England are “crying out for competitive games”, according to Phil Neville, after a team led by Lucy Bronze beat one led by Steph Houghton 8-1 in an internal friendly in Stoke.
The Lionesses have not played a competitive fixture since their World Cup exit in July 2019, having qualified for the 2022 Euros as hosts, and have not played a friendly since March’s disappointing results at the SheBelieves Cup in the US.
Neville said that to keep positivity around training camps, in which they have been able to play only internal games, they had “tried not to think about” the lack of matches. “We have tried to be positive and think about how lucky we are to have camps and play in stadiums like this but the players are crying out for competitive games where they can test themselves against the best teams,” the manager said.
“That’s what I really want. We’ve got [camps in] February and April where hopefully we have some exciting plans and we can play some top-quality opposition. What we have had is some tough camps and have got the best out of a situation that is affecting everyone in the world.”
This was the third camp in which England players have been forced to team up against each other, with games against Germany and Norway cancelled because of travel and quarantine restrictions. Bronze’s team played with a dynamic and youthful three at the back, with Arsenal’s Leah Williamson and Lotte Wubben-Moy alongside Manchester United’s Millie Turner. The front three of Nikita Parris, Beth England and United’s Ella Toone wreaked havoc, with England and Toone getting a hat-trick each.
“You want to be judged on results,” Neville said. “It is difficult when I go and see Sue [Campbell, the FA’s head of women’s football] and do my reviews. I think we will not be able to judge what these three camps have given us until we get to February, April, June, so I think from that point of view it’s a little bit frustrating but we’ve done great work. Getting these young players in this transitional period in there, looking more long term and at how I can transition these young players and squad to Sarina [Wiegman, who will take charge after the Olympics].”
Neville still does not know whether he will lead Team GB at the Olympics but said he hoped a decision would be made soon.