Phil Neville’s England Women legacy assessed – and what next for Lionesses?

With confirmation that Phil Neville is leaving his role as England Women’s manager next year, Sky Sports News’ Jessica Creighton assesses his legacy and looks at who could be next for the Lionesses.

Former Manchester United and Everton player Neville, 43, succeeded Mark Sampson as manager of the Lionesses in January 2018, signing a contract until 2021.

Neville led England to SheBelieves Cup glory in 2019 and fourth place at the Women’s World Cup later that year.

  • Phil Neville confirms England exit next summer
  • Women’s Euros in England set for July 2022
  • England women’s news

He had been set to take charge of Team GB into the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer, before leading England at the Women’s European Championship finals to be held on home soil in 2021.

But the Olympics have already been put back a year due to the pandemic and the Euros have also now been pushed back to 2022.

Prior to football’s shutdown, the Lionesses lost seven of their last 11 matches in all competitions, leading to doubts about Neville’s future.

Phil Neville’s England record

What did he say in his last interview?

Neville said he wanted to stay on as England Women head coach, but accepted he must be held accountable after his side’s poor run of form continued with a failed defence of the SheBelieves Cup.

“I think there has to be a big reality check from everybody about where we want to go and where we want to head to,” he said in March.

“I think we probably still have to start building the foundations again a little bit stronger and ultimately I take full responsibility for that because I think it’s probably the most frustrated and disappointed I’ve been since I got this job.

“I have to look at how we improve the team’s performances. I’ve got 100 per cent confidence in my own ability. I know that I trust the players and they trust me but ultimately results have to improve.

“I’ve been in football long enough to say that and I’ve got to make sure that over the next few weeks we take stock and reset and we make the right decision.”

What will be Neville’s legacy?

A big reason why Neville was brought in was to overcome the notoriously British sporting mindset of plucky underdog and instil a winning mentality.

Much like the self-belief seen in the men’s squad during their entertaining run to the World Cup semi-final in 2018, the FA wanted the women’s players to believe getting to the final of a major tournament was possible. Speaking to them in the run-up to the World Cup last summer, Neville managed just that, which is testament to his man-management skills.

They all said reaching the final was possible. Not only that, but it was their time to win it. Ultimately, they failed, but Neville and his coaching staff tapped into something I had never seen before in that England team – unwavering belief. If the next manager can do the same, it could prove pivotal.

  • Casey Stoney ‘fantastic’ England option; Emma Hayes ‘happy’ at Chelsea
  • Chloe Kelly: Cage footballer to England international

Neville isn’t afraid to bring in new players. For the SheBelieves Cup squad selection in March, he chose six players who were part of England’s bronze-winning U20 World Cup team in 2018 – and three of those were uncapped.

Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly in particular excelled and, along with more established youngsters like Leah Williamson and Georgia Stanway, England have an exciting bunch of players with international experience at a young age and brimming with potential. If they continue to be nurtured and developed they will be vital for the next few major tournaments.

What others have said

Former England international Sue Smith told Sky Sports News: “When he first came in he made a huge impact. What he did better than anyone else, I think, was instilling a real winning mentality into the team. The players were believing they could be a top nation. But the recent results haven’t been good enough.”

Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes told The Football Show: “The women’s game – especially since Phil has been in charge – has gone up a whole new level. It’s reached the heights and broadcast figures we could only have dreamed of.

“We have to thank Phil for raising the standards in the women’s game. It’s exciting that there will be an Olympics, followed by a home Euros, followed by a World Cup so the future is looking bright. Hopefully post-coronavirus, we’re able to come through without too much damage being done and we can pick up where we left off.

“There is more parity than ever and that includes the level of expectation. But Phil’s has always had the best of the women’s game at heart. He’s always wanted to raise the interest of the sport.”

Neville’s brother and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville told The Football Show: “The tournament that he was going to manage has obviously been taken away from him – there was obviously a problem there.

“When I spoke to him the other day he said it is business as usual. He is going to see out his contract.

“The unfortunate thing for Phil is that he won’t have what most international managers have which is an opportunity to coach another tournament. He leaves this job and that is obviously because of this [coronavirus] crisis.”

Who are the contenders to replace him?

Casey Stoney

The 37-year-old, who won over 100 caps for the Lionesses, is an early favourite for the role. She was on Neville’s coaching staff for a period in 2018 and is also head coach of Manchester United, where she has guided the club from inception to the top end of the Women’s Super League. She knows the women’s game inside out, both internationally and domestically, and is popular with the current set of players. She has also proved herself at United, with a 72 per cent win rate.

Smith said: “I also think Stoney would be fantastic. I’m sure Man United fans wouldn’t like me to say that but, in the same way that Gareth Southgate has developed himself and the England men’s team together, I think Stoney could [do the same]. She’s got her experience now in the WSL and she’s someone who always took a great deal of pride in every England cap.”

Emma Hayes

The Chelsea head coach was strongly considered prior to Neville’s appointment and her CV makes her a strong candidate. She has delivered two WSL titles to the Blues as well as two FA Cups and a League Cup while also taking her side to the Champions League semi-finals twice. Success in Europe is a goal that is really driving her on and might be enough to avoid the temptation of taking the England job.

Speaking on The Football Show, she said: “I still have half-a-season to go and a full season next season to contemplate, where hopefully we’ll qualify for Europe. It’s been no secret that I have really big ambitions to win the Champions League and I think we have built a team that is capable of that; we have a few more pieces to add to finish the side off.

“I love the day-to-day coaching. I’ve loved every minute working at Chelsea and I look forward to building on the work I’ve done so far.

“Of course it’s an honour to be linked with the national team job. As an older person I’m probably more considered for entering into international football at some stage but right now, I’m extremely happy at Chelsea.”

Jill Ellis

The English-born coach is currently out of work after her glittering spell in charge of the US women’s side came to an end late last year. Ellis, who was also thought to be on the shortlist when Neville got the job, is among the most highly-regarded coaches in the women’s game, having delivered the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, beating Neville’s side along the way last year. She is currently working in an ambassadorial role with US Soccer, but could have her head turned by another job at the top level.

Nick Cushing

The 35-year-old was a huge success with Manchester City Women, winning a WSL title and two FA Cups over a seven-year period so his knowledge of the women’s game will be tough to match. However, Cushing recently left his position to go and work as Ronny Deila’s assistant manager at MLS side New York City. Having only moved to the United States in January, he might be wanting to give it a longer crack and might also see his future in the men’s game.

John Herdman

The English coach is currently in charge of the Canada men’s national team, having taken the job in 2018. He has experience of the women’s game, having led Canada Women to consecutive Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016 while also taking them to the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup on home soil. He is a big part of the Canadian set-up, though, so may take some persuading to give up his life there to return to the UK.

Challenges for successor?

England’s playing style needs work. Despite players consistently performing well with their clubs – that form has not always materialised when playing for England. They have often looked nervy defensively, particularly with set pieces. That will need to improve quickly to stop leaking goals, having conceded 18 in their past 11 games.

Momentum will be key for the new manager. The Lionesses have not managed back-to-back wins since June 2019 and performances have been inconsistent. Rediscovering the form that led them to the semi-finals of the World Cup will take patience, especially with a new manager likely to tinker with their new squad.

It will be made even more difficult because of the coronavirus crisis and the uncertainty surrounding the football calendar.

But expectation has never been higher for England Women. Many of the players will make up the bulk of the Olympic squad and Team GB will be expected to win a medal. The following year, England will be one of the favourites at a home Euros, but they have a lot of work to do if they’re to fulfil their aim of winning the tournament.

Source: Read Full Article