Manchester United Women

Ella Toone keen to give back & be a role model for future generations

Jamie Spencer
Ella Toone is Man Utd's PFA Community Champion for 2021/22
Ella Toone is Man Utd's PFA Community Champion for 2021/22 / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

Manchester United star Ella Toone has been named the club’s PFA Community Champion for 2021/22 alongside men’s player Bruno Fernandes for their excellent work to give back this season with the Manchester United Foundation.

Toone grew up and went to school in Tyldesley, near to where United Women now call home at Leigh Sports Village. She always looked up the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo as a child and is particularly keen to be a role model for the next generation of youngsters herself.

“Being from the local community, it’s incredibly rewarding for me to visit and give back to the community I grew up in. I hope by sharing my experiences I can be an example and inspire children for the future,” she said on receiving her award.

A previous lack of visible role models in women’s football has often meant that current stars are shoehorned into being role models by default even if they have no desire to be burdened with that kind of pressure. But while not all are necessarily keen to take it on, Toone is and told 90min during the season it is something she actively prides herself on.

“[Being a role model] is one of the main things why we do what we do. We want to be the best role models we can for all the young boys and girls growing up – I think that’s what we pride ourselves on,” she said shortly before playing in front of 20,000 fans at Old Trafford.

Toone, still only 22 and navigating the early stages of a professional football career and a rapidly growing public profile, is well aware that even just small gestures on her part can sometimes go a long way in that sense.

“Little things like signing a shirt after a game, or getting a selfie with a young girl, that will make their day,” she explained. “For us, it’s about inspiring the next generation of girls and boys to get involved in football.”

Toone is arguably already the face of Manchester United Women and stands to also be the future face of England’s Lionesses as previously established stars are starting to near the end of their respective careers. Euro 2022 could be a huge platform to help her achieve that.

Growing her profile and stature will only strengthen her long-term standing as a role model, helping her to shape lives of young girls whether they stay in football or not – the benefits of playing football at any level are huge and something the FA has been keen to promote.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself and just enjoy it. Just be confident, because when you’re confident, that’s when you play your best football,” she told 90min, in conjunction with Remington UK, was the best advice she has ever been given.

As for the tips she would give out to the next generation, Toone draws on a similar idea, because what people can take from playing football and sport in general will have a bearing on so many different parts of their lives way beyond the pitch itself.

“Just enjoy it, play with freedom, be confident in yourself and make lots of friends because you make friends for life in football,” she said.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!