Interim head coach Hege Riise wants to get England believing again after naming her first Lionesses squad since taking the reins.
Riise, who took over from former boss Phil Neville on a temporary basis in January ahead of Sarina Wiegman’s arrival in the summer, named a 20-player squad ahead of a training camp and friendly with Northern Ireland later this month.
Four uncapped players in the form of Birmingham goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, Everton keeper Sandy MacIver, Arsenal defender Lotte Wubben-Moy and Manchester United forward Ella Toone have all been included alongside an experienced core – with Jill Scott set to earn a landmark 150th international cap.
England have not played in almost a year due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic but Riise is confident she can get her players back fit and firing again with the Tokyo Olympics, European Championships and 2023 Women’s World Cup on the horizon.
“The players coming in are hopefully relaxed, eager to show they want to be a part of the squad and I believe the quality in this squad is amazing,” Riise said.
“I am looking forward to leading my first international cam with England. I have watched a lot of England and club matches and believe this is a group of players who are capable of winning at a major tournament.
“My work from now until Sarina Wiegman’s arrival is to develop their ability, playing style and physical conditioning to contribute to future success – this summer and beyond.
Back together! 💪
Hege Riise has named a 20-player squad for our upcoming February international camp.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) February 9, 2021
“I want to make small changes. It’s not the big jump that has been going on for a long time. I look at the game as an attacking, in-possession game.
“I just want to add a few things to our play so we can score goals and create chances, and then look at some of the out of possession work.
“Hopefully I can bring more confidence in the style that they have been playing. To get the belief in what we are doing will be the key message.”
Riise is yet to arrive in England, travel restrictions meaning her involvement with the team has so far been virtual, but she has already made a big call in leaving out Arsenal forward Beth Mead – citing a lack of club game time and poor form.
In addition, Covid-19 restrictions mean that Lyon forward Nikita Parris misses out.
Riise has also included three inexperienced goalkeepers, with a combined five caps, but believes Ellie Roebuck, Hampton and MacIver will all benefit from the experience.
“The player report [on Beth Mead]hasn’t been that great,” she added. “For me to narrow the squad, it leaves her out. If she performs every weekend then we will see.
“Lyon didn’t want to release her [Nikita Parris] so that’s the reason. She would of course be in the squad.
“Of course they [the goalkeepers]don’t have the experience. But I think getting a young group coming in together will put less pressure on them and help them grow into the role.”
A decision on who will lead Team GB at the Olympics will be made after the February international period with Riise, who was a part of the USA setup which won gold in London in 2012, firmly in the picture.
For now, her focus is on England and the Northern Ireland contest and she admits both herself and the team cannot wait to get back onto the pitch.
Riise added: “It is great for the players to have an official fixture to look forward to and is an opportunity to implement everything they have worked on from previous training camps.”