Midfielder Jill Scott looks set to receive her 150th international cap in the upcoming Lionesses game against Northern Ireland.
The 34-year-old recently returned to her former club Everton on a loan deal from Manchester City and the player is now benefitting from an increase in game time.
Scott was named in coach Hege Riise’s first England squad and she looks destined to receive her landmark cap in the friendly against Northern Ireland on 23 February.
The midfielder has been waiting to win her 150th cap for over a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Scott’s last appearance for England was in the 2020 SheBelieves Cup against Spain, where a 1-0 loss saw the Lionesses’ unsuccessful tournament come to an end.
When speaking in an official England press conference in which FAWSL Full-Time were present, temporary coach Riise said that she is confident that Scott will play against Northern Ireland.
“That is a major achievement” said Riise when discussing the prospect of Scott reaching 150 caps.
“Of course, if everything goes ahead as planned, she will get the cap against Northern Ireland.”
Should she play, it will undoubtedly be a proud moment for Scott, who is the second-highest capped player behind Fara Williams.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Lionesses haven’t played a game since last March. Riise, who stepped up as head coach after Phil Neville’s departure, is confident that the gap between international games will not affect her team’s fitness.
“They haven’t played in the national team games but thankfully, the league has been running” she said.
“There have been quality games every weekend. I feel like the players are ready to come in and are excited to be part of the England team.”
Although the players have been playing regularly in the league, Riise says the team are yet to all meet in person. The Norwegian coach says she spoke to key figures in a leaders meeting on Microsoft Teams.
The Lionesses friendly later this month will be Riise’s first game in charge of the national team, with many eager to see what The Best FIFA Women’s Coach nominee can bring to the side. Riise has raised some eyebrows by announcing a smaller squad. The Lionesses squad for the February camp includes just 20 players, this is considerably lower than the 29-player squad announced by former boss Neville last November. Riise mentioned that she discussed this during the leaders meeting and explained why some big players were missing.
“We looked at a long list of players but we wanted to narrow it down to get a strong competitive squad” she said. “We want it to be competitive going into the Olympics.
“Nikita Parris is in Lyon and the situation with COVID and the quarantining when you go back, Lyon didn’t want to release her.
“For Beth Mead, the player report hasn’t been that great and for me now to narrow the squad, that takes her out. Like I said, if she performs every weekend then we will see.”
The aim seems to be having a competitive squad with every player knowing that they have the chance to impress before the Olympic Games this summer. With former England boss Neville joining former Manchester United teammate David Beckham’s Inter Miami, the Team GB head coach role remains vacant. There is some speculation that Riise could be awarded the role. It is still unclear whether this summer’s Games will go ahead due to the pandemic but the new Lionesses coach seems confident that the situation regarding the Team GB head coach will be resolved.
“The discussion we had is about whether it’s as head coach or in the team (backroom staff).
“I am comfortable that we will settle this after February camp and have a good discussion about that going forward.”
Riise’s England face Northern Ireland in a behind-closed-doors international friendly fixture at St George’s Park on 23 February. The game will be broadcast live on the BBC iPlayer and on the BBC Red Button.
Article author: Connor Williams