Who would wish Phil Neville anything but the best of luck as he takes up his new role as head coach of England? Only the very churlish or the very tribal would want him to fail as he assumes charge of a squad of extremely talented women - a team who are ranked number one in Europe, a team who have made the semi-finals of the last two international tournaments in which they have competed, a team who will be hoping to prove themselves next summer at the World Cup in France.
Neville is a known quantity for the FA. He has already been on their payroll; he has worked with the junior men's sides; he has been a long-serving international. After a chaotic 2017, which ultimately resulted in the departure of former coach Mark Sampson, someone rather more straightforward was on the wishlist.
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The word is, though, that Neville's suitability hadn't even been considered until a member of the media suggested it, half-joking. Clearly the idea of appointing a big name from the men's game appealed. The FA have once again spent much of the past 18 months revamping the domestic game in England, switching the timings of the season and announcing changes to the existing licensing process for the top flight. Attendances have fluctuated, unsurprisingly, as has journalists' interest. Giving the biggest job in England to a man who guarantees media coverage must have seemed a clever move.
Indeed, as soon as Neville was confirmed in the role, newsreaders were swift to exclaim over what a coup it was for the women's game to have Neville in post. His playing career with Manchester United and Everton as well as England glosses over his lack of managerial experience; he has served as first-team coach at Manchester United and Valencia but not had a permanent top job, and not in the women's game at all.

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There had been a quartet of names already linked with the vacancy; all four quickly ruled themselves out. Laura Harvey took a job at new NWSL franchise Utah Royals; Emma Hayes made it very clear she was only interested in building her legacy at Chelsea; Nick Cushing signed a new contract at Manchester City; and John Herdman, in perhaps the most surprising move, switched from coaching Canada's women to Canada's men.

Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes

Image credit: Getty Images

According to the FA, the woman already in the hot seat, albeit temporarily, decided she was not interested in taking the job on permanently. Mo Marley, a former England international and indeed Everton legend herself, has had success with Everton domestically and with the Under-19s in junior competition. She was appointed as interim coach after Sampson's departure, known to be reliable and a safe pair of hands. But ultimately the role is not to be hers.
Instead, it's gone to Neville, who in a flurry of activity when his name was first mentioned began to follow some of his new players on Twitter. It would be fair to assume from that incident that his previous knowledge of and interest in the women's game is limited, and that he will have plenty of homework to do before the Lionesses head to France next year. It is telling that the FA have also been advertising for Neville's assistant - requiring "a track record of consistent and successful experience of development of elite women’s players with a minimum of two years' international senior team experience", all qualities that the new coach himself lacks.

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It's also notable that the FA's official statement on Neville's appointment was careful to point out that Marley would remain involved with the squad, and that senior player Casey Stoney was also mentioned by name as someone "influential" in the camp. Neville has already said he sees this job as ideal for his development as a coach; it seems that this is also how his new bosses understand the situation. He will be helped along his coaching journey by an assistant with expertise in the women's game; in return, he will bring more fans and more journalists along to the matches.
Always assuming, of course, that he stays in post - and the team keep winning. With a strong squad expected to do well in France next year, it might be fair for that excitable newsreader to say that it's more of a coup for Neville to land this plum job in the women's game.
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