Phil Neville knows England must be patient with Ellen White as the Manchester City striker looks to step up her return from injury ahead of a showdown with Germany at Wembley.
Head coach Neville named a 21-strong squad on Tuesday morning which is set to meet up at the Lionesses’ St George’s Park base next week in preparation for their final two matches of 2019, which will end with a friendly in the Czech Republic.
The group includes 17 members of the squad which reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, where White was England’s leading scorer with six goals.
The 30-year-old suffered a knee problem during pre-season and is one of three players training with the Lionesses as Neville and his team assess whether they are ready to be involved.
Fellow City duo Georgia Stanway and defender Gemma Bonner are the others linking up with the group.
White only made her Manchester City debut in Sunday’s 1-0 Women’s Super League defeat against the Gunners, coming on as a second-half substitute, and head coach Neville said: “We have to be patient.
“Ellen only played 28 minutes on Sunday, she has to get through the week – they have got a game against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, then they play Birmingham in the Continental Cup on Sunday.
“We didn’t name her or Georgia in the squad because they have been out for so long, we needed to see what their progression was like this week.”
Neville told a press conference broadcast by Sky Sports News: “To get into this smaller squad you need to be 100 per cent fit.
“So if they come through the week good, they will come on camp and train, do all the physical and testing work.
“They both obviously want to be involved in the Germany game, every single player does, but I think for Ellen it is a big boost for us because she was one of our best players (at the World Cup) without a doubt.
“Everything she touched in the summer turned to goals and we have missed her presence in the squad on and off the field.”
Atletico Madrid forward Toni Duggan returns after sitting out England’s last two matches with a thigh problem, but Fran Kirby misses out as her own knee issues are carefully managed.
Neville said: “Fran knows she has got to get back to that level in terms of confidence in her own body.
“We are working closely with Chelsea and (manager) Emma (Hayes). We speak most days about her progression and it is an ongoing process.”
Manchester City forward Lauren Hemp earns a first call-up.
The 19-year-old made her debut in the 1-0 win away to Portugal last month having been drafted in as a replacement following an injury to Jill Scott.
Defenders Millie Bright and Abbie McManus return following their own fitness issues, while Birmingham midfielder Lucy Staniforth retains her place.
The Lionesses are using the Germany and Czech Republic fixtures as part of the preparations for Euro 2021, which will be played at nine venues across England.
The Germany match at Wembley is expected to set a new attendance record for the women’s game, bettering the 80,023 crowd which watched the USA beat Japan 2-1 to claim gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“Hopefully we are going to be part of something special, part of history, and one of the biggest crowds that we have ever had,” said Neville.
“We all know that these occasions inspire, but there is still an awful lot of work to do, work underneath here that needs to keep improving and we are heading in the right direction.”
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