Tokyo 2020

The Debate: Bronze and Marley integral to Team GB’s Olympic hopes

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Lucy Bronze of England

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23/04/2020 at 20:28 | Updated 24/04/2020 at 12:28

Each week, four writers will argue a set topic from Monday to Thursday before having their views picked apart in a vodcast on Friday. Today Marcus Foley makes the case for Lucy Bronze to be the lynchpin of Team GB at the Olympics, with a special mention for Mo Marley.

Team GB's makeup puts them at a substantial disadvantage compared to the rest of the teams competing in Tokyo, as in effect they'll be a 'brand new' team. Circumstance - the fact four separate, distinct teams will come together as one - dictates that this side will have to build understanding, relationships and chemistry on the fly.

Lucy Bronze is imperative to bridging this disadvantage.

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Whether Bronze is Team GB's most talented player is neither here nor there. She is, by the way. However, she represents their most accomplished player, the player best-suited to leading a new, unfamiliar side through tournament football.

Bronze currently plays for the best team in the world, alongside the best players in the world at Olympique Lyonnais. She is the best in the world in her chosen position, right-back. She is a magnificent athlete but it is the subtlety within her game - her positional awareness, her sleight of foot and in-game management - that means she can and has played in central midfield for England and can and should be the totem of Team GB. It is that excellence and that adaptability that makes her crucial to any hopes Team GB have of toppling Olympic favourites USA.

Current England manager Phil Neville has trialled Bronze in midfield but it must also be said that Neville has failed to get the most out of a hugely talented England side and its hugely talented best player. This though is not entirely Neville's fault.

The 43-year-old is the holder the highest coaching qualification available, the UEFA Pro Licence. Yet, by every other measure he was not ready to become manager of the Lionesses. He did not have the requisite experience within football to be appointed a national team manager and he certainly did not have the requisite experience within women's football to be put in charge of the Lionesses.

Experience is crucial to international management purely down to the poverty of time that managers have with their players. International coaches, whether they are holders of pro licences or not, have to get across intricate and complex concepts in a fraction of time club coaches often struggle to do so. Having a proven track record of being able to do that is key to the appointment of any manager at that level. They may not retain the glamour of yesteryear but international coaching jobs are some of the toughest out there. The FA, by selecting Neville, left him and the players at a distinct disadvantage.

This distinct disadvantage has played out in performances first and then results. 2019 read like a good year; semi-final of the World Cup, SheBelieves Cup winners and a record turnout at Wembley but, truth be told, good results masked poor performances in 2019 and that downward trajectory of performances culminated in a very disappointing defence of the SheBelieves Cup amid a run of seven defeats in 11 games.

Neville might become a brilliant manager - he has the tools to do so - but January 2018 was not his time. The fact that it looks like he might now not lead Team GB at the Olympics represents an opportunity to correct errors made in that appointment process. There were, according to the Telegraph, 145 other candidates headhunted by a recruitment agency for the role. Mo Marley, who took on the role of interim boss after Mark Sampson was sacked, was reported to have applied for the job, even if there has been no official confirmation. If she wants it now, she should get it. Bronze certainly holds her in high regard.

Mo Marley, Head Coach of England during the U19 Women's Friendly match between England U19 Women and Norway U19 Women at St Georges Park

Image credit: Getty Images

“Everyone has a good relationship with Mo, everyone knows what she’s about," Bronze said of Marley back in 2017 when she took over the England job on an interim basis.

“She has had success with the U19s and she did a great job at Everton. I think everyone on the team completely respects her both as a person and as a coach.

“She’s been there and done it as a player. She has captained England at the European Championships.

She has got the know-how and the experience to do the job she needs to do and we fully trust her to do just that.

She has nearly two decades worth of experience as a coach at Everton and within the England set up, and strikes this observer as a prime candidate to take over the Lionesses and Team GB, and a prime candidate to get the best out of Bronze - Team GB's best and most accomplished player. The pair have history, Marley coached Bronze at both Everton and the youth set up at England level, winning Euro gold at Belarus in 2009.

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