How Lionesses hero Ella Toone is fuelling Keely Hodgkinson’s pursuit of Commonwealth Games glory

Toone - who scored England’s opener at Wembley as they won Euro 2022 on Sunday - and Hodgkinson go back all the way to their time at Fred Longworth High School in Tyldesley near Wigan, close friends despite being two years apart

<p>Keely Hodgkinson (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)</p>

Keely Hodgkinson (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Keely Hodgkinson had the nickname ‘Mini Ella’ at school after Lionesses star Ella Toone – now she wants to match the exploits of the Euro champion.

Manchester United striker Toone scored England’s opener at Wembley on Sunday as they were crowned European champions for the first time after years of heartache.

She and Hodgkinson go back all the way to their time at Fred Longworth High School in Tyldesley near Wigan, close friends despite being two years apart.

Since then, both have gone on to excel at the highest level of elite sport, with Hodgkinson always convinced that Toone would make it to the top.

Now the middle-distance star is hoping to use the Lionesses’ glory as inspiration in her own quest for to break her silver hoodoo at the Commonwealth Games, having finished second at the World Championships last month after doing the same at the Olympics in Tokyo.

“I thought it was absolutely amazing,” said Hodgkinson, who went to Loughborough University.

“I really enjoyed watching it. I think about what that’s going to do for women’s football, women’s sport. Seeing all those little girls watching away, it’s really nice to see that because when we were younger, we wouldn’t have had that. Ella did so well to score as well. I know she’s on cloud nine so big congrats to her.

“We went to school together, she was two years older than me but somehow we ended up getting on really well. I was always known as a ‘Mini Ella’ growing up at school so we’ve kept in touch since then. Obviously she was in Tokyo last year with the football so we’re just two young girls living their dreams.

“She used to play on our boys football team and was smoking them so there was absolutely no way she wasn’t going to make it. We’re from the same school, we were probably raised about four miles away from each other. So it’s about putting our home town on the map.

“It’s a world class field (in Birmingham), the only people we’re missing are the Americans and some of the Ethiopians so it won’t be easy but hopefully I can come away with the gold this time.”

Hodgkinson cruised through the heats of the 800m, where she will be favourite to triumph in a high-class field that includes Olympic 1500m silver-medallist Laura Muir.

And while her intention was not necessarily to lead from the front in her heat, with the top two automatically qualifying for Saturday’s final, she was not going to turn down the opportunity to win it.

She added: “I felt good. I didn’t really plan to take the lead but in an 800, you never know what is going to happen. I went with it, trusted my pacing and came away with the win, so I’m very happy. The first few days (after the World Championships in Eugene) I was waking up at 4am but I’m alright now.”

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