sport news Phil Neville says England MUST capitalise on Women's World Cup boom

It was around the dining table on Mothering Sunday that it dawned on Phil Neville how all-consuming a World Cup year is for the England manager.

To mark the special day, Neville had made a reservation at a restaurant in Manchester to treat his wife Julie, mum Jill, and mother-in-law Helen and wanted to spend time with them before a frantic 10 days in which his team will play Canada and Spain.

Before the starters were served, though, the guests realised their host was not going to be much company.

England Women boss Phil Neville takes his team to the 2019 World Cup in France this summer

England Women boss Phil Neville takes his team to the 2019 World Cup in France this summer

'We went out at 11.30am but Julie knew Arsenal were playing Birmingham at 12.30pm,' Neville explains with a wry smile. 'So there I am, watching it on my phone at the table. We ended up having to go home! I headed to St George's later that afternoon after the FA sent a car for me.

ENGLAND WOMEN: THE KEY DATES 

FRIENDLIES

Friday: v Canada (Man City Academy Stadium, 7.15pm). TV: LIVE on BBC4.

Tuesday: v Spain (Swindon, 7pm). TV: LIVE on BBC2.

May 25: v Denmark (Walsall, 1pm).

June 1: v New Zealand (Brighton, 1pm).

WOMEN’S WORLD CUP

Group D

June 9: v Scotland (Nice, 5pm)

June 14: v Argentina (Le Havre, 8pm)

June 19: v Japan (Nice, 8pm).

June 22-25: Round of 16

June 27-29: Quarter-finals

July 2-3: Semi-finals

July 6: Third place play-off

July 7: Final (Lyon, 4pm) 

'On the way down, I had Man City v Liverpool and Chelsea v West Ham on Facebook. I got here and my phone rings. It was Julie. She was laughing and said: "You should have just gone at 11.30am! You're no good to anyone!" My plan after this camp is to shut down. But I won't be able to.'

With good reason. There are 65 days until England's women begin their campaign to conquer the world against Scotland in Nice and Neville finds himself constantly thinking of ways to give his team an edge. This, after all, is a World Cup into which England can go deep.

That brings pressure and it brings scrutiny. Neville, 42, knows critics will judge him on what they see in France and not pay any attention to the work he has done in the 15 months since he was appointed.

His presence on the touchline has increased the profile of this team but it has also brought results, with England winning the SheBelieves Cup, the annual tournament staged in America, for the first time in February. He has reduced the age of the squad and improved the style of play.

Neville, 42, spoke with Sportsmail's Dominic King at St George's Park earlier this week

Neville, 42, spoke with Sportsmail's Dominic King at St George's Park earlier this week

'From where I was 12 months ago to now, the women's game is night and day,' says Neville, who rates the 3-0 victory over Wales in Newport that secured World Cup qualification last August as his personal highlight so far.

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'There is a change in the respect I have got and how people perceive me. I don't think it will be long before people start jumping across (from the men's game) because of the facilities, the opportunity, the money. I go to places now and people are genuinely interested in what we are doing.

'People see the quality. We have to capitalise on this boom before, during and after the World Cup. If we don't it will be an absolute disgrace. We can take women's football up to a level nobody ever dreamed — it's that big a movement. I took the job because I thought it could be like this.'

There is no question how much Neville has

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