England’s World Cup campaign in Canada elevated interest in women’s football to previously unseen heights. Success in an international football tournament is not something people in this country have become accustomed to and so the performances of the Lionesses, who won a bronze medal, inspired a nation.
Ellen White has been an integral part of the England setup since she scored in the final minute of her debut against Austria in 2010. Her performances in the 2011 World Cup qualifiers and in the subsequent finals helped her rise to the top of the game and earned her the Vauxhall England Player of the Year for 2011.
White, who played a key role in Canada, has an impressive record in club football and her goals helped fire Arsenal to a domestic treble in 2011. She currently plays for Notts County who sit fourth in the WSL and who take part in the FA Women’s Cup final which will be played at Wembley stadium for the first time on August 1st.
JACK MITCHELL spoke to the England international about the World Cup campaign and got her views on the upcoming FA Cup final at Wembley.
First of all Congratulations. The success of the Lionesses really put Women’s football into the public eye. Were you prepared for the level of support you received and have you noticed a difference since returning home?
“I don’t think we were prepared really, but as the tournament went on we heard that we were getting more coverage through newspapers and social media. Our families and friends back home told us about how many people were starting to watch the games but it was quite hard to comprehend as we were in a bit of a World Cup bubble. But once we got home it was incredible to find out how many people of all ages had watched the games. Even people like Prince William and the Prime Minister! It was great to know the whole nation was behind us as its something that hasn’t really ever happened for Women’s football before. It was really special to know we made the country proud.”
With the heightened media coverage was it hard not to get carried away or did you guys manage to keep things in camp as normal as possible?
“I think we were pretty good at keeping concentrated on what we had to do. We had a great team of staff who helped keep things as normal as possible for us and this meant we were able to just concentrate on our opponents, on rest and recovery and most importantly on being a team. We were travelling around Canada a lot so we were aware of the media but it was important for us to remember that we were still taking part in a World Cup. The good thing about the media was it showed us that we were inspiring the nation and that had been our main aim from before the tournament. Hopefully we did manage to do that.”
The loss against Japan was obviously devastating for everyone involved, particularly as you were arguably the better team. Was that the hardest defeat of your career and how did you guys pick yourselves up for the third place play-off?
“Obviously it was horrible to lose in a semi-final particularly because I think we could of done really well in the final. It was heartbreaking but it happens in football and that’s why as a sport it’s so good and so cruel at the same time! I think collectively as a team we all rallied round each other and picked ourselves up because we wanted to go into the third place play-off game in a really good place. I think not having a rest day actually really helped us because it meant we could put things right and try and come away from the World Cup with a really positive result and a medal around our necks.”
A victory against Germany is always nice but this one came on the biggest stage. How important was it to have such a high so quickly after the semi-final disappointment?
“The fact it was Germany really helped. What an incredible game to pick yourself up for when you’re playing against one of your biggest rivals. When you lose a massive game you kind of want to just go home and not think about football for a bit but I think it was good to get back on the pitch and prove that we deserved to be where we were. It was such a big game for us and we didn’t want to go away from the World Cup empty handed so everyone put everything into that game against Germany. I think it helped us right a wrong and prove to each other that we deserved something from that tournament.”
What do you think the key to the team’s success was and are you confident you will be able to replicate it moving forward?
“I think the main strength was our togetherness as a team. We always concentrated on the 23 because if one player isn’t singing off the same hymn sheet then your not going to moving forward in the way you want to go. Our backroom staff were really important and we had a great team spirit. I also think the fact we were able to have so many different formations and were adaptable meant we could be versatile during games. This meant our opponents didn’t know what they were going to be facing and I think that’s one of the reasons why we got so far in the tournament. Apart from that we also had some very special players in our team who are capable of scoring wonder goals like Lucy Bronze did and we have a great leader and Captain in Steph Houghton.”
How good a coach is Mark Sampson and do you think he would like to go into the men’s game in the future?
“Mark only came into our job 18 months ago and he has already managed to turn us into a bronze medal winning team. He’s really helped build us into a family with a club mentality and most importantly he’s made us really adaptable and hard to beat. He’s instilled a never say die attitude in us that top teams like the USA and Germany have which is a massive thing to do in only 18 months. He’s only been with us for a short time so I hope he will be around a little while longer but obviously he has a very bright future and I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to see what he decides to do next.”
To club football now, you are currently 4th in the WSL and 3 points behind leaders Chelsea. What are the teams aims for the rest of the season and do you think you can win the League?
“I think at the moment we just want to think about finishing as high as we possibly can and concentrate on getting as many points on the board as possible. We go into each game wanting to win it but it’s such a competitive league at the moment with people coming back from the World Cup and so the results are impossible to predict. We have to perform better and better each week and be ready to face anyone because every game is going to be really tough for us. I think we are in a really good place at the moment because we aren’t far from the top and there are a good few games to go yet.”
You have the FA Cup final on August 1st which is being played at Wembley for the first time. How important is this for the women’s game and how excited are you to be involved?
“No it’s not that exciting (laughs). It’s incredible to be honest; to be one of two women’s teams to play in the first FA Cup final at Wembley is amazing. Wembley is the place for English football; it’s so iconic so to be playing there is going to be really special for everyone at Notts County and for our family and friends. I can’t wait, it’s going to be a massive occasion and we will do everything in our power to bring that trophy home!”
You are playing against Chelsea who are currently top of the WSL. They are obviously tough opponents but what type of game are you expecting?
“It’s going to be a very difficult game. They have some very good players and I expect it to be very physical. They have some technically gifted players so we have to be wary of that but I think it’s important that we concentrate on ourselves as we also have very good players and a very good team. Last time we played them it was very physical and we just lost out but I think we have grown since then. I think it will be a great spectacle for the neutrals and those coming to watch the game.”
If you were to win how important would it be for Notts County as a club and where would it rank in your personal achievements?
“It would be huge for Notts County to win and great to bring back silverware for the whole of Nottingham. It’s a massive city for sport and it would really put Notts County on the map which would be great for us. The likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City are such iconic clubs where as we are not so much but I think it probably helps us being slight underdogs for the game. It will be incredible if we can bring it home and hopefully Nottingham will be really proud of us. Personally it would have to be up there with the highlights of my career, playing at Wembley is a once in a lifetime opportunity for women’s football and I was lucky enough to do it for Team GB at the Olympics but this would definitely rival that as one of the best moments of my career.”
What’s your favorite food? Dad’s Christmas Dinner
If you could meet one person who would it be? Taylor Swift
Do you support a male team? West Ham
Who is the joker in the England dressing room? Jill Scott
What would you be if you weren’t a footballer? Policewoman or Fire fighter!