England midfielder Ella Toone’s former PE teacher feels it is “not a surprise” that she has reached her first Women’s World Cup final after England beat Australia 3-1 on Wednesday.
Chris Nuttall, PE teacher at Fred Longworth High School in Tyldesley, Wigan, who taught Toone from Year 9 to Year 11, said he saw Toone’s potential at school and “could tell” she would achieve great success in football.
The teacher said it was a “surreal” experience watching Toone score the opening goal in the Sydney triumph, but felt her success was expected after she demonstrated strong sporting ability at school.
Nuttal, 38, told the PA news agency: “It’s surreal to see Ella play in the World Cup semi-final, but it’s brilliant now (England) have got through to the final.
“For myself and the rest of the department, it’s not a surprise for us because the way Ella conducted herself and how passionate she was about football throughout school, you could see how determined she was.
“You could tell she was going to go onto great things in terms of her football career.”
Nuttall also described the 23-year-old as a “role model”, beginnning at her old high school after she encouraged more girls to pick up sports.
He explained: “She was the type of student that was a dream for a PE teacher because she was involved in anything, any sport.
“She was a role model in whichever sport that she did.
“She was a big starting point and now we run a number of girls’ teams and we have a lot of girls join football teams, and that all started from Ella.”
The PE teacher expressed his pride in seeing his former student make herself one of the heroes of the day with a brilliant first-half strike, making Lionesses fans believe they could make their first World Cup final.
He said: “You always hope as a PE teacher that one of your students will continue that passion when they leave school.
“For somebody to go onto the level that she has, breaking records… it’s unbelievable.”
Nuttall hopes Toone will score again in England’s final against Spain on Sunday and expects the team to achieve the same result as the semi-final.
He said: “Hopefully, she’ll play some part in that and carry on her goalscoring because she seems to pick up the goals at the most important times.
“Hopefully she’ll score another goal (in the final).”
Toone’s former teacher is confident the Lionesses, who won the Women’s European Championship in 2022, will take home the World Cup trophy.
Nuttall said: “To get through the the World Cup final is amazing for the country, especially after the Lionesses winning the Euros.
“I think they’ll be ready for (the final). Having that experience at the Euros, they know how to prepare now for these types of matches.”
He has wished his former student and the rest of the Lionesses “all the luck” ahead of the final.
He said: “Good luck to Ella. We’re all really proud as a PE department so we wish her all the luck.
“Good luck to the Lionesses – they’ve done the country proud.”
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