England Women boss Phil Neville has stressed places in his World Cup squad are up for grabs.
Neville says there is no complacency among the players he has called up for the forthcoming friendlies against Canada and Spain, and has spoken about a number who missed out, emphasising they are still in his thoughts.
That includes Bethany England, the forward yet to be capped at senior level who has scored 18 goals for Chelsea in all competitions this season.
Her club-mate Hannah Blundell, who has three senior caps, Birmingham’s Aoife Mannion and Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp are others currently not with the Lionesses to have been mentioned by Neville.
Neville said: “We’ve got the selection coming up, probably in the next three or four weeks, so they all know they’re all fighting for places, so there’s no complacency whatsoever.
“There’s 23 places up for grabs, it’s as simple as that.
“Nobody has been told that they’re in the squad yet, nobody is complacent or confident or booking flights for their families or anything, and I’ve made sure of that. There’s competition for places.
“You’re going to get injuries. So there’s going to be players on the outskirts, that are playing Champions League football, like (Hannah) Blundell, like Beth England, who are still in my thoughts.”
When asked what players knocking on the door had to do from here, Neville said: “Just keep doing what they’re doing.
“That’s what I’ve told Beth a couple of times now, because she’s really unlucky.
“Aoife Mannion is so unlucky. I can’t ring Beth England and Aoife Mannion and Hannah Blundell and say ‘look, you need to do X, Y, Z more’ because actually they are playing at their absolute maximum probably.
“The problem they’ve got is that the players in their position are playing really well as well. It’s a nice problem for me to have.
“What I’ve said to them is to keep playing well in the big games. We watch all the games and consistency is important for us, and just to have faith and trust that hopefully they will eventually get in the squad.
“They’ve all got age on their side, so whether that’s before the World Cup or after the World Cup, these players are part of the England DNA now.
“Lauren Hemp is back with the Under-19s but she’s on the next pitch to us and we’re monitoring her. She’s another one who could go to a World Cup, might not be ready for a World Cup but she might be.
“I’ve got to say the players probably don’t enjoy the fact we’ve got 30 players now, but it’s keeping their performance levels high.”
Having won the invitational SheBelieves Cup for the first time last month, England face Canada in Manchester on Friday and then Spain in Swindon four days later in the opening two of four home ‘Road to France Series’ warm-up matches ahead of the World Cup, which starts on June 7.
They will be without Fran Kirby for those first two games, with the Football Association announcing on Tuesday that the Chelsea forward had returned to her club due to “knee pain which requires careful management.”
Manchester City defender Gemma Bonner has been called up.
The FA said the decision over Kirby was made “taking a long-term approach to her injury management with a view to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in June.”
Kirby wrote on Twitter: “Disappointed to not be involved with the squad this week, but I’m looking forward to watching and supporting them in their up coming games. Let’s go @Lionesses.”
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