A Lioness of Football Retires

If you’re considering bowing out of football, then why not after your last game played in a major international final at a sell-out Wembley Stadium in a match where you lead the attacking line for England against their biggest of arch-rivals in Germany, following an extra-time victory that clinches the European Championships and a first ever Euros title for your nation (man or woman), amidst the continued celebrations that come with it, new found superstardom much deserved from well-wishers and fresh fans across the country who hold you now fondly and firmly as a household name forever, what a fitting way to end a glittering career having helped take women’s football well and truly up from the pedestal to becoming a major asset in the countries makeup.

If Carlsberg did retirements…

113 England appearances and 52 goals, a member of the Great Britain Olympic team, two WSL titles, two women’s FA Cup medals, four WSL Cups and a whole host of individual honours, it hasn’t always been rosy for Ellen White, banned from playing in the Chiltern Youth League as a child, despite scoring over 100 goals in a season against boys her age, she eventually made her way up through the Arsenal Academy after shining at Aylesbury Town Ladies, her hometown club, to play for the likes of Chelsea, Leeds Carnegie, Arsenal, Notts County, Birmingham City, and most recently Manchester City.

Now aged 33, White retires having reached the pinnacle of the game, England’s record goalscorer and a member of the first full England team since 1966 to win a major international tournament, but nine years ago, aged 24, in 2013, having won three league titles, three continental cups and two FA Cups with Arsenal, White signed for the newly formed WSL side Notts County, and what followed would be a historical rise and fall of the ‘original’ Lady Magpies cast.

White who is now married to Nottinghamshire FA Football Development Officer Callum Convery, who she met whilst studying at Loughborough University, was already a seasoned international with over 40 caps by the time Notts County came calling. A shock signing at the time, White was ‘lured’ by the clubs ambition, after they had been ‘elected’ into their first ever women’s super league season, following a merger/takeover with Lincoln Ladies who the clubs then owner Ray Trew, had previously been involved with.

In their first season Notts finished sixth in the eight team league reaching the semi-finals of the WSL Cup where they lost to Arsenal 2-0. White however suffered an ACL injury that would see her miss a large proportion of the campaign, a year later she would return to action as the Magpies finished fifth, this time reaching the final of the WSL Cup where White scored six goals in seven competition games, losing again to Arsenal 3-0, in the final at Rotherham, this after featuring in the clubs most memorable occasion of all, the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium against Chelsea.

That day, on Saturday 1st August 2015, alongside a host of her England international colleagues like Rachel Williams, Carly Telford and Alex Greenwood, White wore number nine, again as she did in such iconic fashion until her last appearance under the Arch, heading the attack, as she and her Notts County team-mates in front of over 30,000 inside the stadium and over 2 million watching on TV, fell short, to a second half Ji So-yun goal, but that day in the sun at the home of football was a momentous occasion not just for the teams and players involved, but for women’s football in general, which was getting the limelight it deserved, a then record crowd with a prime time Saturday afternoon viewing slot.

The following season, Notts would again finish sixth in the WSL whilst playing most of their games at Meadow Lane, support was growing and the quality on show was always improving, a stunning free kick set play scored by White against her old club Arsenal in April 2015, one of her most iconic moments in black and white.

But Notts failings in their men’s team lead to the scrapping of the ladies version, as new Chairman Alan Hardy ‘done away’ with the women’s team due to spiraling costs that he could not control, with it went White, her exit to Birmingham City, whilst a number of stars followed through the door, you wonder what might have been, had the ladies set up continued amidst the top tier, had Hardy not cut ties with the women’s team.

For Notts County, they eventually re-emerged with a self-funded women’s team in 2018 and have since shown resilience through the leagues under Adam Dunleavy.

Ellen White however went on to even greater things, from a time of uncertainty, to a spell at Birmingham, she left for Manchester City scoring 24 goals in 62 games, her senior career nearing 200 goals in over 400 matches, with a significant signing off in the final of Euro 22.

When asked about her retirement, White stated “This decision has always been one I’ve wanted to make on my terms. And this is my time to say goodbye to football and watch the next generation shine. It has been my greatest honour and privilege to play this game. My dreams came true on 31 July, becoming a European champion.”

From being kicked out of her junior league, to starring at Notts in front of 30,000 at Wembley, by the time Ellen White’s career finished on the ultimate stage, women’s football in England is at this moment at an incredible all time high, White ending her career playing in front of 90,000 at Wembley, in front of 17m national TV viewers, England’s finest goalscorer of her generation, has certainly inspired the next generation to kick-on and go beyond in taking women’s football to heights it’s never reached before.

*Main image @magpies_history Ellen White in action for Notts County.

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