England women's team given pitch priority at St George's Park over men's side

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England women's team given pitch priority at St George's Park over men's side - Reuters
England women's team given pitch priority at St George's Park over men's side - Reuters

Captain Leah Williamson applauded the "respect the women's game was shown" after the England women's team were given the first choice of training pitch at St George's Park on Tuesday over the men's senior side, and said the Lionesses will be better prepared for a major tournament than ever before ahead of July's Euros.

Following collaboration between Gareth Southgate and Sarina Wiegman, amid a rare case where the men's and women's senior sides were both in camp at the same time, the women's major tournament has informally been given priority by the Football Association and sources told Telegraph Sport the men's team staff wanted to see the Women's Euros given top billing.

"If you’d have gone back a couple of years this wouldn’t have been the case, and that’s just factual, so the fact that is happening now is a big step in the right direction." Williamson said. "This is something that’s important. Women’s football is on a journey.

"The respect that we’ve been given and the respect that our tournament has been given, bearing in mind we have a Euros in the summer, and the preparation and the facilities that we have access to - year-on-year you just notice an increase.

"And it comes down to things like money obviously but also it’s that level of respect the women’s game is getting, from the work that we’re doing. There’s no stone left unturned in these preparations."

Wiegman's squad's first full training session of the summer took place on the Sir Bobby Charlton pitch, while the men's team were over on pitch 5, with men's Under-21 and women's Under-19 sides also training at home of the England teams this week.

The women's team, who are the hosts of a major tournament for the first time since 2005, face Belgium in their first warm-up match on June 16, before further friendlies against the Netherlands and Switzerland prior to the Euros getting under way on July 6.

Wiegman's provisional squad of 28 were in good health, with 26 of them training as a group on Tuesday. The only exceptions were Chelsea defender Jess Carter, who was doing an individual programme inside but is not understood to have any injury concern, and Houston Dash's Rachel Daly, who has not yet arrived back in England because of club commitments in the American NWSL season.

The day saw former England captain Steph Houghton take part in a session under Wiegman for the first time since undergoing surgery on an achilles problem, having been unable to play for the Lionesses yet since the former Netherlands head coach took charge in September. The Manchester City centre-back is believed to be on course to be fit in time for the Euros, but now must battle for a place in Wiegman's final squad of 23, which is expected to be announced next week.

Williamson will captain the side this summer, hoping to lead them to their first major trophy. The final, taking place in exactly two months time on July 31, will be held at Wembley and tickets have sold out. England's captain opens against Austria at Old Trafford on July 6, for another sold-out contest.

The Lionesses have reached three consecutive major tournament semi-finals and will be among the favourites in July, along with holders the Netherlands, Olympic finalists Sweden and improving Spain.

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