The striker’s former club and international team-mate believes she’s stepped up a level in France, where she’s scored five goals for the Lionesses
Ellen White has taken this World Cup by storm with her five great goals so far – and there’s nobody more pleased than former England and Arsenal Ladies team-mate Rachel Yankey.
The Lionesses face U.S. women, who are reigning champions and favourites, on Tuesday night in Lyon and White will be hoping to add to a goal tally that sees her joint-top of the Golden Boot race in France.
“Ells has been brilliant,” Yankey, who’s close friends with White, told Goal. “You always know she’s going to work hard but now she puts the goals in consistently, and she always looks a threat.
“I think her movement has been fantastic, and she’s a worry up there. Ellen has brought something else to her game.
“When I speak to her, she says, ‘I’m just really enjoying myself, Yanks!’ She’s in a happy place and you can see that when she’s playing – it’s really good to watch.”
Yankey, who clocked up 129 international caps during her own England career, is thrilled to see the amount of interest in the Lionesses, which she considers long overdue – and thinks that stars like captain Steph Houghton and full-back Lucy Bronze are showing everyone just why fans of women’s football have been talking about them for so long.
“It seems like everybody has their opinion on the England team, and other teams, and VAR, and everything,” she says. “It’s led people to talk about women’s football as they would any other game of football.
Of course, England’s success so far has been vital in generating interest back at home in the tournament – having won five out of five games – and Yankey says they have the capability to shine tonight in Lyon.
“There are so many players you could talk about, and still ones you feel like there’s something more to come from them – hopefully that will come tonight,” she said.
She has been impressed by the performances of the youngsters enjoying the world stage for the first time, mentioning Keira Walsh, Beth Mead and Georgia Stanway in particular.
“They’re embracing it,” she said. “They’ll go out there and they’ve got nothing to lose. They will learn so much.
“After this World Cup is done, they need to bring it back to club form, and be playing at the same high level so that we can generate a fan base there and keep the momentum.”
And as for the USWNT, Yankey says it will be a tough test, but believes their last 16 struggles against Spain proved they have weaknesses that can be exploited.
“The USA are a good side,” she added. “I don’t think they’ve performed as well as they could have in every game.
“I definitely think they were very lucky against Spain. Spain rattled them physically, they didn’t give them any time to breathe, and if England can do the same thing, they have a better group of players than Spain do – and a different sort of mentality.
“But you can’t take your eye off of them. At any moment they could just come back and win the game.”
However, she also thinks it is a challenge to which Phil Neville’s side can rise – and secure themselves their first ever spot in a World Cup final.
“Sometimes it’s easier to be the underdog – there’s no pressure on you, there’s no expectation, only the expectation that you put on yourself,” she said.
“I think if England go into it playing the same way, the same sort of style that they played against Norway, I think they’ve got every chance of really causing the USA some problems.
“England looked fresh against Norway [in the quarter-finals], I think they looked really good, and if they can play at the same high tempo with the same aggression without giving up the ball in dangerous areas, if they can eradicate those little mistakes, I think they can win this one.”
Rachel Yankey was with Head & Shoulders, Proud Sponsor of the England Football Team and the UK’s #1 shampoo, encouraging fans to get behind the Lionesses. Wear 3 lines in your hair and 3 lions on your shirt to show your support. #JoinThePride