Ellen White’s journey to the top of English football has been driven by a desire to learn and set new heights.
The striker has overtaken Kelly Smith to become England Women’s all-time top goalscorer, with two goals in the first 10 minutes against Latvia lifting her to 47 international goals before she completed a hat-trick to reach 48.
Now 32, White, who has reached two World Cup semi-finals during her illustrious career, continues to lead the way at the top of the game as one of the most predatory strikers in the world.
She spent the coronavirus-enforced lockdown studying the world’s best in a bid to find an extra edge – while also building Lego and watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) November 30, 2021
“I’m just trying to improve myself and develop myself,” she told the PA news agency back in April 2020, after studying Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.
“I’ve looked at the way they receive the ball, their movement in and around the box, how they create their own space and get on to the ball…their range of finishes, how they get that half a yard.
“I like looking at a range of different strikers. Haaland is different to Kane, who is different to Vardy. Just something different to add to my game really, just trying to get better.”
That desire to be the best started when White came through the youth ranks at Arsenal from the age of eight after being scouted while playing for Aylesbury Town.
She made the cross-London switch to Chelsea at the age of 16, where she was the top scorer for three successive seasons.
A move up north to Leeds Carnegie followed, as did a first England call-up which she marked in typical fashion with a goal, before the advent of the Women’s Super League in 2010 enticed her back to Arsenal.
Arsenal had already won seven successive English titles when White joined them in 2010 and she would add to her medal collection during her time with the Gunners.
While at Arsenal, White represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics and was selected by England for the 2011 Women’s World Cup – and was also named England’s player of the year.
During White’s first season at the club she scored six goals in 13 appearances as the Gunners won the League Cup, the Women’s FA Cup and the WSL.
Despite White’s success at Arsenal she made the move to Notts County on a three-year deal, but a major setback came as an ACL injury forced her to miss the entire WSL season in 2015.
She did not allow that to halt her progress, however, with a move to Birmingham in 2017 another goal-laden chapter in her domestic career.
But it was at the 2019 Women’s World Cup where White really burst on to the world stage.
White scored in England’s opening game against Scotland and did not look back, finishing the tournament as the Lionesses’ all-time top World Cup goalscorer and with the Bronze Boot – ending with fewer assists than the Golden and Silver boot winners Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan of the United States.
Manchester City came calling for White in May 2019 but another knee injury required surgery, ruling her out of the 2019 Women’s International Champions Cup and the first three months of the season.
White returned to win a second Women’s FA Cup and star for England in their SheBelieves Cup defence, but lockdown – and a mission to avoid her favourite sitcom Friends – hit in March 2020.
But White used it as fuel to achieve more, becoming only the second WSL player to reach 50 goals following a brace during Manchester City’s 8-1 thrashing of Bristol City.
In England’s first match since the coronavirus pandemic, White struck a hat-trick during a 6-0 thrashing of Northern Ireland and kicked on as England began a new era under Sarina Wiegman.
She struck a total of five goals as England racked up 32 in just four World Cup qualifying matches, adding another in winning her 100th cap against Austria, and broke Smith’s record with an early brace against Latvia.