Beth Mead and Fran Kirby are close to a England return, says Lionesses manager Sarina Wiegman – but both players need more game time in order to be fully ready after their respective injuries.
Wiegman has named a 24-player squad for the inaugural Women’s Nations League later this month, with only Bethany England and Keira Walsh missing from the World Cup squad and Lucy Staniforth, Maya Le Tissier and Jess Park coming into the group.
But there is still no place for Mead and Kirby, who have since returned to club action for Arsenal and Chelsea respectively after missing the World Cup with long-term knee injuries.
Kirby has featured for Chelsea in pre-season friendly action, while Mead was named on the bench for Arsenal’s Champions League qualifying matches, but did not make it on as a substitute.
“Arsenal have played in the Champions League and Beth was in the squad. She has been out of a long time and she needs games,” Wiegman told a press conference.
“Fran is really close, she played friendlies already. But it’s a little too early to bring her in. We are looking forward to seeing them play.”
‘Time to move on from Rubiales incident’
Wiegman was speaking for the first time since Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales said he is planning to resign after he kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the Women’s World Cup celebrations last month. Rubiales said she had consented to the kiss but Hermoso has denied that.
Rubiales announced on Sunday that he was resigning from his post, from which he had already been provisionally suspended by FIFA. Meanwhile, he has also been ordered to testify to a Spanish judge after Spanish state prosecutors formally accused Rubiales of alleged sexual assault and an act of coercion last week.
Wiegman has since claimed it is time to move on from the incident and celebrate Spain’s players for winning the World Cup. The England manager also said one learning point from this incident is the need to listen to players.
“What I want to talk about now is we have to celebrate football and we should celebrate the Spanish players who won the World Cup. We haven’t been talking about that at all.
“Of course, we have all seen and followed the news that it is still going on and I would have to leave that now to the people working on that.
“Players need to be listened to and we need to move on. The women’s game has improved so much but there is still a long way to go.
“Not only in Spain, but everywhere, there are many players and top athletes who have a lot of challenges and we should all work together and stay connected and try to make the world better for those players.”
Wiegman on calendar concerns and FA bonus row
One of those issues is the women’s football calendar, with Wiegman complaining that her England players have not had enough rest following their World Cup excursions.
With players such as Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy already playing competitive fixtures after featuring in Wiegman’s squad at the World Cup, the Lionesses boss revealed some England players have had less than a week’s break before clubs called them back for pre-season.
“I am very worried. I was worried before the World Cup. We knew this was a very short turnaround. It’s a bigger thing.
“We are talking about the calendar and we really have to get connected with FIFA, UEFA and the federations. We have to make that better.
“The game is growing, which is really good. We see the improvement of the game but also the commercial things coming into the game, which is good, but it has to grow together and players need some rest too.
“Next week they come in and some players only had six days off, which after such a high-level, and high-pressure competition, it’s not good for them.
“And that has been going on for a long time because we have major tournaments in the summer all the time. The urgency to solve it and make it better is really, really high.”
Wiegman did, however, claim she is confident that the Lionesses and the FA will come to a resolution over their World Cup bonuses row quickly.
The rift dominated the build up to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. On the eve of the team flying out for the tournament, a row broke out, with the players “disappointed” with the bonuses they were due to be paid by the FA as they progressed through the competition.
However, in a statement the players announced they were putting aside their differences for the duration of the tournament.
Sky Sports News has been told the frustration within the squad remains as they prepare to meet up again. There is no suggestion the players will go on strike, or they will look to reduce their media and commercial duties while on FA duty.
“The players and FA said they didn’t have an agreement before the tournament, so they agreed to disagree and then start the conversations again after the World Cup,” Wiegman said. “There has been such a short turnaround but those conversations will start again. I’m confident we will have a good outcome.
“I’m very hopeful and I’m very positive. The environment and the way they have been talking to each other has been good. They just need a little more time and we need to take the time to get some good solutions. The people involved in the FA and the players are in good communication.”
England squad for Women’s Nations League in full
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Man Utd), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea), Ellie Roebuck (Man City).
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Man City), Maya Le Tissier (Man Utd), Esme Morgan (Man City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal).
Midfielders: Laura Coombs (Man City), Jordan Nobbs (Aston Villa), Jess Park (Man City), Lucy Staniforth (Aston Villa), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Man Utd), Katie Zelem (Man Utd).
Forwards: Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Man City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Chloe Kelly (Man City), Alessia Russo (Arsenal), Katie Robinson (Brighton).