White, 35, won 90 caps before quitting international football in April last year after announcing she was expecting her first child. Son Lukas was born in October, but a knee problem has prevented her from returning to club football.
“Even now, after getting back to some sort of fitness after having Lukas, my knees won’t allow me to do what I could before,” White said. “Everyone says it’s because I’ve had a baby but it’s not. I could have juggled the demands. The will was still there. The rest of my body could have done it, but my knees couldn’t.”
White, ambassador for this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final at Stamford Bridge, is set to continue at Arsenal as a development marketing officer and wants to move into coaching. She is one of the highest-profile figures in British women’s football, appearing regularly on television, and was made an MBE in 2006.
Former Arsenal manager Vic Akers paid tribute to White, telling the club website: “She was a born leader. She had a great attitude and was, and still is, a great role model for the women’s game. I think we’ll have to go a long way to find another player similar to her. She was one of my best signings. She captained the team magnificently and always showed a great attitude. She’s a great person too.”
In White’s first season at Arsenal they won their maiden English title. That number has now reached 12 as the Gunners have become the dominant force in English women’s football, and in 2006/07 they won every trophy they could win, including the UEFA Women’s Cup – injury-stricken White came off the bench in the second leg of the final against Umeå IK.
White’s earliest England call came when she was still at Three Bridges LFC – the first time a non top-flight player had been picked. She helped take England to the UEFA Women’s EURO 2001 finals and, having been made captain in 2002, led England in two FIFA Women’s World Cups and two UEFA Women’s EUROs – reaching the 2009 final despite suffering a fractured cheekbone.