Phil Neville named his squad for next month's SheBelieves Cup today, opting to put faith in a host of younger players.
England Women head coach Phil Neville announcing his squad for the 2020 SheBelieves Cup at Wembley Stadium, London
Six of Neville's 23-player squad competed for England at the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2018, including Grace Fisk who receives her first call up to the senior squad. Neville said of West Ham's Fisk, 'Probably her biggest strength is that she takes accountability for her performances. When we speak to her after her games we don’t have to tell her anything.
'She tells me how she’s played, how she’s felt, what she needs to do to get better... It is a vital time to get her involved and give her a programme to make sure she becomes one of our best centre-backs.'
Everton striker Chloe Kelly also made the squad, and will look to add to her one England cap, with Neville praising her for being a 'multifunctional player' who's had a 'rapid rise in her development'.
Sandy MacIver received her second call up, joining Carly Telford and fellow youngster Ellie Roebuck as Neville's options between the sticks.
Manchester United's Mary Earps was unlucky to miss out with Neville explaining her exclusion was 'a one-off decision, a choice between which experienced keeper I would take to support the two younger ones.'
Indeed much of Neville's squad choices were made with support and development of the next cohort of international players in mind.
We’ve got the nucleus of an exciting bunch of players to come through. Phil Neville, England Women head coach
Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway round off the contingent from the U20 World Cup in 2018, while Hannah Hampton and Alessia Russo have been invited to train with the squad.
Neville said: 'I think we’ve got the nucleus of an exciting bunch of players to come through. The nucleus of that [U20] team are going to break into the squad together, they’re going to hunt in packs together, they’re going to protect each other, they’re going to support each other.
'I think now’s the right time, having planned it for the last 12 months to bring them into the squad and expose them to what is probably the best tournament outside of the major tournaments.'
Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver, seen at the U20 FIFA World Cup, received her second call up to the senior squad
He hopes to combine the impact of the younger players with the experience of the senior members of his squad. He said: 'Of course we will continue to rely enormously on the world-class senior players who have been the mainstay of the England Women’s squad for many years.
'They know what it takes to succeed on the world stage and they can teach our younger players so much about the physical and mental standards required to compete at the very top level.'
For those senior players that missed out on the SheBelieves squad – including Earps, Jodie Taylor, Jade Moore, Gemma Bonner and Beth Mead, who was injured during a club game last week – Neville was keen to stress that the door remains open: 'To any player that is still available for England I always say ‘you’re performing at the top, top level, and you’ll get in my squad.''
Our senior players know what it takes to succeed on the world stage and they can teach our younger players so much about the physical and mental standards required to compete at the very top level. Phil Neville, England Women head coach
It seems then that this squad isn't an indication of Neville's thoughts for EURO 2021, rather an exercise to make sure that everyone in contention has the experience and exposure needed to be able to fight for a place.
He said: 'If we get to Euro 2021 and people like Sandy MacIver and Ellie Roebuck haven’t had that kind of experience then we would have failed as coaches in terms of the planning of their development.'
The approach to SheBelieves, regardless of the make up of the squad, is simple: 'I want us to approach it the same way as we did last season when we won the competition.
'I want to see the togetherness, the spirit, the determination to win. I think when you stand on the platform with the trophy and a medal around your neck I think that breeds confidence, gives the team that belief that they can beat the best teams in the world.'
England kick off the defence of their SheBelieves title in a game against hosts and
FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Champions USA at the Exploria Stadium on
Thursday 5 March. Kick off is Friday 6 March 0.00am in the UK. All matches will be screened on the BBC.
Goalkeepers: Sandy MacIver (Everton), Ellie Roebuck (Man City), Carly Telford (Chelsea)
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Grace Fisk (West Ham), Alex Greenwood (Lyon), Steph Houghton (Man City), Abbie McManus (Manchester United), Demi Stokes (Man City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Man City), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), Keira Walsh (Man City)
Forwards: Toni Duggan (Atletico Madrid), Bethany England (Chelsea), Lauren Hemp (Man City), Chloe Kelly (Everton), Nikita Parris (Lyon), Georgia Stanway (Man City), Ellen White (Man City)