Why England must heed warnings from the past

England Lionesses’ sold-out clash against Germany at Wembley stadium will take place on Saturday. Will Phil Neville and his side rise to the occasion?

It was nearly 100 years ago that legendary Athletic Club de Bilbao manager Fred Pentland warned the FA of the dangers of underestimating ‘weaker’ sides.

English football didn’t listen and didn’t even deem the biggest tournament in the world, the World Cup, worthy of England until 1950. They were knocked out in the opening stage having been beaten by the Spain and the USA.

Lionesses manager Phil Neville boldly stated that the England Women’s national team were “lucky to have him” after the success of the 2019 World Cup.

Since, his charges have only managed one win. A tense 1-0 victory over Portugal (ranked 31st in the world).

English arrogance damaged the men’s team for the last 50 years. The Lionesses cannot afford to fall into the same trap of expecting to compete in any and all competitions. Especially at a time when the team will be centre stage for an entire summer.

Top-end talent

England Women have achieved successive World Cup semi-finals, but those days are in the past and continuous improvement is a must. This of course is not only down to the manager – a certain level of responsibility must be taken by the players themselves.

Four England players are currently plying their trade for European giants Olympique Lyonnais. Seven of the squad turn out for either Manchester City or Manchester United – who played out a tense derby before 31,000 fans in early September.

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In addition, Toni Duggan impressively secured the Spanish title with Barcelona in front of 60,000 fans at the Wanda Metropolitano last season. All of these experiences can only serve to enrich the key players of this Lionesses squad.

Heed the warnings

In 2021, England will host its first major championship since the 1996 Euros. The nation will finally have a chance to set right a record that has haunted English sides since 1966.

However, the early signs building up to the tournament are not good. England have only managed one win in the last six, including four losses.

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England and Neville must not allow themselves the luxury of standing still and admiring the successes of the recent past. The FA let the national game slip by ignoring the advice of visionaries.

As England struggled through much of the last 50 years, Fred Pentland became El Bombin. Phil Neville hasn’t quite earned his glamorous nickname, but if he heeds the warnings, he might just become El Nevinho.