Northern Ireland head coach Kenny Shiels believes that the match conditioning of England’s players will be a big advantage to the Lionesses when he takes his side to St George’s Park next week.
New England coach Hege Riise has named a squad which has very much been assembled based on players playing their football week in, week out in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League while the vast majority of the Northern Ireland squad have not played competitively for some time due to the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Northern Ireland’s head coach Shiels spoke with FAWSL Full-Time this afternoon and explained that even some of his English-based players are short on match practice.
“Simone (Magill) has been overcoming injuries and getting back in and she hasn’t had a run of games” said Shiels.
“Young Chloe (McCarron) at Birmingham got 70 minutes last week but she is not getting full games neither.
“We can’t expect miracles from players who are not getting game conditioning.
“The advantage that England have over us more than anything else is that they will have match conditioning and their players are playing every week in a very, very competitive league.”
Out of the 23 players selected for international duty by Shiels, 14 of those players are contracted to clubs in Northern Ireland where football has been suspended. The Northern Ireland boss went on to explain the frustrating situation which the majority of his squad find themselves in.
He added “Our girls are just training and playing little bounce matches with each other.
“We can’t get them games because we are shut down over here.
“It is ironic how things have gone because the Northern Ireland executive have supported us and given us elite status but we have no elite opponents to play against because we don’t have anything else elite in our country.
“The league is shut down so we can’t get games.”
Northern Ireland take on England for the first time in 13 years when they travel to St George’s Park on Tuesday 23 February for an international friendly fixture.