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 World Cup last summer, 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.
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- Who could replace Neville?
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.
‘Stubbornness to change hasn’t helped’
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.
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.
Who I think could replace Neville
It’s a strange decision not to part ways with Neville immediately. You have a manager who you know isn’t going to lead you into a tournament and is effectively just in charge for friendlies. Does that come down to contracts and money?
You need a manager who comes in now, watches WSL games and starts to build instead of waiting 14 months. That’s lost time in my opinion.
We want England to be in the best position to go into the European Championship in 2022 and win it on home soil. It is a great opportunity for a new manager to come in and build.
But if you go back to the initial interview process with Neville, we have the same problems now. It’s the same names in the hat – Chelsea boss Emma Hayes and former Manchester City manager Nick Cushing – they were in the running before but they stepped out of the process for reasons which haven’t been discussed.
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So who are we looking at? The pool isn’t any bigger.
Manchester United boss Casey Stoney has a bit of club experience under her belt now when she didn’t before but is she ready to step away from what she is trying to build at her club? It will be a longer contract if the FA is appointing someone for back-to-back tournaments so that might help her decision.
I do think the FA has the capability to attract former USA and two-time World Cup-winning manager Jill Ellis when you look at the investment, which will only continue to grow. That is my disappointment with Neville – everything you need to make this team successful is there.
But is the FA looking at a manager who specialises in developing younger players or are you going to bring someone in with a proven track record? Because that’s what you want.
Alex Scott was speaking to BBC Sport’s Emma Sanders.
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