In Carly Telford’s latest column for The Offside Rule, the Chelsea goalkeeper reflects on Phil Neville , Casey Stoney’s retirement and Chelsea going top.
New man in charge
For me, the rumours of Phil Neville taking over as England boss started in the changing rooms. Players were asking each other whether Phil had followed them on Twitter and I think that was what sparked off a lot of talk about his possible involvement.
That was the week before Raff [Claire Rafferty] let slip on the radio and and word started to go viral. After that it was kind of a matter of time before it got announced, and obviously there was a process he was going through.
We found out he’d got the job on the day he arrived in La Manga to watch us last month – that was also when he officially signed his contract. He didn’t live too far away so I think he headed down to see what he’d gotten himself into!
We had dinner that night and he gave a nice speech. We’re all looking forward to working with him and he seems like a really nice guy. He’s clearly very ambitious, he has had a wealthy playing career and he knows what it’s like to be the best.
The standard has been set quite high but I think he wants to raise it further and now it’s about the small margins that will take us from third in the world to first. He’ll want 110% from us and it sounds like a lot of what he will focus on will be in the finer details, living and breathing the rules which Mark Sampson set in his time in charge and and then taking us to another level.
Phil’s got Casey [Stoney] and Mo [Marley] alongside him, who both know us well and have played with or coached us. I think that will really help him settle in. They will help give him a good understanding of what is different in the women’s game, though once he starts his sessions he’ll find there isn’t much difference at all, it’s just football at the end of the day.
That’s all we know at the minute, he’s checked in with me a few times since that initially introduction just to see how I’m doing and what not. I’m sure he’s been like that with most of the girls. He’s doing what he can to keep in touch now his first games coming up quickly.
We wanted change from the FA
The feedback we gave as players was more about the FA as opposed to the new head coach. After what happened with Mark there was a real outcry for some major changes to be made at the very top, for some sort of structure to being brought in for players to be able to speak up.
We addressed those situations, we’ve given that feedback and there have been changes, which is great for us moving forward. Regarding the coach, that was left to Baroness Sue Campbell, all the players said was that we wanted someone who was going to win tournament.
We couldn’t exactly go out collectively ask people if they wanted the job so it was up to the FA to find the best person. There were a lot of rumours going around about people who wanted the job, didn’t want the job, or were worried about taking the job.
As far as I was aware the way the English media had gone after Mark had worried a lot of candidates. But Phil has dealt with media pressure throughout his career so probably doesn’t worry about that.
We’ve all been joking about who he might bring in as his assistants and his coaches, imagine if he brought in David Beckham to do his set-pieces?! Or Paul Scholes as his technical coach – wishful thinking but we’ve had a good laugh about it.
Phil said to us straight out of the blocks in La Manga that he wants to go and win the SheBelieves Cup and he comes across as the type of guy who wants to win everything and anything he can.
For him it’s an opportunity to see what he’s investing in, what the national team looks like and how his rivals shape up. It’s an opportunity to listen to those around him and to work out what he needs to change. There’s no better time for that than when you’re competing against the best. This tournament is where you see what players are like against the best in the world and if they’re ready for major tournament.
He’ll see for the first time what we’re all like on the training ground and choose who he wants to go out there against France in the first game. There will be players coming in chomping at the bit and players worried about how they will fit into his system. It was sort of the same when Mark came in, there’s so many ifs, buts and maybes at the moment and we’re all going into it not knowing what’s going to happen.
Just because people haven’t been picked I’m sure doesn’t mean they won’t be selected in the future. It’s nice as an individual to be given the opportunity to impress a new coach and it’s always a great trip, a crazy trip.
We [Chelsea players selected to go to the US] go up to Manchester for the FA WSL game tomorrow, come down to Heathrow on Saturday night and fly out to the US early Sunday morning. We’ll train Monday and Tuesday and then that’s it before we play our first game, he’ll only get a couple of sessions with us before the first match against France.
Casey Stoney says goodbye
You forget you get old! Sometimes you feel like Peter Pan because you rock up like you did when you were 12 years old and you expect everyone is going to be doing that forever.
We know Casey has struggled with injuries in the last 12 months but what’s hard for us is what a personality we’re losing from the team. It’s not just what she brings to the team on the pitch but off it as well, that’s why so many are grateful she’s sticking around to work with us as part of Phil’s backroom staff.
I think without really knowing it a lot of people lean on Casey, she has so much experience, is full of advice and she’s a really good friend. She’s a really special person and you can see that in the number of people that have come out in the last few days to say thank you and express sadness at her retiring.
She brings so much experience to the defence and has been able to help some of the young defenders coming through for England and that will undoubtedly continue in her new role with us moving forward.
People look up to her, you want to listen to her and take in what she has to say because she’s played against some of the best players in the world. I’m grateful she’ll still be around, she’s a very good voice to be around. She’s calm and collected and will help to open the right doors for our game going forward.
We had her in La Manga walking around in her blue coaching attire which was odd for us and will take some getting used to, but it’s nice she’s still involved and I think other players who retire will be kept within the setup too.
Chelsea go top
It’s the game that everyone is talking about, Manchester City will be gearing up for it and we’re gearing up for it.
They’ve got a few more injuries than we have and haven’t perhaps been able to rest players like Emma Hayes has been able to but it’s going to be a fantastic game, a real clash of the titans.
We know it’s a long season, there’s a lot of games to be played between now and the end of May. The ground will be packed and our recent history at the Academy stadium isn’t the best, so we need to put them under the cosh and make sure this time we take our opportunities.
It’s mad in a way for me because I’ve never really been in a position to beat teams like Manchester City before. I sent Ellen [White] a text on Wednesday night after Birmingham had handed them their first defeat just to say congratulations because she was in a similar position to me at Notts County.
Beating the best is not something we’ve experienced too much and she was obviously buzzing. I never take these games for granted.
Chelsea have a winning mentality, they believe they will beat whoever they’re up against and that’s been a real switch for me. I’m really grateful to share a dressing room with world class players and we’re on a real high at the minute. Everyone has stepped up at the right time and this game now is where it counts.
In March we have a month which will define our season. We have Reading in the middle of the two Champions League games immediately followed by Arsenal away and an FA Cup game at Liverpool too.
We just need to execute our game plan and be relentless in what we do. We need to be better every week, every month and to keep proving how good we are. It’s just another game for us but everyone on the outside will be paying a little more attention.
We know the stat about how long it’s been since we scored against City and that’s one we’ll be hoping to lift the voodoo on come Saturday. We’ve got the best record defensively so we know if we can score goals we can keep them out at the other end.
It’s about going up there with a ‘home’ mentality, I can’t tell you why teams seem more organised and difficult to play against at home compared to away. Yeovil on Wednesday seemed so much more comfortable and hard to play against on their own third than when they came to us.
When we traveled to City the Spring Series everyone was chomping at the bit, we were so ready for it and for the first half an hour it was like we hadn’t even got off the bus. We’d done all this work and we didn’t turn up until the second half, but then it was too late City had killed us in the first 45.
Now we have an opportunity to show we can do what is needed away. Are City looking at the game worrying about going four points behind? or are City going in with the same mentality they always do? We don’t really know because they haven’t been behind in the league for such a long time and they have had key players missing games. What we do know is that it will be difficult, we won’t just waltz off with three points.
Follow Carly on Twitter at @carlytelford1