Keely Hodgkinson has said that she always knew her schoolmate Ella Toone would be an England star, revealing that the Euro 2022 final goalscorer used to "smoke" the boys at football.
The 800m world silver medallist and Manchester United forward were two years apart at Fred Longworth High School in Greater Manchester, forging a friendship on both the football pitch and in cross-country races.
The pair have each gone on to sporting stardom, with Hodgkinson securing Olympic silver at Tokyo 2020 last year and Toone brilliantly chipping home England's first goal in the Lionesses' 2-1 triumph over Germany at Wembley.
Lionesses forward Toone taking her chance on the main stage
Hodgkinson has admitted that the pair's sporting prowess led to her being compared with her older schoolmate, and believes that there was never any doubt that Toone would make it.
“She was two years older than me but somehow we just ended up getting on really well,” Hodgkinson said of her friendship with Toone after advancing to the final of the Commonwealth Games 800m.
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"I was always referred to as the ‘mini Ella’ growing up at school. So we kept in touch from that and she was in Tokyo last year as well.
"We are just two young girls living their dreams.
“She used to play on our boys football team and she was smoking them, so there was absolutely no way she wasn’t going to make it.
“We did some cross-countries too. I always tended to beat her on the running, but she was naturally very good, she’s got a lot of talent.”
England's European Championship win was their first major trophy.
More than 87,000 were watching on at Wembley, a record for any Euros game, while the BBC's broadcast of the final was them most-watched television programme in the United Kingdom of the year so far.
“It was absolutely amazing, I really enjoyed watching it," Hodgkinson said of the tournament.
“And what is that going to do for women’s sport? I’ve seen all the little girls watching it and it’s really nice for them to see that because before they wouldn’t have had that.
"Ella did so well to score. I know she’s on cloud nine so big congrats to her.”
Hodgkinson, who finished second behind Athing Mu of the USA at the World Championships in Eugene last month, is the favourite for gold at her home Commonwealth Games.
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The England middle-distance runner won her heat and was joined in the final by Great Britain team-mate Laura Muir, who is attempting an 800m/1500m double for Scotland.
Muir's teammate Jemma Reekie missed out on a place in Saturday's final after finishing third in Hodgkinson's heat and failing to secure a spot as a fastest loser.
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