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



<p>Keely Hodgkinson (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)</p><div data-ad-id=
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Keely Hodgkinson (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Nicknamed ‘Mini Ella’ after Lionesses star Ella Toone at school, Keely Hodgkinson now wants to keep up with the European Champion’s exploits.

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

She and Hodgkinson, going back to their days at Fred Longworth High School in Tyldesley near Wigan, were close friends despite being two years apart.

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Since then both have excelled at the highest level of elite sport, with Hodgkinson always believing Toone would make it to the top.

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

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

“I really enjoyed watching it. I’m thinking about what that will mean for women’s football, for women’s sport. It’s really nice to see all these little girls watching because when we were younger we wouldn’t have had that. Ella did so well scoring as well. I know she’s on cloud nine, so congratulations to her.

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“We went to school together, she was two years older than me, but somehow we really hit it off. I was always known as “Mini-Ella” growing up in school, so we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Obviously she was in Tokyo last year with soccer, so we’re just two young girls living our dreams.

“She used to play on our boys’ soccer team and smoked them, so there was no way she was going to make it. We’re from the same school, we probably grew up about four miles apart. So it’s about making our hometown known.

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

Hodgkinson rode through the heats of the 800m, where she will be the favorite to win in a competitive field that includes Olympic 1500m silver medalist Laura Muir.

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And while she wasn’t exactly planning on leading her run from the front, as the top two automatically qualify for Saturday’s final, she wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to win it.

She added: “I felt good. I wasn’t really planning on taking the lead, but with an 800 you never know what’s going to happen. I went along, trusted my pace and got the win, so I’m very happy. For the first few days (after the World Championships in Eugene) I woke up at 4 a.m., but I’m fine now.”

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