Katy Sandalls: Simply put Phil Neville has got to learn – and fast

It's time for Neville to step up. Picture: RICHARD SELLERS/PA ARCHIVE/PA IMAGES

It's time for Neville to step up. Picture: RICHARD SELLERS/PA ARCHIVE/PA IMAGES - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

In her latest monthly column about women’s football, Katy Sandalls looks at the challenge ahead of the new England boss Phil Neville...

The topic for this month’s column won’t come as much of a surprise to most people: new starts.

The England team have begun 2018 with perhaps the biggest new start possible when it was announced that Phil Neville, former Manchester United, Everton and England defender and midfielder would become the Lionesses’ new boss.

I remember the rumours that were floating around online sometime before his appointment.

Most commentators I follow were surprised to hear his name added to the ever-changing list that was the being put together.

For a long time most were convinced that Mo Marley, the then interim manager, would certainly get the job.

Listening to her speak at a press conference in Colchester back in November, Marley seemed hesitant to talk about her own future, instead focusing on the match ahead.

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It’s since been revealed that she turned down the opportunity to continue with the senior players and will stay with the junior side.

As England U19 manager Marley had seen many of the now senior Lionesses progress through the youth system.

Sadly it’s a level of insight that Neville simply doesn’t seem to have – tabloids spotted him writing notes next to players’ names as Reading took on Arsenal.

Of course we don’t know what Neville meant when he put a tick next to names like current England vice-captain and Arsenal star Jordan Nobbs but if it meant “yes, this is a good player” then it is slightly worrying.

Whilst the gaffer going out to games to check players out for himself is a good thing, not knowing the sort of form or talent possessed by your players before you go does not inspire confidence in fans – nor do the infamous tweets which Neville has since apologised for.

Simply put, Neville has got to learn – and fast.

A friendly held behind closed doors as part of England’s training camp in Spain heralded a victory against the (albeit much changed) side that knocked England out of Euro 2017.

His next real test will be the She Believes Cup, a round-robin tournament held against most of the world’s top ranking teams.

The US are the world’s top ranking team, who England beat in the competition last year but only by the skin of their teeth, a reverse of the slim result which saw them lose to France in the same tournament. And Germany are one of Europe’s most successful teams ever.

Hardly a fixture list for the faint hearted.

Now he’s in the job, however, it is important that we as fans give Neville the space to settle in, as we would with anyone taking the job.

It’s probably fair to say that never before will the manager of the England women’s side have been so scrutinised by both the press and fans ahead of their first game in charge.

On top of that he’s been thrown into the middle of a World Cup qualifying campaign where his team are among the favourites for the competition crown.

Having said all that then, maybe he should be taking more notes. He’s going to need them!

- Outside of international games the Women’s FA Cup is starting to heat up with lower league WPL teams still in the competition.

Knowing that last year’s final won’t be repeated (Man City and Birmingham will meet in the next round) it’s going to be interesting to see who makes it to Wembley and hopefully we will see some more giant-killings all in the spirit of the competition.

Sadly that fifth round draw did not include Suffolk’s own Ipswich Town, who exited the competition at the third round with a gutsy performance against higher-league Charlton.

For them their next cup challenge will be the Suffolk FA Women’s Cup, which they have won for the last three years. They are sure to face a lot of competition from other local teams if they want that crown.

- Finally, on the theme of new starts, I wanted to thank the teams who got in touch with me following last month’s column.

Best of luck to the Under 15’s squad from the AFC Kesgrave Girls who will be the ball girls for Ipswich Town’s men when they play Cardiff City in a few weeks time.

If you’ve been dying to get involved with football locally yourself then Haverhill Rovers are looking for new players to restart their team for next season.

If you are over 16 they have two open sessions left on March 1 and April 5 from 8pm-9pm. More details can be found on their website.

That’s it from me this month! If you have some local women’s or girls football news you would like to share then get in touch - katy.sandalls@archant.co.uk.