Phil Neville says his England Women are getting closer to the levels of professionalism he wants, but are 10 to 15 per cent away playing the football he views as perfect.
The Lionesses are expected to play in front of more than 80,000 at Wembley on Saturday for their international fixture with Germany.
It will be a landmark and record occasion for women’s football in England, but the last time these two sides met under the arch, the visitors recorded a 3-0 win in 2014.
For the first time in 5 years, we welcome the @Lionesses back to Wembley Stadium 🤩
— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) November 8, 2019
Neville’s team have struggled for form since reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup and he discussed the journey for his squad to hit the pinnacle ahead of next year’s Olympics and the 2021 Euros.
He said: “They are getting up to the levels we have talked about in terms of professionalism that I want.
“Back in the first six months it was ‘I say, you do, I say, you do,’ in terms of driving the culture. Now I’ve got the players and captains in particular that are driving the culture from within.
“I have taken a step back in terms of being that person that always drives things because ultimately from a learning point of view, it is better peer to peer telling each other what to do in terms of standards than me always driving that.
“From a playing point of view I still think we have got another 10 to 15 per cent to go from what I see as really perfect football and that is what we are working on and that is what I want to see.
— Steph Houghton MBE (@stephhoughton2) November 7, 2019
Neville wants more of his squad to do the right things in order to become an elite player moving into a key period for the international team.
“We probably knew the period we were going to go through, we actually predicted it coming back from the World Cup,” Neville added.
“Probably the biggest thing I have learnt as a manager is the first camp after a major tournament we probably shouldn’t have any games. We should look at the player wellbeing better.
“Then obviously what the players have learnt is when you have been to a major tournament, the things you need to get back into form and to get that recovery right going into the new season are absolutely vital.
“I think what we have been working on with the players is they are still inexperienced, some of them, on how to be an elite athlete and top professional.
“We call it the extra 22 hours in a day. It’s fine when you are training with your club for an hour and a half to two hours, but the extra 22 hours in a day is actually what is going to make you the best player in the world and that top athlete.”
He continued: “Anything that takes away from their performance in 22 hours, like walking to the coffee shop or taking your dog for a walk, and anything that fatigues you, stresses you out is something you need to learn from.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) November 8, 2019
“Basically you put your feet up, rest, massage, ice bath, eat well and rest and recover and mentally switch off and that is what I have felt over the last 18 months is the biggest impact I have had on their lives and how the extra 22 hours is the most important part of an elite footballer’s journey.”
The current record attendance for a women’s match held in the UK was the 2012 Olympic final between the United States and Japan, which saw 80,023 spectators at Wembley.
For the Lionesses, close to 46,000 were in attendance for this fixture with Germany in Brent five years ago, but both records are set to be broken this weekend and Neville wants his side to inspire the next generation.
“I hope these 86,000 people come back and that is the biggest thing. In the World Cup, they tuned in and watched and thought ‘I want a bit of that’ and that’s what I want on Saturday,” he said.