Ella Toone: I never had a back-up plan outside football
Manchester United star Ella Toone has revealed that she was so determined to make it as a professional footballer that she grew up without a back-up plan to do anything else.
Toone is part of the first generation of female footballers for whom the professional game has always been a genuine career option – she was just nine years of age when the FA first handed out landmark central contracts to 17 of the country’s best players allowing them to start training full-time.
By the time Toone was 18, the WSL had transitioned into a fully professional league – the first in Europe to do so – and she had already been at Manchester City since the age of 16.
Her talent and dedication was such that, having left Manchester United because there was no senior pathway until 2018, her parents had been fielding calls from interested clubs since she was 15.
“I didn’t have a back-up plan because all I ever wanted to do was football,” she told the UTD podcast. “But my mum always said, ‘You need to do your schoolwork, it’s non-negotiable, Ella. You’ve got to go to school, you’ve got to go to college’.
“I think I would be struggling if I didn’t make it in football. I love sport, so [I would probably be doing something] to do with that, PE teacher, or something like that [if I wasn’t a footballer]. The aim was always football. I told my mum [I didn’t need a back-up plan], but she never listened!”
Discussing the early years of a career that has so far seen her win Euro 2022 and become one of the most recognisable faces in English football, the 23-year-old said, “United didn’t have a women’s team back in the day. I was [in the academy] for seven years and had to leave, so I went to Blackburn.
“Then I went on a dual contract with Man City – I was training every day with Man City and then on the weekends I’d go and play my games for Blackburn. It was perfect. I was training every day with the best and then getting game time at the weekend.
“I think for a young player, game time is massive and a massive part of learning. I was lucky enough to do that and then, as soon as United had a women’s team, I came home.”
For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter!