Steph Houghton praised by Phil Neville for class after ‘horrific’ news

first_img“In the last camp I felt that, for the first time, the players and the staff got me,” said Neville. “I thought: ‘They understand what I’m about.’ I didn’t have to take every training session myself. I could delegate and, all of a sudden, the players were driving standards from within.”This new consensus will be tested not only by Brazil at Notts County but by Australia, who visit Fulham’s Craven Cottage on Tuesday for another friendly which pits Neville’s team against heavyweight World Cup opponents.“I hope we’re not going to have to adapt our style,” he said. “I always like to let opponents worry about us. I hope we won’t have to change our philosophy but we do need to win so, sometimes, you do need to adapt a little bit.”He is prepared to compromise on formation rather than overall principles. “We’re working on two systems – 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 – so the framework can change but I don’t think the style will. The best managers in the world don’t change their style.“I have total belief in the way I want my team to be successful and I’m going to stick by that style. If it works, great, but if it doesn’t, you know what, we’re going to die trying. We’re going to die trying to do it my way.” Eni Aluko Reuse this content Share on Pinterest “Steph’s obviously not in a good place,” said England’s manager. “She’s had to deal with something that’s absolutely horrific but she’s dealt with it in class manner.“Steph’s a wonderful, wonderful person and she’s gone up so much in my estimation; she’s been unbelievable in the last few weeks. Her leadership is incredible.“Professionally she’s playing the best football of her career but it’s no secret that Steph is now in charge of what she wants to do. If she wants to come on camp, she comes on camp; if she wants to train, she can train. But if she wants to go home, she goes home – football’s just a game. If Steph wants time off, we’ll support her.”As Darby – a former Liverpool, Bradford and Bolton defender – was inundated with messages of support following his enforced retirement, Neville’s players convened for a discussion unprecedented in its seriousness. “We’ve sat down and talked about it as a team,” Neville said.“We all know that family – and family values – are far more important than kicking a ball around a football field. Steph and her husband have been overwhelmed by all the well‑wishers but it shows how highly they’re thought of as people – and that’s the most important thing.”Neville has long been impressed with the “characters” and “integrity” of the players he inherited from Mark Sampson but his challenge before next summer’s World Cup in France is to fully convert the squad to his passing, build-from-the-back credo.Whereas Sampson, who led England to the semi-finals of the last World Cup and European Championship, is a highly tactical coach whose gameplans were dictated by the strengths and weaknesses of opponents, Neville wants his team to impose their style on rivals.He believes a watershed was reached before England’s victory against Wales in late August which secured the Lionesses’ qualification for France 2019. Share on WhatsApp Women’s football Pinterest news Topics Read more England women’s football team Read more Even so, Neville regards the impending fixtures against non-European opponents also including the United States and Japan – who England will meet in next spring’s SheBelieves Cup in America – as essential “acclimatisation” exercises.“It’s absolutely imperative to play top teams from different continents,” he said. “I want to take my players out of their comfort zone and see if they’ve got what it takes to win a World Cup.“I hope that, by next summer, we’ve got confidence against these teams and know how to beat them, but this is elite sport so some of our players won’t stay on the bus; there’ll be injuries and loss of form but some won’t be able to keep up with the pace. My squad are under no illusions about what it will take to get on that plane to France.”Neville believes the Lionesses are inspired by sharing facilities with England’s men’s teams at St George’s Park. “There’s no gender disparity here,” he said. “It’s just football – and every minute of every day people are swapping ideas. Gareth Southgate often speaks to my players and comes to watch us train. That sends an important message.” Sport enters the WhatsApp age and dreads ever being asked to leave Share on Twitter Emma John Facebook Twitter Phil Neville Share via Email Steph Houghton is scheduled to captain England women in the friendly against Brazil on Saturday but Phil Neville will understand if his key defender changes her mind and decides against playing.Stephen Darby, Houghton’s husband, has recently been diagnosed with motor neurone disease and the couple are attempting to come to terms with this cruellest of medical news. Share on LinkedIn Neville’s pet project amuses but England Women need goals for glory England celebrate after securing qualification for the World Cup. Photograph: Kieran McManus/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock Share on Messenger Share on Facebooklast_img

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