Beth Mead is among the notable names missing from Hege Riise’s first England squad, with the Norwegian saying the forward’s “player report hasn’t been that great”.
Riise, the Lionesses’ new interim head coach following Phil Neville stepping down last month and ahead of Sarina Wiegman taking charge in September, has selected a 20-player squad for the February 23 friendly against Northern Ireland at St George’s Park.
When asked at a press conference on Tuesday about the omission of Arsenal’s Mead, Riise said: “For Beth Mead the player report hasn’t been that great, and for me now to narrow the squad makes her out. But if she performs every weekend then we’ll see.”
Riise was then asked if she thought Mead – scorer of eight goals in 25 caps – had been affected by Arsenal struggling to get games played, and she said: “Of course, we haven’t seen that many games, most of them postponed, so that’s a challenge also.”
Lyon’s Nikita Parris is also absent, and Riise said: “Nikita Parris is in Lyon and the regulation with the Covid and the quarantine when you go back to France, Lyon didn’t want to release her, so that’s the reason.
“She will of course be in the squad (in the future). I trust her quality. She has been and will be a key player.”
When questioned about Atletico Madrid’s Toni Duggan not being included, Riise simply said: “We didn’t pick her in the squad. We are happy with the squad we have now.”
Those that have made the squad include the experienced quartet of skipper Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Ellen White and Jill Scott, who is set to win her 150th cap in the Northern Ireland game.
There are four uncapped players, in Manchester United’s Ella Toone, Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy, Everton’s Sandy MacIver and Birmingham’s Hannah Hampton.
MacIver and Hampton are among a group of three goalkeepers, along with Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck, holder of five caps, as Carly Telford misses out.
The Northern Ireland match will be England’s first international since March last year, when they competed at the SheBelieves Cup. Friendlies against Germany and Norway, scheduled for October and December respectively, were both cancelled for coronavirus-related reasons.
Riise is set to oversee three England camps – there is also a friendly against Canada pencilled in for April – then will either manage or be assistant boss of Great Britain’s team at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
It's been a while. 😏
📅 23 February⏰ 12.30 KO📺 BBC iPlayer/Red Button pic.twitter.com/qoU7FBR8TH
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) February 9, 2021
After that, with current Holland boss Wiegman in charge, the Lionesses will continue building towards the England-hosted European Championship now scheduled for the summer of 2022.
Riise said: “I have watched a lot of England and club matches and believe this is a group of players who are capable of winning at a major tournament.
“My work from now until Sarina Wiegman’s arrival is to develop their ability, playing style and physical conditioning to contribute to future success – this summer and beyond.”
She added: “Now it’s been almost a year since we all played a game. The players will come in hopefully relaxed and eager to show that they want to be part of the squad. I believe the quality in the squad is amazing.”
Riise also stressed that players not included this time are still in with a chance of making the Olympic squad, and when asked if she wanted the GB head coach role, she said: “I’m comfortable that we will settle this after February camp.”