It was a cold Thursday night on Loftus Road in March 2010 when Ellen White made her debut in England. Filling in for Dunia Susi in the 62nd minute, the Aylesbury-born striker scored in stoppage time to seal a 3-0 win over Austria.
Eleven years later, White, 32, faces her 100th cap against the same opponents on Saturday afternoon and is now just two goals away from Kelly Smith’s record of 46.
Her achievements are even more impressive as she hasn’t always played as a central striker for England and retired from two serious knee injuries earlier in her career.
Ellen White wins her 100th cap for England against Austria on Saturday afternoon
White’s ‘googles’ celebration became a sensation at the 2019 Women’s World Cup
Of the 44 goals White has scored, her best offense is the 22-yard lob against Japan in the 2011 World Cup.
But it was eight years later, at the 2019 World Cup, where she confirmed her place as one of the best in the country.
With her six goals in six games, she finished as joint top scorer alongside American Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan and her famous ‘glasses’ party, which was a nod to Cologne striker Anthony Modeste, made her a household name.
As White moves closer to becoming England’s all-time top scorer, and to her 100th cap, sports post spoke to some of the people who know her best.
She finished the tournament as joint top scorer alongside Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan
Phil Neville (England manager, 2018-2021)
“Ellen is the best number 9 in world football, that’s what I have to say first and foremost. When I joined the job in England, she had shifted into a few different positions.
“She works harder than anyone else and she just wanted to play. But we told her: stay between the posts, try to become a killer like Ruud van Nistelrooy or Alan Shearer.
“The way she took that on board speaks volumes about her. It’s probably the only time I’ve ever had to speak to her, as she just carries on with her work without fuss.
Former England manager Phil Neville thinks White is the best striker in women’s football
“If there was a game I wouldn’t play her in, there would never be dramas. It was always “fine, no problem”. You knew she would be ready to go. You would tell her something once and that would be it.
“Look at her in the games against the best teams – she comes alive, like all the great players do. At the World Cup, she was absolutely brilliant.
‘Ellen doesn’t like all the razzamatazz, her life has no frills. She does her job simply, she lives her life simply; her finish is simple, she plays the game in a simple way.
“But I would say without a doubt that she is in the top five of the players I’ve managed in both codes. She gets in easily. I’m very happy for her, she deserves every tribute that comes her way.’
White was part of the Lionesses team that reached the semi-finals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup
Rick Passmoor (Manager Leeds Carnegie 2007-2010, Notts County Ladies 2013-2017)
When White made her international debut in 2010, her manager at Leeds Carnegie, Rick Passmoor, predicted that she would become England’s first choice for years to come – he was not wrong.
“My thoughts were, with the old guard now changing under Hope (Powell) – like Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey, who are just now coming of age but weren’t ready yet, I could see that probably for the next decade she would be the next number 9 for England for many years to come and she has proved it.’
Passmoor has helped develop the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Danny Rose and Fabian Delph, but says he is especially proud to have worked with the Lionesses striker.
“Everyone who has worked with her, from the coaches to her teammates, will be immensely proud and sometimes you will get a lump in your throat.
When White made her England debut in 2010, her former manager Rick Passmoor predicted that she would become the Lionesses’ main striker in the coming years.
“I’m not surprised she’s approaching this milestone, she deserves it richly. You will not meet a humbler person off the field. She has no head start. She is greatly supported by her husband and her family.
“But when she puts on her football kit, you have a top athlete that you work with – physically, mentally and socially. It has been a pleasure to watch her grow and develop over the last 14 years that I have known her.
‘For a coach who works with top athletes and top athletes, you occasionally come across these players and that should humble you as a coach, that’s a privilege.’
Hope Powell (England manager 1998-2013)
“I remember giving Ellen her debut in 2010 and it says so much about her abilities and character that 11 years later she still gives so much to her country both on and off the pitch.
“Achieving 100 caps is an amazing achievement and she deserves such credit for being at the top of the game for so long and consistently maintaining high standards in everything she does.
“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if she broke the goalscoring record while making her 100th appearance in England? Knowing Ellen, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did!’
White has won 99 English caps since she made her Lionesses debut 11 years ago
Jill Scott (England and Manchester City)
“When we both got into the England team we had an automatic connection because I think we both knew we were there because we would be working hard and running a lot.
But then Ellen quickly established herself as a fantastic goalscorer. She’s one of those strikers who likes to press, likes to win the ball back, she’ll give 100 percent for the team. But also when you look at her goalscoring record, it’s so impressive.
‘When I do coaching, I always say: ‘If you want a role model, choose Ellen.’
Jill Scott (left) has described White as a ‘fantastic goalscorer’ and a ‘role model’
“Over the years she has suffered from injuries and things like that, but she has always recovered. It’s no secret that the reason she always comes back is because of the work she put into the gym.
“She’s not getting the credit she deserves. If you look at her record at the 2019 World Cup, it was so impressive.
‘If the ball falls to her, she knows where the net is. I see her analyzing goalkeepers, analyzing opponents on the computer – that’s why she’s one of the best goalscorers out there.
“We probably trust her, but when it comes to big events and tournaments, she thrives on it.”
Scott said she and White had ‘an automatic connection’ from the moment they joined England
Jon White (Ellen’s father)
“I always hoped she would make it, I knew what she was capable of, she was always committed and she worked hard.
“We are incredibly proud that she has reached this point. I think she deserves all the recognition she’s getting now.
“Myself, my wife and the family have followed her all over the world, we have been to every tournament this year except the Olympics. We’ve seen her score most of her goals, we’re just incredibly proud.
Ellen comes alive in the big tournaments against the big teams. She scores important goals.
The Man City forward also shone at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, scoring six goals for Team GB
“There is a huge difference between playing club football and being on the big stage for England and not everyone can do it. She works hard, trains hard, is a real team player. Off the field she is very modest and does not like all the attention.
“There have been certain managers who have been very influential in Ellen’s career. Rick was one of those who helped her get that first cap and Hope Powell, who gave her that first cap.
“It’s not just about her, it’s about the players who helped her score the goals, but it would be a huge achievement. Kelly Smith is an iconic player and is still one of the best players there has ever been.
“For her (Ellen) it would be absolutely amazing to get to where she is and maybe go past her target record. It would be a dream come true for her family.”