Phil Neville: England Women captain Steph Houghton says Lionesses 'disappointed' by manager's departure

January 21, 2021

England captain Steph Houghton says the entire Lionesses squad were "disappointed" to see manager Phil Neville depart his role six months earlier than planned.

Neville left his position earlier this week to take charge at David Beckham's Major League Soccer franchise, Inter Miami.

The 43-year-old had been due to leave his England role in July, with Netherlands Women head coach Sarina Wiegman due to remain in her current post for this summer's rearranged Olympic Games in Tokyo, before taking over England in September 2021.

Neville guided England to the World Cup semi-finals in 2019, having overseen a victorious SheBelieves Cup campaign earlier that year.

"Everybody was disappointed to see him go," Houghton told Sky Sports News.

"I think obviously what he did over the last three years, not just in terms of raising the profile of the women's game, getting us to play in the biggest stadiums, taking us to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

"And from a personal point of view and the team's point of view, he did so much hard work off the pitch to make us even better players and better people, and always in contact with you, so we'll miss him.

Hege Riise, who was already part of Neville's coaching staff, has been placed in temporary charge of England until Wiegman takes over in September.

As a player, the 51-year-old won Olympic gold with Norway at the 2000 Olympics - as well as the 1995 World Cup and 1993 European Championships - establishing Norway's record number of appearances for both men and women with 188.

"We've got Hege that's coming in and obviously her playing career kind of speaks for itself and I think as a team we know that there's going to be a lot of change over the next 12 months with obviously the new manager coming in in the summer," Houghton said.

"So we've just got to embrace that and take on the challenge and make sure we perform at the highest level that we can possibly."

FA struggling to find February opponent

Riise will take charge of England's training camp in February, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is making it increasingly difficult for the FA to secure an opponent.

With travel restrictions in place for those entering and departing the United Kingdom, the FA may look to one of the other home nations to provide competitive action.

However, that could also be problematic as both Scotland and Wales are without managers, after Shelley Kerr and Jayne Ludlow recently left their roles.

If an opponent isn't found, it's possible England's camp will be reduced from the usual 10 days.

England haven't played a competitive fixture since the She Believes Cup in March 2020, with multiple friendly matches last year having been cancelled due to the pandemic.

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