Phil Neville’s has made a ‘magnificent’ start to life as head coach of England Women, according to Lionesses legend Rachel Yankey.
Neville’s side comfortably secured their spot at next year’s World Cup in France with a clinical 3-0 victory over Wales and he has impressed in his first managerial post.
Despite initial reservations on the appointment of the ex-Man United man, Yankey only has positive reflections on his first nine months in the role – particularly off the pitch.
“Obviously there was lots of scepticism, but I think Phil has been magnificent,” said 129-time international Yankey, speaking at SSE’s Play on the Pitch event at Wembley Stadium.
“He’s said all the right things and brings something different to women’s football.
“We need people to look at the women’s game as normal and he’s seen at it as the opportunity to manage an elite side, not a women’s side. That’s fantastic.
“He can bring his knowledge from the managers he’s played under and the players he’s played with, which can be brilliant for the players.
“On the pitch, he’s still trying to create his style of play and what he wants to do, so there’s more to come.”
FA WSL, the top tier of women’s football game in this country, underwent a restructuring over the summer and is now made up of 11 fully professional clubs.
Yankey says the advent of professionalism, allied to success for Neville’s side in France next summer, could combine for a unique groundswell of momentum in the women’s game.
“The WSL going professional is a big step and we need to make sure we make that sustainable,” she said.
“The big one is if the Lionesses win the World Cup, that would be fantastic.
“It would all inspire more girls to go out there and kick a ball around.”
Yankey was head coach for the day for a group of young girls from the SSE Wildcats Scheme, hailing from Pirton in Hertfordshire, through a session at Wembley.
The group of 25 youngsters, aged five to 11, were chosen from 900 projects across the country to run out on the hallowed turf and enjoy a stadium tour.
Yankey said: “Women and young girls now have the opportunity to experience Wembley and one day, who knows, I might be watching them run out playing for England.
“It’s a chance for them to go away inspired, work on their game and improve in the future.”
As the energy behind women’s football, SSE’s ambition is to support girls of all ages in England, helping them join in football from grassroots to the elite level. For more information on SSE’s sponsorships and activities visit sse.co.uk