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Lionesses forward Ella Toone hoping to build on dream debut during April friendlies

At the age of 21, Ella Toone is one of a plethora of young players making their first steps in the senior Lionesses setup.

Toone, Lauren Hemp, Ellie Roebuck, Esme Morgan, Niamh Charles and more are all paving their way as England’s future, while the likes of Jill Scott and Karen Bardsley provide experienced heads.

Manchester United forward Toone proved to supporters and the England hierarchy that she could play an integral role in Hege Riise’s side with an impressive second-half cameo against Northern Ireland in February, in which she netted a penalty on her senior debut.


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Several members of the England squad have served as inspiration for herself and other up-and-coming stars, but for Toone one player sticks out in her memory from watching her country growing up.

“I just always remember watching Kelly Smith,” Toone said, ahead of upcoming friendly clashes against France and Canada. “She was an unbelievable player. I can’t quite pick a game but every time I watched her, I was amazed.

Hopefully one day that can be me, stepping onto the world stage, showing what I’m about and just enjoying football. She seemed to make something happen every time she got the ball.

“She was a role model when I was growing up and I still want to take in some parts of her game into mine as well.”

Another player whose game Toone has used as fuel for motivation is that of fellow Lionesses star Fran Kirby.

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The 27-year-old was of a similar age when she was first handed the opportunity to represent her country and is likely the closest comparison that can be made between Toone and any other player in the current side.

“I always talk about Fran Kirby, she’s an unbelievable player. The stuff that she does on the ball, on the pitch, is brilliant,” Toone said.

“You look at her at Chelsea and she’s flying. I watch her in training and I try to take little bits from her game and put it into mine. She’s a great player and a great person as well, and someone I’ve learnt a lot from in previous camps.”

Toone’s stock has risen this season off the back of consistently strong performances for domestic side United, where she has excelled as a member of Casey Stoney’s team.

She has proven capable of finding pockets of space behind the defence for both sides, controlling the transition from midfield before playing killer balls to the more attacking players in front of her.

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“I think my game is ultimately about getting in the pockets and finding the space and getting on the half-turn, and I think I did that well on my debut for England,” she said.

“At club, that’s something that I work on massively and the likes of Tobin [Heath] and Christen [Press] always help. They give me little bits of advice that help me, and I’ve learnt a lot from them.

“It’s just about working hard and getting in those pockets of space and trying to make those things happen on the pitch.”

The arrival of American stars Heath and Press has helped transform Manchester United this year both on and off the pitch. Commercially, they bring increased following to the club, but in footballing terms, they are natural winners who have proven to be some of the world’s top athletes.

For Toone, who likens herself to a sponge due to the way she can take on advice given by more experienced players, she has been able to capitalise on the wealth of knowledge they have brought.

“They’re amazing,” she added. “I’ve said it many times in many interviews that I’ve learnt so much from them.

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“You look up to them when you’re a younger player because they’ve achieved things that you want to go on and achieve.

I’m a little sponge and I soak up every little bit of information. As soon as they come up to me on the grass with anything that’s going to help me, I listen and then I try and do it.


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