Hopefully, though, the Football Association pick someone with a good knowledge of the women’s game to succeed Phil Neville.
Gareth Southgate brought the nation back behind its men’s team, and his Lionesses equivalent must try to do the same.
The timing was surprising when word leaked out that former Manchester United, Everton and England player Neville plans to leave at the end of his contract next summer.
I can see why Neville would want to honour his contract, but I cannot imagine it will work. As a player, training and trying to impress your manager, would thinking he is going to leave soon affect you? You want a manager you think you are building with.
If he is able to last the distance, it will give the FA plenty of time to choose his successor and they have big shoes to fill.
Neville had a huge impact at first. Mark Sampson took England to another level, but Neville raised them higher.
England finished fourth at the last World Cup and it looked like we could win it until running into a very good USA team.
More than that, there was a shift in mentality. Before Neville, the girls would always talk in terms of “doing their best” at major tournaments, but it quickly became all about winning it, and you could see the belief in their performances.
It was all very positive after the World Cup but now there is a negativity around England and the pressure has been building on the manager after seven defeats in the last 11 matches.
Neville’s successor will have to be ready for so much exposure. As soon as he came in, the media dredged up an old tweet to use against him. Although it would be an honour, people are always trying to catch you out. I am not sure it is a job I would want to do.
Neville had so much criticism from the start in a way his predecessors did not. Initially it was people saying it should have been someone from within the women’s game, but bringing in a big figure from men’s football brought attention and increased attendances. The Lionesses and WSL got a new audience.
Maybe you could argue that impact has been made now and it is time to move on.
I wonder if the European Championships and Olympics had not been moved due to coronavirus, and if Neville’s teams had done well at them, whether he would have stayed. Maybe not having that goal to work towards changed his mindset.
Neville has a lot of self-belief, as almost all top sports people do, and in the back of his mind might even be hoping he can turn things around in the next year. To leave with everyone wishing you stayed is the best way. It might be too late, but I would love him to get to a position through results where England persuade him to change his mind.
Southgate was given experience as England Under-21 manager and maybe there is a case for grooming Neville’s replacement like that, as the Republic of Ireland did when they put Stephen Kenny in charge of the youngsters, knowing he would replace Mick McCarthy this summer.
That could be problematic for Neville. Who takes the big decisions? The person in charge, or the one who is going to be at the next major tournament?
I do not think gender matters, but it would help to have somebody who knows the women’s game.
I just want the best person and if it is Arsenal’s Joe Montemurro, my old Leeds United coach Rick Passmore, or Mark Skinner, who is working in America but showed at Birmingham City what a fantastic coach he is, great.
Someone who did not know women’s football would have to follow Neville’s lead and bring in assistants who did.
Laura Harvey, who is coaching in the States, is another young, well-respected manager and former Leeds women’s manager Gemma Grainger has been part of the England women’s youth set-up for a long time. The Teessider is one of four or five women’s coaches who worked at close quarters with Neville, as is Bev Priestman, his assistant and another candidate. It was brave of him, but he recognised he needed help from people who knew the women’s game, and it will serve England well now.
Emma Hayes rightly always gets talked about as a potential candidate but was not interested last time and does not seem to be now. She often speaks about wanting to win the Champions League with Chelsea, and enjoying day-to-day coaching.
Casey Stoney would be a really good option having taken Manchester United up from the Championship in her first season. They were fourth in WSL when the coronavirus put everything on hold.
Managers tend to go into international football a bit later but looking at how Southgate has developed with his team, someone with Casey’s profile could do that with the Lionesses, particularly having played 130 times for her country.
Neville could help the transition because she is another he has worked with previously.
Whether it is 2021 or further down the line, I would think somebody like her would be lined up as a future England manager.
If I was a WSL manager part way through the season I would want to see it out, and Neville not going now would allow that. If Casey can finish in the top four or better, that is another achievement to take with her.
It would be a huge step up and she would need to surround herself with people she trusts who are experienced in the international set-up but she would go in with a huge reputation as a player and a growing one as a coach, and would certainly be given time to develop her own skills.
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