Phil Neville: England women's manager on overcoming scepticism at appointment

England women's manager Phil Neville and the team
England won seven and drew three of their 12 matches under Neville in 2018

Phil Neville says it took him a month to overcome widespread scepticism when he was appointed England women's boss.

The 42-year-old had little experience of the women's game, and famously only followed his new charges on social media just before it was confirmed he was being appointed as Mark Sampson's successor in January 2018.

A year on, Neville has proved worthy of the role.

He told BBC Sport: "Within a month people knew I was serious."

The former England and Manchester United defender recalls driving to his unveiling at St George's Park trying to second guess the questions likely to come at him.

"I knew some of the things that were going to be labelled at me. 'Why are you doing this?', 'Is this just a stepping stone?', 'What do you know about women's football'," he said.

"In life, you always need some kind of inner motivation. Mine was that first couple of days in the job when people questioned me.

"I wanted to make sure nobody would be left in any doubt about my commitment to the women's game."

Aiming high

England won seven and drew three of their 12 matches under Neville in 2018.

They did end the year with a defeat, their first at home since 2015, with Neville describing the 2-0 reverse to Sweden at Rotherham as a 'jolt'.

Nevertheless, England are fourth in the Fifa rankings heading into next month's SheBelieves Cup, which features matches against Brazil, USA and Japan, with the World Cup in France looming in the summer.

England have never won a major tournament. But after reaching the semi-finals of the last World Cup and European Championships, Neville is aiming high.

He said: "If we went to France and said we were aiming for a quarter-final or semi-final my players would lose faith in me just as I would lose faith in them if they had the same attitude.

"People are looking at us as one of the favourites for the competition. Expectation comes with that.

"When I met the players for the first time they told me they wanted the pressure and they wanted the expectations. That is why I took the job.

"I have got an unbelievably motivated group of players who want to do well.

"But it is not going to be easy. They have to work. No-one is going to knock on their door and give them a World Cup medal."

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