Alex Scott column: 'We didn't see Phil Neville's philosophy adapt'

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A version of this article was first published on 24 April 2020.

Alex Scott made 140 appearances for England during a 15-year career in which she won nine league trophies and seven FA Cup titles with Arsenal. She was also part of the England squad who won bronze at the 2015 World Cup in Canada and represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games. She played at three World Cups and four European Championships.

When Phil Neville took over as England manager the next step was to beat the best teams in the world and continue to do it on a consistent basis. He was in that mindset too.

But I struggle to look back and see what our standout performances were under him. At the 2019 World Cup, there was the quarter-final win against Norway when everyone thought we were kicking into gear, but from there it just never really happened.

We have been waiting to see where this team is going and ultimately we have struggled. There were more questions after every game than answers.

England are not even competing with the best teams in the world now and that's worrying for me.

Former managers Hope Powell and Mark Sampson put us in a position to compete with the best but Neville's record against those top sides has been very bad.

We have played nine teams ranked in the top five in the world and only won one.

I had that saying as a player that you "always leave the shirt in a better place than when you found it". We all gave him time to do that. But we didn't see his philosophy adapt.

Neville's record against teams ranked in the world's top five
Opponent (competition - date)Result
France (SheBelieves Cup - March 2018)Won - 4-1
Germany (SheBelieves Cup - March 2018)Draw - 2-2
USA (SheBelieves Cup - March 2018)Lost - 1-0
Sweden (friendly - November 2018)Lost 2-0
USA (SheBelieves Cup - March 2019)Draw - 2-2
USA (World Cup - July 2019)Lost 2-1
Sweden (World Cup - July 2019)Lost 2-1
Germany (friendly - November 2019)Lost 2-1
USA (SheBelieves Cup - March 2020)Lost 2-0

'Stubbornness to change hasn't helped'

Hope Powell (left), Phil Neville (centre) and Mark Sampson (right)
Hope Powell (left), Phil Neville (centre) and Mark Sampson (right)

Powell pushed this team through World Cup qualifiers to tournaments, silver medals and finals. Then you had Sampson, who came in and elevated us to another level.

The Lionesses got recognition and we went to a World Cup and won bronze in 2015. We wanted to go on.

But we're looking at a team at the moment which has struggled to find its best form and an identity under Neville.

He had an idea about the philosophy he wanted to play with, playing out from the back, but it's not worked. You can see that by the stats and the number of goals we have conceded.

The stubbornness not to change that approach hasn't helped but his intentions were always there to try and improve the women's game.

How Neville's stats compare to former England manager Mark Sampson
ManagerPWLWin %Clean sheets
Phil Neville35191154%14
Mark Sampson59381364%32

When Neville first came in, one of the successful things he did was to get the Football Association to address issues around the treatment of the women's team. Why are they travelling in a certain way when England's men's youth teams travel in better conditions? He was shining the spotlight on those improvements that needed to be made on the inside. It was great having all the media attention which helped grow the visibility of the game.

But when you look at the development of women's football in this country, the momentum and the excitement has always come off the back of the Lionesses doing well in world tournaments.

We are trying to inspire the next generation coming through and they want to see winners.

Yes England won the SheBelieves Cup in 2019 but is that a competition to be shouting about in terms of an achievement? I don't think so. They are not medals that I would get out and show people. It's the medals you win at major tournaments that you are remembered for.

Ultimately, it comes down to what he did on the pitch and that wasn't good enough.

Alex Scott was speaking to BBC Sport's Emma Sanders.

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