Wiegman discusses first week and squad announcement
Sarina Wiegman has spoken of her excitement at working with the Lionesses players after naming an England women’s senior squad with a real blend of experience and youth.
Wiegman officially took charge of the England women’s senior team on September 1 and after several days of intense working with staff at St. George’s Park, has named her first Lionesses squad ahead of two 2023 World Cup qualifying matches later month.
The 51-year-old took time out of her busy schedule on Tuesday afternoon to discuss her first week on the job and her maiden squad, with the opening game coming on Friday 17 September when England welcome North Macedonia to Southampton’s St. Mary’s Stadium.
It is the first time England women’s senior team will play in front of home fans since November 2019 and tickets are available for just £15 for adults and £2.50 for children.
Wiegman said: “I have had a really nice welcome and we have had a really good start at St. George’s with the staff. It has been good, nice and very intense too because of lots of changes.
“We have had to bring in new members of staff and I had to get to know the staff and the staff need to get used to us.
“But we had a good two days and then we started watching games, and the scouting team did a really good job to get us informed very quickly, on top of what we already know about the players.
“We have started working with the technical staff and today we will announce the squad, so it is really exciting.”
When asked if anything had taken her by surprise or was different to what she expected, Wiegman replied: “The thing which has really overwhelmed me is St. George’s Park.
“What I was used to in the Netherlands is really nice and very good too but this is so big. There are more fields, bigger buildings, the pitches are incredible, there are so many pitches and it is such a big location, with a beautiful landscape. It is really nice here.
“Lots of things are comparable but in some details it is different and you just know it is all a bit bigger. The women’s game, the set-up, the competition is bigger and it is more commercial with things like the TV rights.
“These are things which I knew about but now I am in the environment. It is really nice.”
Weigman has named 25 players in her squad for the matches with North Macedonia in Southampton and then the trip to Luxembourg four days later on Tuesday 21 September.
The squad, who will meet up following another weekend of exciting action in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League this weekend, has an interesting blend of household names and younger players looking to make their mark on the international scene.
— Beth Mead (@bmeado9) September 7, 2021
The likes of Steph Houghton, Nikita Parris, Jill Scott and fit-again Ellen White will be joined by talented youngsters such as Niamh Charles, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Lauren Hemp, Ebony Salmon and Ella Toone, to name a few.
There are also places for the uncapped duo of Manchester City defender Esme Morgan and Manchester United captain Katie Zelem, who were both included in senior training camps over the last year but have yet to make their debuts.
There are also recalls for Chelsea defender Jess Carter and United goalkeeper Mary Earps, after a number of years since their last caps.
Wiegman said: “This squad has experienced players and also some really talented youngsters. I am really excited to be working with them and to see how they work together – so at the same time as competing with each other, being a team when we play the games.
“I have seen the players play but I haven’t been working with them yet so I am really excited to start and be in the same environment as them and start coaching them and start talking with them.
“I am really looking forward to it.”
With such a natural balance of youth and experience in her first squad, it posed the question as to whether that was part of her strategy when picking the 25 players.
However, Wiegman explained: “What you do when you pick a squad, you look at talent first. You look at the quality of the players.
“Then you also look at their playing minutes, which at the moment is very hard because a lot of players went to the Olympics and therefore started later, some had Champions League and some didn’t, so we haven’t seen very much from them [time wise] yet.
“That is why the scouting and these kinds of systems are really important.
“Because they haven’t played official games as much recently, you also take the experience from earlier and then bring in the talented players, which scouting has helped with too. We knew the players too but we haven’t seen them as much [recently].
“So you have talent, you have playing minutes, then you have the talented and experienced players who have many caps which are bringing something to the team, and then you are thinking ‘ok who are the competitors in the positions and who do we think should be coming into the squad?’
“So you have some criteria which we use to make the squad of 25-players, because we also took some more players because we are still in a Covid situation and we are going in a bubble, so if someone did have to go out of the bubble, then it is harder to then have to bring someone into the bubble. So we expanded the squad to 25.”
— Alex Greenwood (@AlexGreenwood) September 7, 2021
One position which Wiegman does have a clear strategy for when it comes to squad building is goalkeeper.
With the likes of Karen Bardsley and Ellie Roebuck out injured, there is a place for Chelsea’s 34-year-old goalkeeper Carly Telford, who will be joined by Earps and Everton’s Sandy MacIver.
Wiegman said: “With the goalkeepers it is always really hard because it is a case of ‘do you need the experience now or do you want to bring in the talented [younger] players?
“You want to have a balance in that because the goalkeeper position is always different to other positions I think.
“So I have brought in Carly for her experience. She hasn’t played [in the Barclays FA WSL] but she was at the Olympics and I really wanted her experience.
“Mary Earps has done really well at Manchester United, so that is why we brought her in, and we have also brought in Sandy MacIver from Everton and there are also other goalkeepers who we are keeping an eye on.”
But whilst experience in the goalkeeper position is key for Wiegman, the former Netherlands boss was keen to point out that the younger and uncapped players will have the chance to impress their new head coach during training at St. George’s Park in the coming weeks.
She explained: “I want to see the players who maybe don’t have lots of experience with the national team yet but we look at talent, we look at playing minutes at this moment – it’s different with goalkeepers because I want an experienced goalkeeper like Carly Telford who I want in the squad at the moment – but I want to bring those players in and see how they compete with the players who have more experience at international level and how it relates.
“If they are the best in the team then those players will start.”
Whilst the likes of Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh join those sidelined through injury, striker Ellen White has recovered in time to make the squad.
“I am happy,” Wiegman said of White’s inclusion. “She has so much experience and she has done a lot for Man City and the England squad. I’m delighted that I can bring her in and that she is fit.
“There has been contact with the club and she can play. It is good that they have the game with Real Madrid tomorrow too so she can get some more minutes.”
So with Wiegman in position and the squad now named, all roads lead to Southampton in 16 days time.
It will be the first time the England women’s senior team have played in front of home supporters on these shores since facing Germany at Wembley Stadium connected by EE in November 2019.
And you can book your place for as little as £15 for adults, £5 for concessions and £2.50 for children.
Wiegman said: “I am really excited and hopefully we can have lots of fans on the stands.
“Having fans in the ground brings so much energy. It is nice to get connected with the fans too.
“We will have had the connection with The FA, then the staff, the players and then get connected with the fans.
“For the players, they have not had the chance to play in front of fans for such a long time – England were so unlucky that most of the games got cancelled last year – so it is so nice to be playing again, on home soil, in front of fans, so we can all get connected again. It is so exciting.”