28 November 2020

England boss Phil Neville says his players are ‘crying out for competitive games’

Phil Neville can take positives from England’s recent get-togethers but has emphasised the need to get back to playing international fixtures.

The Lionesses have not played a game since March’s SheBelieves Cup campaign, with friendlies against Germany and Norway both being cancelled for coronavirus-related reasons.

He said: “We’ve tried to be really positive and say we’re lucky really to still have camps and be able to come to a stadium like this [Stoke’s bet365 Stadium]. Because I think ultimately it has been frustrating. 

“I think the players are crying out for competitive games where they can go out and test themselves against the best, and that’s what I really want. We’ve got February and April where hopefully we have some exciting plans where we can play some real top-class opposition.”

The times England have met up, starting with a training camp in September, have featured a number of 11v11 intra-squad matches, the latest of which took place on Friday.

The game saw a team captained by Manchester City’s Lucy Bronze beat one skippered by City’s Steph Houghton 8-1, with Chelsea’s Beth England and Manchester United’s Ella Toone each scoring hat-tricks.

Neville added: “I suppose we could have played maybe tier three, tier two opposition, but I think playing against each other has provided better solutions for us.

“We’ve been able to accelerate some of the younger players into this environment and we’ve seen a lot which we wouldn’t have done if we’d had loads of fixtures where the momentum of the result probably overshadows the need to develop.

“I suppose March, when we first introduced seven younger players, to now, there’s probably 14 in there. I am even more convinced now that these younger players, the majority are up to the level, ready to play."

Neville is set to leave his role next July at the conclusion of his contract, with Holland boss Sarina Wiegman starting work as his successor from next September.

Two months ago he said it remained a ‘massive ambition’ of his to manage Team GB at next summer’s delayed Tokyo Olympics.

When asked on Friday for an update on the situation, he said: “I don’t know if it’s going to be me.

“I said in the last camp I expected the decision to be imminent, and I still think that. So we just have to wait, the players are just going to have to wait, and hopefully it will happen soon and they can concentrate on who’s the GB boss and there can be total clarity.”

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