As revealed by the godfather of women’s football journos in England, Phillip Neville will be the new England Women’s manager and will try to emulate Mark Sampson’s success on the pitch while avoiding off-the-pitch pitfalls that saw the Welshman sacked.
Tony Leighton broke the news on Friday night about the upcoming appointment.
I’m told Phil Neville has been offered and accepted the @England Women’s team manager’s job. @FA announcement imminent. Can the inexperienced @fizzer18 take England ‘to the next level?’ Hope so; but doubt it
— Tony Leighton (@Tony_Leighton) January 12, 2018
For those within the women’s football world, this is a genuinely out-of-the-box appointment.
We know that the three favourites for the job decided not to follow up their interest.
Laura Harvey went to Utah Royals, John Herdman moved from the Canada WNT to the MNT and Nick Cushing extended his stay with Manchester City.
If you add Emma Hayes, who extended her contract with Chelsea, it is quite clear that the England Women’s job was seen as poisoned chalice due to the current FA environment.
This is all quite sad.
We are talking about a team currently in third place in the FIFA rankings. A team that reached the semi-finals in their last two international tournaments (World Cup 15 and Euro 17) and brought a bronze medal home from Canada three years ago.
Managers should be queuing for the job and a chance to win the World Cup 2019 which will be played in France next year.
To end up with Neville, that obviously did not happen.
It is also disappointing to note that interim manager, Mo Marley, has been overlooked.
Considering the number of years she has been the manager of the u19 team and the success she has had in that role, it is baffling to think that she was not seen as an outstanding candidate while the FA decided to bring in an outsider with extremely limited coaching experience and no previous experience in women’s football whatsoever.
So what do we now about Phil Neville’s managerial and coaching career?
He managed one game with Salford City in non league football.
He was number two under David Moyes at United and then with his brother at Valencia. Neither of these tenures ended in anything close to success, with both managers being sacked. When Gary was dismissed, Phil stayed on only to quit in the summer of 2016 to pursue a management job of his own.
He also has his pro licence, which means he can manage at the highest level in the men’s football game, so there is no problem on the diploma side of the things.
Does his lack of managerial experience make him a suitable candidate for the England Women’s job?
It all feels like a learner driver being given a Rolls Royce as his first car.
That doesn’t mean he will turn out to be a bad manager – we just have no way of knowing because he is so inexperienced. It is a gamble because we have no clue about his coaching philosophy or how he will apply that to the job.
If we look at what brought success to the England team – the Lionesses’ spirit, their defensive mindset and ability to score on the break mixed with powerful and super-fit players, do we see Neville carrying on the same vein or making the team evolve towards more eye-friendly, attacking football?
Style alone does not win you games. Efficiency, team unity, fitness and togetherness did it for England, even when that meant leaving out those who did not fit the team’s ethos despite being good players.
Certain players who were alienated under the previous regime might come back in favour, if Neville arrives with a clean slate. Mo Marley had started recalling players for the La Manga camp, as well as bringing in youngsters to prepare for the future.
You wonder if he will carry on opening up the squad, or if he will offer continuity to those who were deemed favourites under Sampson.
On the coaching side, I am really curious to see what he will bring to the table.
In France, we went through the same process back in 2013 when Bruno Bini was sacked and the FFF brought in a coach with no real Women’s football experience in Phillipe Bergeroo.
I was lucky enough to watch many training sessions under both managers and although the contents were quite similar, the main difference was in their tactical choices and philosophies. Bergeroo brought in a top fitness coach to bridge the gap with the top teams and applied a more defensive philosophy.
I am curious to see if Neville will bring in the attacking style of Sir Alex Ferguson or the more pragmatic approach of David Moyes or a blend of both.
It is important to note that an international manager’s job is also very different from a club job.
You get your players for 15 days, maximum, and don’t see them for a month or two at a time. You only have a few days and training sessions to instil your philosophy. Players come and go very quickly and you can only work on the essentials.
I am looking forward to see what changes he will make in terms of coaching staff, playing squad and captaincy.
Last time round, Mark Sampson came in, removed the captaincy from Casey Stoney and gave it to Stephanie Houghton. It will be interesting to see of Neville chooses to keep her or select a new one.
The Shebelieves Cup, with three big games against USA, France and Germany, will certainly be a big test for him to start his career as the new England manager..
Let’s hope he’s up to the job.