With three weeks before the European Championships begin, it was decision day for Sarina Wiegman as she narrowed down her England squad from 28 to 23. A hard task for any manager but particularly one who is so in the spotlight ahead of a home Euros.
The biggest question of all was whether Steph Houghton would make the cut after her long battle back from injury. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough time, having not played a minute for Manchester City since January due to an achilles issue. The fitness of Fran Kirby and Jill Scott was also in doubt but they have shown enough in the last few weeks to get them a spot.
Other players who didn’t make the squad were Katie Zelem, Sandy MacIver, Lucy Staniforth and Niamh Charles. All have been on the fringes of the squad over the last year and the decision to leave them out was not hugely surprisingly.
Wiegman faced the press immediately after the announcement. Here is what she had to say on numerous points:
On the decision to leave Steph Houghton out of the squad:
“That was a hard decision. But I think she’s just not ready to compete. I think we set a plan in place with her and for her; we did everything and she did everything that she could do. We supported her as well as possible. She came into training; she’s in a very good place. But just not ready to compete, I think. It’s just a matter of time and we don’t have that time.”
On Chloe Kelly’s return to fitness and form
“She came in for the first time so we’ve started working with her. She built up at the club and she did well. Now in the training sessions, she’s growing and getting used to the style of play, which is not really a lot different than it is at Manchester City. She’s excited. We’re excited. We have three friendly games, and hopefully we can see a little more.”
On Jill Scott making the cut:
“She kept on training. When some players had some time off, she kept on training and rehab and she’s in a good place now. It was some knee trouble…She’s training all the time. And she’s ready to compete.”
On the balance in her Lionesses team:
“I think the balance is good. You need some experienced players that can share, but it’s also about quality. I think we picked a team with lots of quality, with experience but also some unexperienced players. But also if we need to change things during the game, I think we have opportunities to do so. I do think we’re in a good place.”
On her progress with England so far:
“So far, we were able to do the things we wanted to do. So what we’re trying to do with the technical stuff is to develop our style of play and our in possession, out of possession transition moments. What we wanted to do, we did so far. Now we have a couple of camps to go and some games to go. With the evaluation of the games, we’ll continue [the work]. But we also have some things that we really want to do before we start on the 6th of July.”
On the pressure of a home Euros:
“Yes, there’s pressure. First of all, we have a plan in place on the pitch and off the pitch. We’re just trying to manage all the expectations and first of all, we have to expectations from ourselves. We just want to play the best game we can and that’s what we’re working on every day. Our plan needs to be really clear. We need to have trust in [it] and stick with [it] whatever occurs on the road. That’s what we try to focus on. The other thing is that we know what our plan is, we share that with the team all the time, we get feedback from the team. We make sure we’re on the same page and those are the conversations we have. And yes, we’ll probably have lots of opinions, which is ok because the more people watch and the more opinions we have, the better it is for the development of the game. But we need to value our own opinions because we know what plan we have in place.”