All the dust has settled and after weeks of speculation Phil Neville has finally been announced as Mark Sampson’s successor as head coach of the England Women’s Football Team. It’s fair to say that his appointment has (understandably) been meet with a huge amount of scepticism and dismay from some quarters
with the media, fans, former players, and others questioning giving an individual with so little coaching experience (and no experience in the Women’s
game at all) one of the biggest roles in women’s football in the world.
Here at Sports International we don’t claim to be world class coaches, but we have been watching and covering Women’s sports for a very long time so we
have compiled a list of things that Phil Neville may well want to think about in order to win the doubters over.
Firstly embrace the FAWSL.
The FAWSL; the top league of Woman’s Football in England has always been a fan focussed league. Players meet fans and pose for selfies after every game
and are by and large are happy to interact with fans. Matches are played across many days of the week allowing for an individual to attend multiple
games in a short period of time. From a footballing, marketing, and a PR point of view Neville should put attending a game at every FAWSL ground at
the top of his to do list. This serves two main purposes. Firstly, and perhaps more importantly it sends out the message to the players that he is
keen to watch everybody and that the England squad isn’t a closed shop, something that has been levelled at former England coaches. Secondly it will
show fans that he cares about the game as a whole, not just the Country level. The manager of England is seen as the figure head of the game and as
such has to be as visible as possible. It may be a world away from his Manchester United days but a few quick selfies and autographs with fans at an
FAWSL game will could be the way to winning back the support of the public that the FA lost in the second part of 2017. It is unfair to level the all
time low support the FA has in many fans eyes at Neville, but as head coach he is charged with leading the fight back.
Perform well at the She Believes Cup in America.
Neville’s first three games in charge of England couldn’t be any tougher. In late February England will travel to America for the annual She Believes Cup.
Lying in wait for them there will be France; a team England have beaten only once in 40 years and the 2019 World Cup hosts and Germany; the current
Olympic champions and twice winners of the World Cup, and not forgetting the hosts the USA; current holders of the World Cup, and winners of the cup
on three occasions. It’s a good bet that the next winners of the World Cup will be one of these four sides and as such will be a very good yard stick
as to where England are. It would be unrealistic to expect England to win all three but to lose all three would raise question marks. At least one
win should be the target with the first game against France being the best chance.
Speaking of America... Beef up the scouting across the pond.
One criticism that has often been laid at the door of the FA is that players who play outside of England are often over looked. The USA is still a hugely
attractive destination for players seeking a scholarship in soccer and with the NWSL now looking as stable as a league can look in the US, seasoned
professional players are always keen to play their football in America. Apart from America, leagues in places like Germany and Sweden are also attracting
more English players as they look to improve their game. Players should always have access to a strong domestic league to ply their trade in but they
shouldn’t be in fear of their England place if they chose to try a different path.
Lastly... Win the World Cup!
Ok this is slightly tongue in cheek. However given the fact that the Lionesses have reached the semi final stage in the past two tournaments the job now
comes with a level of expectation that it has never had before. Before the main action in France however England must qualify and to do that they must
take four points at least from two games with Wales and get a draw against Russia away. The home game against Wales will be the first chance many England
fans will get to see Neville’s Lionesses in action live so a good performance is paramount to show that England are back on track. It won’t be easy
given Wales’ position in the group but given how the match is being played at a Premiership ground (Southampton) and the national media spotlight will
be on the game, it’s important England produce a good display.
Everybody here at Sports International Magazine would like to wish Phil Neville and England the very best of luck going forward and we are looking forward to following the journey. Stay tuned to this website for continued Lionesses coverage throughout 2018.