Phil Neville, the England women’s manager, has backed homegrown players in the Women’s Super League to thrive this season, given the wealth of foreign talent that has flooded the top flight.
The WSL attracted high-profile signings ahead of resuming after a 195-day absence last weekend and more could be on the way before the transfer window closes on Thursday, amid reports that Manchester United are poised to sign United States strikers Tobin Heath and Christen Press.
The Football Association will introduce a rule next season that clubs must name eight homegrown players from a maximum squad of 25.
“I always say people are worried about the English-qualified players not getting enough action because of the influx of world-class players, but ultimately world-class players will make the English player better and the English player has to be better to get in their teams,” Neville said. “I think this year will be the best WSL that we’ve seen, probably ever since it was started, in terms of competition, quality and depth.”
West Ham’s fixture against Arsenal on Saturday has been selected as one of the pilot events to test the return of spectators to elite sports fixtures.
“Because our crowds are slightly smaller, I think we could probably get supporters back into stadiums quicker than the men can in the bigger stadiums,” Neville said. “Hopefully we’ll start to see the reintegration of supporters, because if you speak to managers and players, that’s what makes football. That atmosphere takes you on that extra mile.”
England, who have not played since the SheBelieves Cup in March, face Germany in a friendly on Oct 27 in their first match since Neville announced he would be stepping down as head coach next summer and replaced by Dutchwoman Sarina Wiegman. Just four days separate that fixture in Wiesbaden before the rescheduled Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley.
“If I was a professional footballer and I was thinking about wanting to play at the top level, playing Germany on the Tuesday and playing in an FA Cup final on the Saturday is what I would dream of doing,” Neville said.
“We’ve just had six months without football and now we’re talking about resting players for some of the biggest games. I think that’s the reality of what we’ve witnessed over the past few months. We took the biggest games against the best opposition in the biggest stadiums for granted. Now the opportunities will be there, I want my players to grab them.”
Phil Neville was speaking on behalf of TalkTalk, which has extended its partnership with Salford City FC to include the Salford City Lionesses