When Ellen White ran through on goal after 15 minutes against Japan on Wednesday, there was essentially zero doubt in most people’s mind that she would score.
The same again on 85 minutes. The reason for that is…well, she’s Ellen White.
She is the sort of player all fans would like to think they would be on the pitch. She plays with a smile on her face but with the sort of bullish intensity every single one of us is desperate to see in our number nine. An out and out striker who leads by example and has an eye for goal.
Half of Ellen’s game is spent on her back side, but that is by no means a criticism. Every two or three minutes there will be another slide tackle to stop a clearance. This isn’t for show, and it’s not a hopeless endeavour. Sure, attempting to stop a clearance isn’t the goal that wins you the game, but it sets such a strong and clear tone to the rest of the team and to the fans.
You know from minute one that Ellen White will give absolutely everything for the shirt, and when you have a player who is prepared to do that on the edge of the opponents' 18 yard box, the ten others behind her know what is expected of them.
She is so much more than just hard work. There is so much to her game. It’s also too easy to look at the goals that she scores and peg her as just a ‘finisher’. Let’s settle that first. At the risk of sounding a bit Marks and Spencer, she’s not just a finisher, she’s a sublime finisher.
The composure she showed in front of goal for both the strike against Scotland as well as her two finishes against Japan was world class. This is someone who has tirelessly honed her craft to an art form, so much so that when she’s through on goal you find yourself watching just to see which part of the net is going to ripple.
When she scores goals, she celebrates like a fan. Literally. A mixture of going berserk combined with her ‘Specs’ celebration that she robbed from her favourite player Anthony Modeste. As a spectator you find yourself hoping that she will whip it out when she scores, hoping to see her charge toward the corner flag with a huge beaming smile alongside her customary temporary specs.
When she’s not scoring goals, the ball sticks to her like glue.
Considering England want to play out from the back and make use of a pivot in midfield, whether that be Kiera Walsh or Jade Moore, there is an automatic default that means pressure will be invited onto the centre backs.
90 percent of the time the shape of the back four means England can progress the ball up the pitch safely. But, whenever needed, that emergency thumped long ball is usually perfectly brought down before being recycled and distributed.
After the full time whistle has blown, those who have the chance to meet Ellen find out incredibly quickly that she’s a brilliant person. She’s exactly the sort of player we are all lucky to have representing us. She gives her time and passion to whatever she’s doing. She is a dream to interview, generous with her energy and thoughtful with her words.
So well played Ellen White, England’s number 18. A goalscoring, hardworking, target player and all round top person. On she and the Lionesses march to the round of 16, with three wins out of three.