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Neville bans talk of Olympics as Lionesses focus on defending SheBelieves Cup

Neville bans talk of Olympics as Lionesses focus on defending SheBelieves Cup
© Reuters
The Lionesses boss wants to win the SheBelieves Cup for a second consecutive year.

Phil Neville wants all talk of the Olympics banned around his England squad until the summer, with his full focus on Lionesses duty ahead of next month’s SheBelieves Cup.

The 43-year-old will manage Great Britain at Tokyo 2020 and it was put to him that this tournament in the United States is a perfect opportunity for players to catch his eye, with the competition later this year in mind.

Neville was quick to that shut down and does not want the Olympics distracting him from his role as England head coach or affecting his youthful group at the round-robin event with USA, Spain and Japan.

England head coach Phil Neville during the press conference at Wembley
England head coach Phil Neville during the press conference at Wembley (John Walton/PA)

He said: “This is an England camp, we’ve got another England camp in April and we are focusing on it being an England camp.

“The work being done for the Olympics is being done outside of camps. I can’t impact on the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland players so it would be unfair for me to go to the SheBelieves and talk about the Olympics.

“I have stopped all of my staff talking about the Olympics and I will stop the players talking about the Olympics.

“We are here to play for the Lionesses. When June and July comes we’ll start talking about the Olympics.

“There is a lot of work being done by all of my staff in terms of scouting, preparing, speaking to players on the lists, but this is an England game.

England Women finished fourth at the 2019 World Cup under the management of Phil Neville
England Women finished fourth at the 2019 World Cup under the management of Phil Neville (Steven Paston/PA)

“You start getting side-tracked by other things going on in the background, as we saw with the first six months of the season, and get distracted a little bit and you will get found out and we can’t afford that to happen.”

Six of the 23 players in the SheBelieves Cup squad competed for England at the Under-20 World Cup in 2018, while West Ham defender Grace Fisk receives her first senior call-up.

The former youth level captain will hope to join Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver in making her debut for the Lionesses out in the United States.

Chelsea’s Beth England, as expected, made the squad and was described by Neville as one of the best forwards in the country.

Her club side Chelsea last week became the first club in the world to tailor their training schedule to the players’ menstrual cycles.

Manager Emma Hayes has long called for this to be introduced and Neville revealed a similar approach has been adopted by England, implemented by the FA’s new physical performance manager, Dawn Scott, for the Lionesses.

“We are implementing it now with our girls,” he said. “Dawn has already spoken to a lot of the players about it and made a big impact already.”

Even though the likes of Reign FC’s Jodie Taylor and Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps have been left out of the SheBelieves Cup squad, Neville insists he is not heading to America with a plan to experiment in the tournament.

Mary Earps has been left out of England Women's squad for the SheBelieves Cup
Mary Earps has been left out of England Women’s squad for the SheBelieves Cup (John Walton/PA)

After winning the most recent edition in 2019, England Women are there to defend the title they secured last year with wins against Brazil and Japan and a draw against the USA.

“I don’t think it is a tournament where I am going to treat it as an experiment. We want to win, the players want to win and if we experiment against the USA we’ll get beaten,” Neville insisted.

“We arrive with the trophy in our hands and we want to make sure that when we land back at Heathrow we still have the trophy with us.”


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