Neville’s credibility as Lionesses boss will come under fresh scrutiny on Monday
Neville’s knowledge of women’s football has been called into question over recent weeks.
Phil Neville’s credibility as England Women manager will come under fresh scrutiny on Monday after his controversial appointment to lead the Lionesses.
The former Manchester United defender spent his first weekend in his new role in Widnes and Wycombe, cramming up on several England players he hopes to guide to World Cup glory next year.
The realities of life in the women’s game may have struck home for Neville, as 461 spectators watched Liverpool beat Bristol City at the Select Security Stadium, and another small crowd saw Reading take on Arsenal at Adams Park.
He avoided the beginner’s mistake of heading to Anfield and the Madejski Stadium, where the Liverpool and Reading men’s teams play, and instead correctly located the home grounds for the Women’s Super League sides.
But Neville’s knowledge of women’s football has been called into question over recent weeks, long before his appointment was announced by the Football Association last Tuesday.
And when he faces the media in his official unveiling press conference, Neville is sure to face questions about his suitability for a role he only landed when the FA’s four shortlisted applicants decided they did not fancy the gig after all.
The FA’s head of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell, said some candidates were put off by a fear of press intrusion in the wake of Mark Sampson’s turbulent final months in charge of the Lionesses.
Others have argued there were many better qualified candidates than Neville for the job, given he has never worked in women’s football before or been a manager. Spells in senior coaching roles at Manchester United and Valencia have been followed by over 18 months out of a tracksuit role.
Tweets from Neville’s past also came back to haunt him last week, when Kick It Out and Women’s Aid were among those to criticise remarks dating back several years.
Neville tweeted in 2012 that he did not expect women to have been reading his posts in a morning because they would be “preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making the beds”.
It was also widely reported that in 2011 he tweeted he had “just battered the wife!!! Feel better now!”.
[1/2] Statement from Phil Neville: “Following comments made a number of years ago I would like to clarify that they were not and are not a true and genuine reflection of either my character or beliefs, and would like to apologise.— FA Spokesperson (@FAspokesperson) January 24, 2018
He may find himself vulnerable to embarrassing gaps in his knowledge of women’s football in the short term, and Neville, contracted to 2021, may also be asked to offer assurances that he is not using the job as a stepping stone into the men’s game.
England should qualify for the France 2019 World Cup but must still play Wales home and away in their qualifying group.
Wales forward Helen Ward told the BBC she thought Neville’s appointment was “partly designed to raise the profile of the women’s game”.
She said: “He won it all as a player, I’m not quite sure how he’s done as a coach or a manager as yet, so it makes it a bit interesting that the FA are willing to give the opportunity to someone with relatively little experience as a manager or coach in any form of football.
“But, the players they’ve got, they should take them on to the next level anyway so it’ll be interesting to see how he does.”
Neville may reveal details of his coaching staff on Monday, with former captain Casey Stoney seemingly in line to be involved.