England Women: Hege Riise wants competition at heart of her Lionesses squad for Northern Ireland friendly

England Women’s new coach Hege Riise will not be making huge changes to Phil Neville’s style of play but has told the Women’s Football Show she is insistent on ensuring a high level of competitiveness in her squad.

The Norwegian has named her first Lionesses squad ahead of this month’s friendly against Northern Ireland, including five uncapped players and high-profile absentees such as Arsenal forward Beth Mead and Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley.

The 21-player group does include established internationals Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Ellen White and Jill Scott, who Riise hopes will raise their levels in the presence of younger team-mates.

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Explaining her first squad selection, Riise told the Women’s Football Show: “No decisions come easy. Myself and the supporting staff have gone through all the players, especially now going into the Olympics where we need to prepare for seven games in 16 days.

“To narrow the squad makes it more competitive and I think we need that to get the fitness and the mentality that we need to be confident going into the Olympics.

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“The older players, the experienced ones, will be the leaders of the team. To bring in young, talented players will raise their level.

“The more competitive they are, the better the experienced players get as well. Every training session is more competitive.”

Asked about the decision to leave out Mead, Riise said: “She will be one of the players that I will follow closely.

“All the players who have been left out, those who had been in before, I’ve called them and that’s my responsibility so they know what they can work on to get in the squad again.”

On Bardsley’s omission, Riise explained: “With goalkeepers, playing time is crucial. If you’re playing every weekend then you should deserve a spot.”

‘It should be fun to be successful’

Riise, who initially joined the England set-up after applying for the vacant assistant coach role, is leading the side until Sarina Wiegman, current boss of the Netherlands comes in to take the job on a full-time basis in September.

Riise is resisting any urges to shake things up too much, despite England losing seven of their last 11 games under Neville, and says her style will be “separate” from Wiegman’s.

For Riise, the focus is on preparing the side for this summer’s delayed Olympics, with England expected to make up the majority of the Team GB squad.

“I’m not changing the whole style of play,” Riise said. “I’ve looked what has been done before and the principles in attacking and defending and just adding a few elements to that.

“I think switches of play are important, to use the whole field and explore the space the opponent gives us and have the tools to get into those spaces.

“Now, it is for the Olympics. The FA will talk to Sarina and get her ideas, but I will focus on what has been done and small changes. It will be separate. Then it’s for Sarina to take over.”

On her personality as a coach, Riise said: “I would describe myself as quiet, but I talk to the players and listen to them. I know there’s a lot of experience in the team that I can hopefully coach, both individually and tactically.

“I’m more involved than just shouting at them. It should be fun to be successful and if you’re eager to get better then you need the support to get there, not yelling.”

Evolution not revolution under new England coach…

Anton Toloui, Sky Sports News

Riise insists England do not need major changes during her tenure as interim coach, despite recent results.

Riise is a very different personality and coach when compared to Neville, putting a huge emphasis on cooperation and dialogue with the players and backroom staff.

That being said, she is not planning on tearing apart the England system but wants a smaller playing pool so she can work on a more intensive in-camp experience to mirror a major tournament.

Riise knows what it takes to win at the highest level. As a player she won the World Cup, European Championship and Olympics, as a coach she has been part of the backroom staff with the USA and led LSK Kvinner in Norway to multiple titles.

Riise admits talks about leading Team GB at the Olympics will continue after this month’s training camp and game against Northern Ireland.

Her CV could not be any stronger, it will be interesting to see how much of an impact both on and off the pitch Riise can make in an exceptionally short space of time.

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