With the Women’s World Cup just a week away, Phil Neville sat down with The Offside Exclusives to talk through expectations, how he’s inspiring his team and who to watch out for as his Lionesses aim for world domination, Charlotte Duncker writes.
Phil Neville has told his Lionesses there are two targets going into this summer’s World Cup: to qualify for the Olympics and bring home the trophy.
It’s the England manager’s first major tournament and while people try to manage expectations, he’s told his team to go out to France and win it.
“We went to SheBelieves at the end of February and I spoke a lot about wanting to win a World Cup,” Neville told The Offside Rule Exclusives.
“At the start I said to the girls, ’we’re going to tell the world that we’re going to win a World Cup, we’re going to lift expectations’. And every single day we go out there, we have to produce world-class performances, and to do that we’re going to have to put pressure on ourselves.
“The dream was to be top three in the world. Now we’re in the top three in the world, let’s not back off and get worried. That’s the English mentality.”
Having won the She Believes Cup earlier in the year, England go into the tournament in France as third favourites and Neville believes he has a few surprises in his squad that will help them go all the way.
“In terms of improvement this year, Nikita Parris has gone onto the world-class level stage. Keira Walsh has been sensational really, from day one I knew she was a player, but this year she’s improved so much. Georgia Stanway is a little kid that could be a star,” Neville said.
“I’m lucky I’ve got some really good players. When you talk about winning World Cups, you need some special players in your team, and Fran Kirby is one of those ones that has that gold dust.”
The former Manchester United man has chosen a young squad to take to France with 11 players having never played at a World Cup before.
And he spoke of the importance of the older members of the squad in keeping his team grounded.
“They’re the most important,” Neville said about his senior professionals. “Karen Carney and Jill Scott, with over 250 caps between them. Their influence on the team is unbelievable, they’re the ones who keep people on the ground when they get carried away.
“Ten years ago, they turned up to pitches with no balls, no referees, no kit, on the worst pitches with everyone in different colours. So, they are now the ones that have fought so hard for the next generation and this generation needs to be so thankful for those players.”
While Neville is pushing his team to the top and wants them to bring home the trophy, he believes that the tournament will be a huge positive for women’s football in this country no matter where they finish.
“I think the way women’s football is going in England, we can go to the World Cup and even if we don’t lift the trophy, I still think women’s football is winning,” he said. “That’s where, as a manager, I’ve got to be slightly detached from all the drama and emotion and wanting to win the World Cup.
“I think the work we have done over the past 16 months has meant that English women’s football is in a brilliant place. So to inspire, to really take off, winning a World Cup would be unbelievable, but still think the next three or four years are going to be very special.”
Follow Charlotte on Twitter @CharDuncker
Launched in 2017, The Offside Rule Exclusives is our Webby-nominated monthly podcast hosted by Lynsey Hooper, Kait Borsay, and Hayley McQueen. It features in-depth interviews with some of the biggest names in football like Phil Neville, Jermain Defoe, and Casey Stoney.