Ella Toone has been describing the changes she’s felt since England Women won the European Championships in July, sealing the nation’s first major honours at senior level in 56 years.
The Lionesses beat Germany in the Euro 2022 final in front of a capacity crowd to cap a momentous summer of football, with Toone saying that “life changed” the moment the final whistle went at Wembley Stadium.
Since then, the forward has had various run-ins with the paparazzi, celebrated her 23rd birthday and returned to life at club level with Manchester United – who have begun the Women’s Super League season with impressive back-to-back wins.
When asked about the impact of England’s achievements over the summer, she replied: “The team knew that things were going to change, but we didn’t know how much. Since the final whistle went life changed quite a bit. I got captured by paparazzi eating a pasty and on holiday. Those things are different and something we’re really not used to in women’s football.
“A lot more people recognise you when you’re walking down the street. But that’s part and parcel of football – that’s what we wanted. We wanted to grow the women’s game and give it the recognition it deserves.
“I can’t walk down the street anymore without someone recognising me and wanting a picture but it’s nice. It’s nice to see how much support we had over the summer and how many people are now engaged in watching women’s football.
“It’s crazy to think I’ve won the Euros at 22. I’ve got to remember that I am still so young. There’s so much more that I want to achieve. It’s exciting to see what else, as a team, we can do and achieve. I’ve got loads more growing to do as a player.”
Last weekend Arsenal and Tottenham set a new WSL attendance record as 47,367 watched the Gunners coast to a comfortable 4-0 win at Emirates Stadium – with audiences also spiking across the league thanks to the Lionesses Euros legacy.
United, following a perfect start, join leaders Arsenal on six points at the top of the table, alongside Aston Villa.
“We’ve made some great signings this summer,” Toone continued. “They’ve all settled really well. That’s the key behind the success at Manchester United – there is such a family feel about the group. We’re so together.
“It’s been a great start, six points from two games. It’s going well, we just want to keep improving.
Toone has also struck up an impressive partnership with close friend and team-mate Alessia Russo at both club and international level, and Toone gave an insight into how their connection developed in the summer.
“We come as a pair these days. Wherever Alessia [Russo] is I am. We’ve had that friendship for years now, since we were teenagers. It’s really blossoming. You’ve seen that over the summer – we also connect on the pitch, which is really important,” she said.
“I couldn’t sleep throughout the tournament because all I could hear was the chant about us going around in my head. I think a few of the girls struggled with that.”
Wiegman: We don’t fear USA
Sarina Wiegman hopes any fear England felt in the past about playing the United States has diminished as they prepare to take on the world number one side as European champions.
The Lionesses face World Cup holders the USA on October 7 in a sold-out friendly at Wembley, returning for the first time to the scene where they beat Germany in July’s Euros final.
Wiegman named her 24-player squad for that fixture and a friendly against the Czech Republic at the Amex Stadium four days later on Tuesday, with first-time call-ups for Jess Park and Lucy Parker.
And when asked about there having possibly been a fear factor in the past in terms of playing the Americans and whether that was now not the case after the summer she said: “If there was, I hope so.
“I think with the development of the team over the year and in the Euros, the experiences we got, I think we showed and really played with courage.
“That’s what we want to do all the time, that’s what we tell the players too, and that’s how we will approach the USA game too.
“Yes, we all know it’s a big opponent, but Germany and Spain [who England beat in the Euros quarter-finals] were really, really big opponents too.
“We just approach it the same way we do, playing to win, accepting mistakes, and hopefully we can bring our style of play on the pitch.”