England coach Phil Neville is certainly a manager who believes in evolution as opposed to revolution when it comes to developing the squad of the England Lionesses. That is evident in the group he has announced for his side’s forthcoming friendly matches against Belgium and then Norway.
Former Manchester United and Everton defender Neville has opted to introduce four new players to the England set-up for the games, while leaving out three key players. Manchester City midfield dynamo Jill Scott misses out — she’s been rested — following her magnificent efforts in the summer’s Women’s World Cup campaign, while injury has forced both Ellen White and Karen Bardsley to sit out the upcoming encounters.
That means there is room for additional players in the squad and in come Bethany England of Chelsea, Manchester City’s Aoife Mannion, Sandy MacIver (Clemson University, South Carolina, USA) and Anna Patten (South Carolina Gamecocks).
And Neville, having made the adjustments necessary, says he wants his side to cash in on the enduring feel-good factor around the camp thanks to their heroic, yet ultimately unrewarding, exploits in the Women’s World Cup in France when they came 4th. They lost out in a tense semi-final to the US of A, who went on to lift the silverware.
“I’m delighted to be able to give Beth, Aoife, Anna and Sandy their first senior call-ups. it’s important that we now regroup and refocus on our next targets. After a strong performance at the Women’s World Cup, but one which ultimately didn’t quite bring the success for which we had hoped, it’s important that we now regroup and refocus on our next targets.”
Neville believes the buzz created around the nation during the tournament in France has been a magnificent boon to the women’s game in this country and although there was no joy on the pitch in the final analysis, he says, the event was “probably a success from the bigger picture”. He is confident that his players have been inspired by the reaction of the public. And he added:
“There were many people that were inspired to watch women’s football and support the Lionesses. Now, to go out there and play football, the reaction we’ve had since we’ve come home has been amazing.”
The friendly matches that are ahead will be the first steps in the profession of the squad as they head into the Euro 2021 tournament, and Neville says a blueprint is in place for the showdown. He added:
“I’ve got two years to build a team that will win the Euros in 2021, that’s got to be the aim. There is going to be no excuses. I know what we have to do, and it starts when they meet up.”