Phil Neville insists he will be “ruthless” when it comes to selecting his World Cup squad – but the England boss has experienced enough of his own tournament heartbreak to know he is the right man to let people down gently.
The Lionesses secured a 2-1 friendly win over Spain at Swindon’s Energy Check County Ground on Tuesday night as Beth Mead and Ellen White struck, with Aitana Bonmati pulling one back for the visitors.
Although England have two remaining warm-up games before their World Cup campaign kicks off against Scotland on June 9, Neville intends to name his squad for the finals before the fixtures with Denmark and New Zealand.
Having lifted the SheBelieves Cup last month and made nine alterations from Friday’s 1-0 defeat against Canada for the Spain game, Neville has plenty of talent to choose from.
Asked how hard it will be to whittle down his squad, the 42-year-old replied: “It is going to be difficult, you know it and I know it. It is coming.
“I know how I am going to do it, I know when I am going to do it – I just don’t know who it is going to be and that is testament to them.
“I thank them for what they have done for the past 14 months and the efforts and the pleasing thing for me as a coach is that I have stuck to what I believe in and that is giving everyone an opportunity.
“Last night wasn’t a trial at all, players didn’t book themselves on the plane or take themselves off the plane – every single one of them has made an impact along the way.”
Not many former internationals have the same experience as Neville when it comes to being left out of World Cup squads.
The ex-Manchester United and Everton man collected 59 senior caps but missed the cut for the 1998, 2002 and 2006 tournaments, meaning he never represented the Three Lions at a World Cup.
But now he feels those disappointments during his own playing days can stand him in good stead now the tables have turned and he is making the big calls himself – knowing there will be difficult conversations to be had.
“It happened to me three times so I am probably the best person in the world to experience it, to understand how you do it,” he added.
“We have spoken to the players about it, how we are going to do it, what is going to happen and ultimately now is the time for me to probably be ruthless and put the best players on that plane.
“They have four weeks now to stay fit, keep in form and keep charging forward because the train doesn’t stop now, that is what I have said to them, they go back to their clubs and if you used to do 10 reps I want them to do 14 now.
“Even though it is April, the clocks have gone forward, it is not time to put your flip-flops on, it is time to charge forward.”
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