Ella Toone has stressed England are set to head into this summer’s World Cup still well-equipped to prosper despite the injury setbacks that have been “really difficult to take”.
Skipper Leah Williamson and Fran Kirby have been ruled out of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand by injuries, while Beth Mead, who claimed the Golden Boot and player of the tournament award when the team won the Euros last year, may also be missing.
Toone, scorer of the opener in the 2-1 victory over Germany after extra-time that clinched the trophy at Wembley, told the PA news agency: “The injuries are really difficult to take.
“No-one ever wants to see team-mates and other players have bad injuries like that. So it’s been difficult, and players that are a massive part of our squad.
“But we have to focus on what we have, and that is so much talent within the squad. We have young girls coming up now into the squad who have unbelievable talent.
“So I think for us it’s about going there, being confident in ourselves and each other, and hopefully we can do the nation proud again.
“We know what it takes to win a trophy and how it feels once you win it, and we want that feeling so many more times for our country. So it’s about going there with that belief, belief in the squad, in ourselves, and just playing the football we love playing.
“We know we have a target on our backs now but I think as players we thrive off that.”
England’s lengthy unbeaten run under boss Sarina Wiegman came to an end in their most recent outing, last month’s 2-0 loss to Australia in Brentford.
Toone regards the defeat as “a useful thing”, adding: “We lost, and that’s part and parcel of football. I think you learn so much from games like that, and it probably came at a perfect time for us. It’s definitely not a worry, and we’ll learn from it.”
The 23-year-old Manchester United star was speaking at the unveiling of the ‘Ella Toone Pitch’ at the new William Fosters Hub in Ince, Wigan, a short distance from her home town of Tyldesley.
It is one of 23 Football Foundation-funded pitches that will be named after each of the Lionesses from last summer’s Euros triumph, with Jill Scott’s having been the first unveiled in February.
The pitches are part of the Football Foundation’s ‘HERe to Play’ campaign that celebrates the charity’s commitment to delivering facilities providing equal access to women and girls playing football.
Toone said: “It’s amazing. Growing up and starting out my football journey, I never once thought there would be a pitch named after me – it’s an honour.”
Developments since the Euros have also included the Football Association reporting increased female participation figures, and the announcement of a Government package to boost school sport and equal access to it, as well as record attendances at women’s games.
On the overall picture of the impact the Euros win has had, Toone said: “It’s been amazing. I think for us, that’s what it was all about – obviously we wanted to win the tournament, but how can we really help women’s football grow?
“After the win it’s blown up massively, but for us, it’s about keeping our foot on the gas and using our platforms as best we can to really help grow the game. I think for us it’s always about equal access for girls and boys and hopefully we can get many starting out on their football journeys.”
The unveiling of the 3G pitch came as the Government announced funding of £64million, working alongside its Football Foundation partners the Premier League and the FA, to build and upgrade 1,600 grassroots sports sites across England this year.
Facilities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will benefit from £3.8m being invested by the Government in partnership with the FAs in each home nation.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said at least 50 per cent of investment will be spent in underprivileged areas.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer told PA: “It’s really levelling up across the country. It’s really important because some young people will want to be the next Ella Toone, Harry Kane or Jill Scott, and these facilities will enable them to do that.”