England’s six-goal World Cup striker Ellen White has said the team are fully behind Phil Neville and are “proud” to have him as their manager despite their poor run of form since the summer tournament.
“We know what we want to achieve, we know what we need to do to achieve that,” White said in the buildup to England’s game against Germany at a sold-out Wembley on Saturday.
“It’s tough. We’re basically trying to get right for [Euro] 2021, so there’s going to be a lot of changes, different things, different systems, different personnel, and there may not be great performances in that. But ultimately it’s all for one goal and that is to be peaking and performing for 2021.”
White has not played for England since the World Cup because of a knee injury. “It’s been challenging watching but I’ve been speaking to a lot of the girls and I understand from the whole group what we want to achieve,” she said.
The 30-year-old, who has 88 caps, credits Neville with developing her game, despite initial scepticism. “Awful, he’s horrible,” she said with a big grin. “No, he’s a really lovely guy. He understands what it’s like to be a professional footballer, he understands what it’s like to play for an international team and I think that’s been great for us.
“The communication has been there and he kind of tweaked bits of my game that I was a little bit resistant to start with, but I think it’s really helped and I think it showed at the World Cup – being in the right place at the right time and that type of thing – so he’s been a great addition to England and we’re proud that he’s our manager.”
Asked what Neville tweaked, she said: “He initially told me to stay in the 18-yard box, which I was quite resistant to because I like to run about a bit and get involved, but essentially staying in the width of the goal is where you’re going to score goals.
“It took a while for me to change my game a little and really understand what he meant by that. Being in the right place at the right time and the timing. At the World Cup I was surrounded by very talented players putting the crosses in, so it’s having the balance of the talented players but also being in the right place at the right time.”
She welcomes the criticism the team have faced since the World Cup. “We want to be recognised, we want that level of attention, we want to be up there, kind of like the men, if you will. But with that comes criticism, so we just need to take it with a pinch of salt and not get too involved and not get too bogged down in it.”
Watching the team struggle from the sofa has been tough. “Sitting at home watching the games has been quite frustrating but I’m really pleased to be back in the fold.”
Now, having returned for Manchester City, White has been switched from a non-playing squad member to being in Neville’s plans, and a Wembley appearance would be emotional.
“It’s an incredible thing to know we’re playing at Wembley and to make it even more special we’re playing against Germany,” she said. “I’m super patriotic in terms of being very English and the rivalry between England and Germany is massive and those games are so exciting.
“It’s a celebration at the same time, to thank the fans for supporting us at the World Cup, and hopefully the progression of women’s football to grow and to get bigger and bigger.
“I’ll probably be crying if I’m walking out, to be honest, because it’s such an amazing occasion. You can’t help but be swept up in that emotion. Even at the World Cup it was emotional before walking out for games. It’s an amazing achievement to be part of a World Cup, to be walking out with people supporting you, and it’s going to be an amazing occasion with lots of family and friends there as well. If you’re not nervous I don’t know how you do it.”