Ellen White has praised the England Women’s manager, Phil Neville, as the Lionesses prepare to find out whether he will be taking them to Tokyo next summer.
“We knew the length of his contract and, with Covid and the fact the Olympics was pushed back, we understand,” the Manchester City striker said of his decision to end his contract next year. “He’s been a fantastic manager for us and we’ve really loved working with him and we’re blessed to have him for another 12 months.”
Neville will be replaced by the Netherlands manager, Sarina Wiegman, after she guides her home nation’s team through their maiden Olympic Games. Whether Neville, who on Friday said he wanted to take Team GB to Tokyo, will be in charge for that tournament has yet to be confirmed.
White, who scored six times for England before their semi-final defeat to the USA in France last year, believes Neville has made an impact, despite the team’s slide from third in the world to sixth during his time in charge.
“He changed my game and it came to fruition in the World Cup. I was a bit resistant to him changing me,” the 31-year-old said with a grin. “Saying stay within the width of the 18-yard box, but essentially that’s where you are, that’s where the goal is.
“He’s been amazing, a positive driving force for me to get better and better and be clinical in front of goal. It’s been great working and being a part of the squad while he’s been with us.”
While Neville’s abilities as a coach and tactician have come into question, few can doubt his close relationship with the players.
The Lionesses have gathered at St Georges’ Park for a training camp with friendly fixtures hard to come by during the pandemic. In an England home v England away training game, White scored twice and the Manchester United midfielder Ella Toone headed in a third as the team captained by White, in white, triumphed.
With 30 players part of this extended autumn camp there is a youthful buzz to England’s secure bubble. “We’ve got some amazing youngsters coming through a great experience and this is a chance for us to rebuild and for players to stake your claim for a shirt,” said White.
One of those players, the forward Chloe Kelly, joined White at Manchester City having excelled on the wing for Everton in the shortened 2019-20 season. “Chloe is an unbelievable player and we are very lucky and blessed to have her at Man City,” said White. “I’ll always champion her. There’s big things to come from Chloe.”
Kelly is not the only young player to make her debut under Neville, and there are several uncapped players at England’s training base. Bringing through players is something Neville said he will be most proud of when he walks away. “That is part of what I am,” he said.
“Whichever team I manage I will give opportunities to young players. Sometimes I’ve brought the younger players in quicker than probably what people wanted, but ultimately when I see potential and I see that kind of quality, it gives me a great feeling and great excitement.”