Women's Sport: England manager Phil Neville - "SheBelieves is not an audition for the Olympics"

England Women SheBelieves Cup Squad Announcement

Mention of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo has been banned by England Women's manager Phil Neville, ahead of their defence of the SheBelieves Cup in the United States in March.

Neville also added the competition will not be an audition for places in his Olympic squad.

The 43-year-old will be in charge of Great Britain's team at the games in Tokyo this year, he has the responsibility of a squad made up of players from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. 

"I have stopped all of my staff talking about the Olympics," he said.

"I will also stop my players.

"This is an England camp, we've got another England camp in April and we are focusing on it being only an England camp.

"The work being done for the Olympics is being done outside of these camps. It can't impact on the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland players so it would be unfair for me to go to the SheBelieves and talk about the Olympics."

The SheBelives Cup starts on March 5, when the Lionesses face hosts, the United States - in what is a replay from the semi-finals of last summer's Women's World Cup.

England then faces Japan three days later and finish their defence against Spain on March 11.

Neville has selected a young Lionesses' squad with eight of the 23 players chosen, under the age of 23.

"We are here to play for the Lionesses. When June/July comes we'll start talking about the Olympics. There is a lot of work being done by all of my staff in terms of scouting, preparing, speaking to players on the lists... but this is an England game," Neville added.

"If you start getting side-tracked by other things going on in the background - as we saw with the first six months of the season - you get found out and we can't afford that to happen.

"We can't go to the SheBelieves and start talking about development for the Olympics when there are 10, 15, 20 players that can go to the Olympics who are not even there."  

Going into the competition his side expects more attention to their performance, but this is something they "wanted more than ever".

"I think we see that in a lot of things, the whole game has gone like this [upwards] and everyone is still trying to catch up to that level," said Neville.

"I think sometimes we need to take a reality check to say let's accept maybe we are not where we want to be in every facet. I think the expectation coming back from the World Cup was massive and it probably surprised everybody and that takes education, experience, learning.

"What we have tried to do with the team is put as much protection and education blankets around them to make sure they are able to handle the things we have thrown at them, or people have thrown at them.

"We talk about dealing with pressure, expectation, criticism - this is new to my players."

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