Phill Neville was full of praise for his players at St Georges Park in the build up to the Lionesses’ World Cup qualifier against Russia on Friday.
The Lionesses are now ranked second in the word, the highest they’ve ever been but the England boss was keen to stress that rankings mean little without trophies.
“People make a big thing about world rankings, being third, second, first in the world. You can be first in the world but if you don’t win a gold medal or a World Cup then actually rankings don’t mean that much.
“On paper its nice, the players enjoy it, but for me they are actually not that important because at the end of the day I want to have a winners medal. I want to have a championship medal rather than just tell someone we are ranked first in the world.”
On captain Lucy Bronze
Neville has inherited a squad full of winners. Lucy Bronze recently won the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year, the Champions League and a league title with Lyon and, with Steph Houghton rules out through injury, was handed the captain’s armband for the game on Friday.
“She is a phenomenal player and I always say to people that I think Lucy Bronze could play in the men’s game. I think she’s that robust and determined, she’s got that much quality.
“Lucy’s had a fantastic season, I think going to Lyon has taken her game onto another level, you look at the Lyon team its almost like the Alan Bogtrotters of women’s football.”
“She’s training every single day with the best players probably in world football. When you’re training with the best you pick up standards from them, you’re challenged by them and everyday she’s marking [Eugenie] Le Sommer in training, that can only be good for her individual development, I’m really proud that she’s won the Champions League.
“Toni Duggan won the cup in Barcelona, today they’ve come back into the camp as winners and the more winners you have in the camp the more that spreads.”
Neville has also invited new faces into the camp. Lauren Bruton and Lucy Staniforth impressed in training and received their first senior call ups following injury to Jordan Nobbs and Izzy Christiansen and after successful performances at club level.
“I’ve watched Lauren Bruton. When I got the job I went to games, there were certain players that you know, you have the list in the office, the contracted players, and you go to games looking at them but I was actually watching the players outside of that, that I could bring in.
“I watched Reading v Chelsea and Lauren Bruton caught my eye and I watched Man City v Chelsea and Abby McManus caught my eye. Lucy Staniforth, Sunderland, I thought: she’s got something. I want to widen the pool of players that can get into my squad because I think maybe in the past there’s been a comfort of ‘we know what the squads going to be we don’t check our emails.’ When we get completion for places the standard goes up.
England are currently top of their group as they look to book a place to France next summer for the all-important World Cup and Neville said this one is crucial: “Out of the three remaining games this one is the most important. It’s the back end of the season, the girls have probably had the toughest season both mentally and physically.
“I think the Russian team will play different compare to the others and attack us more”.
Follow Samantha at @samantham7pd