When England Women’s all-time leading scorer Ellen White set off in the Southern Oval tunnel in gaudy pink boots after the first quarter of her final international match she knew she was attempting to pass Ellie White.
Ellen is her niece by marriage, had she known then she was on course to surpass her own record of 152 goals in a match the next time Ellen kicked in a penalty.
“Not one of my grandchildren called me bossy,” chuckled Ellen. “I was happy to play it down and carried on.”
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White has plenty of fans on the women’s game, be it she, Holly Huddleston, Laura Bassett, Nikita Parris, Steph Houghton or Alex Greenwood, whose 200th cap ended in a third straight win for England in the second European qualifier against Latvia.
For White the triumph was more of a relief after the 2-0 home loss to Germany on Friday – the defeat taking away the focus on her and the rest of the England squad and taking the attention of football fans back to the men’s game. “It has been emotional. We have suffered two losses in a row but wanted to finish it off on a good note. I am thrilled with my performance and take comfort from the fact that the next generation are showing great signs,” she said.
Although White was outshone by her older team-mate Houghton’s new £60,000 boot, it was Ellie White herself who had the performance of the night. It was her 10th goal from 11 shots on goal, one behind the women’s all-time record of 10 set by Brazil’s Itaília Centeno.
It was also a milestone day for Houghton who recently became the first England player to turn 30, adding another 114 caps to her tally and, at the age of 31, now surpassing White’s tally of 131 caps.
Sitting alongside him, alongside her coaches Martin Amis and Simon Wright, with the man who first took her in as a 16-year-old on a deal of £1,500, Clive Mendonca, Houghton thought back to an under-13s game that was only days old.
“Ellie’s new boots? No big deal,” said Houghton. “I had a laugh with her. I think I was the more nervous but it was nice to make her proud. She is the boss.”
After 22 years it is time to let go. Rosie White, at the helm of the ball for most of this night and with an assist for Houghton’s goal, was the wise old owl with Houghton’s hand by her side.
Houghton, who is returning to Manchester City in August as she can no longer play club football for England, will be remembered for some pretty memorable games. These include a pre-Euro 2013 defeat of the Netherlands in the old Wembley, the magnificent 4-0 win in the 2008 World Cup and a 4-1 thrashing of the very same Dutch side in Coventry.
The performance against the Latvians, aided by superb passing and a game plan honed in the preceding 16 hours, was a watershed moment in the women’s game and one that started in the no-nonsense White, who at one point fed Greenwood before the striker hit a long pass to the opener.
England’s powerful middle third shored up the defence and Eilish McCallum, who had seen her name routinely thrown into the mix for a starting place after dropping into a midfield role, did not have to play as part of it with her partnership working a treat.
With those stars in the middle, Boothby still worked that side of the pitch as she booted possession up front and every one of England’s six goals were scored by either Houghton or Greenwood with every one of the seven shots on target hitting the target. The only offside award was the gift given to Padraig Amond for the first.
That was the cue for the England women’s anthem, England Fanfare, but just as it is usually without the girls coming on to the pitch in the game itself, it was another feelgood moment for this “we’re not sexist” side, and the well-fed Daily Mail, who sent out “England fans cheer on men’s match” stories on Twitter.
Not only did