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Rachel Corsie column: Phil Neville has helped to break down barriers between men’s and women’s football – Evening Express

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Three of the four home nations have seen their permanent head coach position fall vacant in the last few weeks.

Shelley Kerr stepped down from the Scotland job on Christmas Eve, before the news broke that Phil Neville would no longer be leading the Lionesses and the Welsh FA would also see manager Jayne Ludlow say her goodbyes on the same day.

The Neville move was inevitable and many were braced for it, as his role was up in summer anyway, but his departure was earlier than expected.

Reports of him accepting the Inter Miami vacant head coaching role were confirmed this week, reuniting him with his long-standing best friend David Beckham, who owns the MLS club and has higher expectations than what has been delivered on the pitch since their inaugural season.

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Many reports have been rather scathing of Neville’s performance with the Lionesses, attacking the poor results of late that compound the supposed “failure” of not doing better at the World Cup. That seems harsh to me, after all they were knocked out in the semi-final by the ultimate champions, USA.

Perhaps some expectations were set a little too high on that one.

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Phil Neville.

While some will be critical over the football England played under Neville, others may try to dissect his reasons to transition back into the men’s game. Personally, I think that can be seen as a positive move for the women’s game.

Previously, a side-step into the women’s professional ranks and then a return into a men’s elite setting would have virtually been unheard of. In light of this move, that now could start to become a barrier of the past.

Neville was a high-profile appointment for England and undoubtedly that has brought its benefits, whether some agree with the FA’s initial hire or not. He will continue to carry that connection, and hopefully it can have a positive impression on the women’s game simply by association.

The greatest generator of revenue within sport typically comes through commercial avenues and therefore growth in publicity will always have the possibility to bring benefit, even if some don’t like the progress made on the pitch. It cannot be denied he has enhanced the media spotlight on the game during his tenure.

England had already appointed his replacement, although Sarina Weigman is not due to take over until September after her duties with Netherlands at the Olympics conclude. In the interim, Norwegian manager Hege Riise will step in, alongside Canadian Rhian Wilkinson as assistant.

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Hege Riise.

For Scotland and Wales, their new managers are yet to be confirmed.

Ludlow’s announcement came as a shock, especially after she had made significant progress with Wales over her four-year term.

With an international window upcoming in February, there will be opportunities for all home nations to find some stability and to try to start the year on a positive footing.

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