Bev Priestman 'really excited' to return to England and face the Lionesses
Priestman spoke to the media on Thursday

Bev Priestman will take charge of her first set of friendlies as Canada boss this month as her side travel to face Wales and England during April's international window.

During her first tournament as head coach, Canada picked up one win in the SheBelieves Cup - against Argentina - and finished third.

Back in her home nation, she will be looking to build on the platform created in the last three games as she embarks on a long-term mission in charge of the North American side.

Ahead of the upcoming two matches, Priestman spoke to the media.

Facing England again

When Consett-born Priestman steps into the dugout at the Bet365 Stadium to face England in the second game of this camp, it will not be the first time she has managed in a Lionesses game.

The 34-year-old was Phil Neville's understudy during his time at the helm, and she is looking forward to facing her home country.

"I'm actually really excited," she said on Thursday afternoon. "There was obviously a major investment there for sort of two-and-a-half, three years. I know the group very well and, with that, there's a benefit in some ways to myself in knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the group.

"Obviously a new coaching staff and so we don't have the advantage of having like six games to look at them in terms of how they're going to play. They played Northern Ireland who, it was a big scoreline, so you can only take so much from that particular game.

"I know the players but do I know how they're going to play necessarily? Maybe not. But I'm excited. I think it will be a strange feeling but I'm fully invested in Canada now, it's about getting the job done and focusing on that game like it matters.

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"We are about winning and that's my job, that's the players' job and that's the task at hand. Of course, I'm excited, I'm playing in England which is my home country but I'm really proud to represent the group that I have - particularly in the SheBelieves Cup. I think straight away after that US game, I was like "I've absolutely made the right decision", I was really proud to stand with that group.

"I think there's an unbelievable culture in the group that we've got and I'm only excited about what we can go and do not just this year but, going ahead, the next four years. I'm in a really good place and enjoying every minute."

Jessie Fleming

23-year-old attacking midfielder Jessie Fleming already has a wealth of experience under her belt for Canada after making her senior debut at the age of fifteen but has only recently made the shift to senior club football.

She joined Chelsea in the summer and has gained more minutes since the winter break, picking up her first full ninety in the Continental Cup final.

Priestman speaks highly of Fleming, with emphasis on just how hard she has worked to get to the level she is at.

"I think what I've seen from Jessie is, that obviously, someone with Jessie's talent - I think she made her senior debut at the age of 15 - is that she's always punched above her weight and has always been a high performer. [She was] probably first on the teamsheet at youth level and probably through her youth pathway," she said.

"I think whenever you go into a pro environment, maybe she's had to deal with not being the first name on the team sheet, and what I've seen is a real sort of maturity. That sort of adversity in setbacks, she is a hard worker who just keeps working to get better and better every day.

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"I think that's representative of what we're seeing now which is more game time because she's kept knocking on the door and kept working hard and learning and adapting. 

"What I've seen on the pitch for Chelsea and overall with Jessie actually for Canada in the SheBelieves and with Chelsea is that she's challenged to play forward more. 

"And I think you're seeing that for Chelsea, she's in and around some of the best players in the world and I think Canada is only going to see the benefit of that.

"She's gone out of her comfort zone. She's gone to a massive club with some massive players where she arguably could go to a club and get guaranteed gametime but she's challenged herself every day in training to get better. 

"I've seen a shift in Jessie's game and her confidence now that she's getting minutes is only going to help us when she comes back with us to Canada."

What to expect from Wales

Similarly to Canada, Priestman's first opponents are also a side in transition, and one with a former England coach in charge.

Gemma Grainger, who had previously worked in the Lionesses' youth pathways, will take the reigns for the first time when her team faces Canada on 9 April.

It is a match that the Canada boss believes will be a difficult one, with Wales a side who are very strong defensively.

"It's an interesting one," she added. "They've just appointed a new coach who actually was in the England pathway system so I know the coach well. In terms of Wales, when I first got the England job, we had to beat Wales to qualify for the World Cup." 

"They held England to a 0-0 draw so what I know about Wales is that they are a massive nation with a lot of pride and heart. 

"I think defensively, they've been very sound. Recently they've had results like 1-0, like low scorelines. I expect a team that defends for their life very, very well and then they've got players like a Jess Fishlock, Sophie Ingle at Chelsea.

"They've definitely become a much better nation over the past three or four years. I expect a really tough game, I know that from England of that 0-0 draw. 

"So it will be a little bit, not the Argentina [SheBelieves Cup] style, but that sort of game where I do expect they will be a hard team to break down and they've got some quality players who are playing week-in, week-out at WSL level."

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