I know it is disappointing there won’t be a crowd there,” White said.

“Hopefully family and friends can watch if some of the players are making debuts, but as teammates we want to make it as special as possible for them. It is a phenomenal achievement and something you remember forever.

“I always remember my debut, it is an absolute dream to play for your country. Not only to be selected for a training camp but to gain a cap is an incredible achievement.”

Back on domestic duty White has largely operated as part of a front three this season alongside Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp, as second-placed City push for their first WSL title since 2016.

And with all three players picked in the current England squad White is hopeful that relationship can be translated onto the international stage.

She said: “It’s a real privilege for me to be playing alongside some hugely talented players in the City squad, and to be in front and next to the likes of Chloe and Lauren is a dream really.

“We’ve been working hard on that relationship in training, crossing, goalscoring, really understanding how to link up on the pitch, so to bring that to fruition in the international game would be incredible.

“We’ll all just be trying to work hard, train hard and hopefully get the chance to be part of the team to play against Northern Ireland.”

Riise may decide to do something similar in the match at St George's Park, although others such as Beth England, Georgia Stanway, Salmon and Rachel Daly may be used in the attack.

This camp’s condensed squad of only 21 players - of which nine are currently at Manchester City, in addition to midfielder Jill Scott who is on loan at Everton - has been partly chosen to prepare for the upcoming Olympic Games.

Alongside Steph Houghton and Scott, White is one of only three members of the current squad to have featured for the London 2012 team, and she is hoping to earn selection for the Tokyo side.

“Being able to say I am an Olympian is amazing,” White added. “As a women’s footballer it was something you didn’t expect back then, and to be involved in the Olympic Village and to play in huge matches was amazing.

“It definitely helped propel women’s football and to be part of the Games in the summer in Tokyo would be a dream. Obviously, we understand it might be a bit different this year, but it will still be a phenomenal occasion.

“To be part of another Team GB side would be an incredible achievement and I am working hard at both club and international level to try and earn selection for the Games.”