Hege Riise has told Beth Mead she needs to be performing consistently at club level for Arsenal if she is to force herself back into the Lionesses squad, writes Ali Rampling.
The new England interim head coach named a squad of 20 ahead of their friendly with Northern Ireland on 23 February, with Mead and fellow forward Nikita Parris the two surprise omissions.
Parris’ absence was a decision made by her club Olympique Lyon due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, but she remains in England’s plans. Mead – a regular for the Lionesses under former boss Phil Neville – has been omitted due to her form for Arsenal, with a recent flurry of postponements a potential hindrance.
“Lyon didn’t want to release her [Parris] so that’s the reason, she would of course (otherwise) be in the squad,” Riise said. “She plays regularly for Lyon the best team in the world – I trust her quality and she has been and will be a key player.
“For Beth Mead, the player report hasn’t been that great, so for me now to narrow the squad makes her out. But if she performs every weekend then we’ll see.”
Carly Telford was named in Neville’s final squad in November but also misses out, with Riise instead opting for the goalkeeping youth of Ellie Roebuck, Sandy MacIver and Hannah Hampton.
The trio have an average age of 21 and a combined five senior international caps between them – all of which belong to Roebuck. However, Riise highlighted the fact that they are all regular starters for their respective clubs, which some of the more experienced goalkeepers at England’s disposal cannot currently claim to be.
“They play every weekend for their clubs so they have games every week and that matters when you’re going into an Olympic tournament,” the former Norway midfielder said. “Of course, the experience they don’t have, but getting a young group coming in as goalkeepers together with less pressure will hopefully be enjoyable for them to create that group and make them grow in the role.
“If things change with the playing time with the more experienced goalkeepers that will change my view a little bit. The experience is good but if you don’t have the playing time… it’s hard to go seven months with a lack of minutes of playing.”
Riise revealed the reasoning behind selecting just 20 players for the camp was to heighten the competition going into the Olympics this summer, with just 18 players permitted in the squad for the Games.
The 51-year-old – a World Cup, European Championship and Olympic champion as a player – cited players’ mentality and versatility as key reasons for their selection, adding that she was aiming to instil a winning belief into the team ahead of Tokyo 2021.
“I’ve been looking at many players, we had a long list of players but we wanted to narrow it down to get a competitive squad going forward and going into the Olympics,” Riise said. “Going into the Olympics we need to have the physicality, we need to have the mentality. If they can play different positions, that matters as well.
“Hopefully I can bring more of a confidence in the style that they have been playing and make small changes in that. I will hopefully just add a few things but more so the belief in what we are doing. That will be the key message: believe in how good we are and winning a gold medal is possible.”
Goalkeepers: Hannah Hampton (Birmingham), Sandy MacIver (Everton), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Everton on loan from Manchester City), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City)
Forwards: Bethany England (Chelsea), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Ellen White (Manchester City).
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