Arsenal Ladies stars Faye White and striker Ellen White led a football masterclass with 15 young people involved in the Sky Sports Living for Sport initiative at Astley Cooper School in Hemel Hempstead on Wednesday.
Sky Sports Living for Sports uses sport to motivate and inspire 11 to 16 year olds and is available free to all secondary schools in the UK.
Ahead of Sunday’s FA Women’s Cup Final, Ellen White spoke to Sky Sports Living for Sport about Arsenal’s burning desire to lift the trophy.
Ellen, congratulations on reaching your first FA Cup Final. How are the nerves?
Knowing we are in an FA Cup Final gives me goose bumps. I’ve watched it on TV for a number of years now and thought ‘wow, this is a great event for football’. The crowds have been unbelievable in recent years so I feel really honoured to be a part of it.
You’re 22 but you’ve already had many career highlights. Where does this rank?
It has been a crazy few years to be honest. Getting my first call-up for England and returning to Arsenal - the Club I started at and the only one I really wanted to play for - were both very special moments. Now I’m in an FA Cup Final and hopefully we can change things around from what happened last year and show everyone that we are the dominant side in women’s football.
Your goals have played a huge part in helping Arsenal to the Final. Is there a game that stands out for you on the road to the Ricoh Arena?
Beating Everton, to be honest. Everyone wanted to make amends for the disappointment they felt after losing last year’s final and we played really well. The 5-0 victory over Barnet has to be up there too. We didn’t let our foot off the gas after scoring early on and carried it on into the second half, which was brilliant. We need to do that for the rest of our season. Scoring a hat-trick to cement our place in the final was the icing on the cake.
Have you played at the Ricoh Arena before?
I’ve never been there but hopefully we can get a big crowd. We’ve had 600-800 people turning out for some of our home games and those fans have been like having a 12th man. It may not seem a huge number to some people but to us it’s a hell of a lot. At England games we’ve had six or seven thousand people turn up. We’ve been playing in quite small, compact stadiums so it’s been louder and a really great atmosphere. It’s definitely been a great help; it really motivates you to want to perform because they’ve paid to watch you.
Women’s football definitely seems to growing in popularity. How important is spreading the word?
The main thing is that girls take part in an activity and enjoy it, whether it is with their friends or with new team-mates. If they choose to participate in football, then that’s even better. The girls we are coaching today are involved with their own school teams, so they are already involved and learning new skills. Faye and I did a Q&A to talk about our experiences, which is very important if we are to raise the profile of the women’s game because it gave us a chance to talk about our season and explain how the WSL works. Hopefully, they’ll tell their friends through word of mouth and the excitement will spread.
It’s no secret that Arsenal Ladies have enjoyed unparalleled success in the women’s game. Is that a burden?
There is definitely an expectation on us to do well. Coming to Arsenal you join a team that has a winning mentality pre-installed in it. You’ve got to prove yourself again and again. We may have won the FA Cup ten times but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to win it every season. Everyone has that desire instilled in them. That’s what I wanted when I came to Arsenal and I knew I was going to get it. We are not going to take our foot off the gas.
Is there one message that your manager Laura Harvey has been drumming into you in particular?
Our draw against Bristol showed how important it is to put in a good performance for 90 minutes, especially if we want to prove a lot of people wrong. Birmingham are top of our league so everyone naturally thinks that they are the top dog but we need to prove to ourselves, Laura Harvey and the rest of women’s football that we are the dominant team. That’s one of the main messages that I’m sure she’ll give us on the day.
Bristol aren’t short of fight, are they? How do you rate the Vixens?
They have got a great team. Goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain, an England international with masses of experience, is a massive player for them. They’ve also got fellow international Corinne Yorston at the back and then up front Ann-Marie Heatherson and Jess Fishlock are two really great players who are constantly pressing and niggling at the defence. So our defenders are not going to have a lot of time on the ball. The likes of Grace McCatty, another seasoned international, means they’ve got a great spread of players. I think a lot of people have underestimated them this season. They’ve done really well and we are definitely going to have a good test.
Do you have a favourite FA Cup memory from growing up?
I love the fact that a club from the Football League has the chance to mix it with Premier League opposition, which is inspiring in itself. I recently went with England to watch the Manchester United v Manchester City Semi-Final at Wembley and the atmosphere was unbelievable. For me it’s more about the ethos and the atmosphere of the final rather than one standout memory. But I do wish I had been around to see West Ham win the Cup in 1980!
Is there a striker you base your game on?
A lot of people seem to compare me to Wayne Rooney but the main person I’ve always looked up to is Gary Linekar; he was such a brilliant striker for England and didn’t get one booking throughout his career, which shows just professional he was.
Finally, everyone loves a good FA Cup final song. What might be playing in your dressing room on Saturday?
Champion, by Chipmunk with Chris Brown is pretty popular at the moment – and hopefully it will be very appropriate too!Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source