Was the decision for Phil Neville to leave the England national team justified?
Neville will now miss the next Euros, which will be moved to 2022 | Photo courtesy of The FA

296 days since England Women were knocked out of the 2019 Women's World Cup, it has been announced that manager Phil Neville will leave the role in July 2021.

However, the question is since the former Manchester United defender was appointed as manager of the Women's national team in January 2018, has he done enough to have his contract renewed, which would see him take charge in the Women's European Championships that has moved back a year to 2022 due to the COVID- 19 pandemic.

An impressive year and a half for Neville

The first competition that the now 43 year old took charge of for England was the 2018 SheBelieves Cup; a tournament in which England finished second place in, with the winners United States beating them 1-0 in the final game; an encounter that if England had won, would have seen them win the competition.

Although it was seen as a success at the time, because this was the highest that the England Women's team had finished in this tournament after the Lionesses earned four points in three games; the same amount as France but England had a better goal difference than Les Bleus

After that, Neville ensured his side finished top of the UEFA Group One  of the 2019 World Cup Qualification with 22 points following four wins out of five games; including a 3-0 victory over rivals Wales and a 6-0 thrashing away to Kazakhstan.

Then in March 2019, he won his only trophy as England Women's manager when his team lifted the 2019 SheBelieves club for the first time in their history. 

The Lionesses went unbeaten in the three games that they played in the tournament; achieving wins over Brazil and Japan, and earning a point against the eventual runners up in the competition and the host country USA.

However, undoubtedly Neville's biggest success came in the 2019 Women's FIFA World Cup that took place in France, when his team managed to reach the semi-final stage of the competition after earning maximum points from the group stages, and then being on the right side of 3-0 victories in the Round of 16 and the Quarter Final stage.

Unfortunately for England, they were eliminated in the semi- finals by the holders and eventual winners of the tournament, USA as they beat the Lionesses 2-1.

Although, captain Steph Houghton did have a huge opportunity to take the encounter to extra time, but her 84th minute penalty was saved by Alyssa Naeher and the United States were able to see the game through.

Despite this, England's overall performance in the tournament received positive responses and was viewed as a good block for Neville to build on as they prepare for both the European Championship and World Cup that are coming up in the next few years.

Bad run of form leading to departure

However when people thought that due to the success of this World Cup campaign, that it would bring improvement further down the line, in the nine games that they have played prior to this tournament, this certainly has proved to have not been the case.

In fact, since the Lionesses beat Norway 3-0 in the Quarter-Final stages of the World Cup, they have suffered seven losses in 11 games; the worst run of form for this side since 2003.

Therefore, this must be considered to be a huge contributor and potentially the primary reason as to why Neville's contract will not be renewed when it runs out next summer.

Another reason must be viewed to be due to the failure of not being able to retain the SheBelieves Cup last month, as England finished in third place after recording only one win which came against Japan, and two losses which came against the champions USA, and Spain, with the latter turning out to be Neville's final game in charge.

Furthermore, the fact that the England Women's team have took a step backwards since the 2019 World Cup could prove to be costly in the coming years, as other nations in which the Lionesses are trying to compete with when it comes to major tournaments have continued to improve.

For instance, the USA, who is the No.1 ranked women's team in the world have not lost a match since January 2019 and Germany, who are the second highest ranked women's team in the world, have not suffered a defeat since the world cup; winning seven on the bounce prior to that tournament.

Arguably the decision to move the Women's European Championships to 2022 is also a factor of Neville leaving the national team, because while the side are currently in this rut, it gives the FA enough time to appoint a figure who can try to get the team back into similar form that they were in at the start of Neville's reign.

Was the decision the right one?

It is clear that during his tenure with the national team which has lasted a little over two years, Neville has progressed and improved the team in terms of leading them to their first SheBelieves title in their history, and to their third consecutive semi-final in major tournaments.

However, the recent dip in the side's form and their poor performance at this year's SheBelieves Cup is a clear indication that in the current state of things under Neville, there is the possibility that the women's national team may not achieve their target of challenging for the Euro 2022 crown.

Therefore, the FA evidently felt that a switch up of managers is necessary if they want to end England Women's poor run of form, and if they want to give the Lionesses a good chance over the next couple of years, of winning their first-ever major tournament.