As national teams make preparations for the Olympics, various quickfire tournaments are popping up in March. England will defend its SheBelieves Cup title in America (starting March 5), while Scotland will head to Spain to compete in the Pinatar Cup.
Scotland have called up Erin Cuthbert, and Phil Neville’s England will be crossing the Atlantic with Carly Telford, Millie Bright, and — finally in a competitive setting — BETHANY MF’N ENGLAND.
Congratulations to all of those selected but this is now going to turn into a Bethany England Appreciation Post. While she has featured in three of the national team’s last four friendlies, starting twice and scoring twice, last summer’s World Cup remains a sore point.
Ahead of the tournament, Lionesses head coach Phil Neville (ed.note: LOL) seemed pained over who to bring to France.
“I can’t go to [Birmingham defender] Aoife Mannion, Beth England and Hannah Blundell and say, ‘You need to do XYZ more.’ They are probably playing at their absolute maximum. The problem they’ve got is that the players in their positions are playing really well as well.
“What I’ve said to them is to keep playing well in the big games, and have faith and trust that eventually they will get in the squad. They’ve all got age on their side. Whether it’s before or after the World Cup, these players are part of the England DNA, even though they’re not in the squad now. That’s what I’ve told Beth a few times now because she’s so unlucky.”
-Phil Neville; source: Telegraph
“Unlucky.” Not sure luck has anything to do with a manager choosing not to bring one of their country’s best strikers.
Instead, Neville brought along forwards Toni Duggan, Beth Mead, Jodie Taylor, and Ellen White — all of whom are capable of playing as a lead striker (though Neville only played White and Taylor at the position during the World Cup). By the end of the 2018-19 season, Bethany England had outscored them all.
In fact, England scored in each of her final four starts, including notching hat-tricks in two. After a rocky start to the season leading to sporadic starts, it was clear something had clicked in the final half. It’s hard to know whether a sudden hot run is an aberration or a sign of something more permanent, but in a World Cup you generally want to combine experience with in-form players — and no one was in better form than Bethany England.
Of course we also now know that it was not an aberration, and that today Bethany England is England’s best goalscorer, full stop. With each goal (of which there have already been 13 in the league) the decision to leave her out looks more and more silly, and it’s why the chant ‘Are you watching Phil Neville?’ bellows from Chelsea supporters every time she puts the ball across the line.
England’s rise has been meteoric. Not only has she molded herself into a threat to score with her head or either foot, she’s made herself dangerous from the wing, with holdup play, and even from deeper midfield areas. It truly is a remarkable number of skill sets to accrue, perfect and deploy in the span of three-quarters of a season. Perhaps the best illustration is that Chelsea bringing in Sam Kerr forced Emma Hayes to find a way to play them both — England has been that good.
Ok, now that that’s out of my system I can also report that Phil Neville’s England will face the toughest possible start to the SheBelieves Cup, as the World Cup-winners will be waiting for them on March 5 in Orlando, FL. As a fairly rabid USWNT fan, I am wishing Bethany England the best of luck and I hope she scores as many times as she wants.