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Women’s World Cup: England coach not a fan of U.S. hotel scouting

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019, Nice, France - 19 Jun 2019
England coach Phil Neville gestures during a match against Japan at the Women’s World Cup on June 19. Neville isn’t pleased with the U.S. women’s national team sending over two staffers to check out the English team’s hotel.
(Sebastien Nogier / EPA)

Prudent planning or cheeky subterfuge?

Depends on who you ask.

The U.S. team on Sunday sent two staffers to check out the hotel where England’s team is staying in Lyon, with the idea of moving the Americans there if they win the Women’s World Cup semifinal matchup on Tuesday and advance to next Sunday’s final.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis said the visit was “planning, preparation for our staff.” But England coach Phil Neville thought it improper of the Americans to tread on his turf, even though his team was training at the time.

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“It’s not something that we’d do, send somebody around to another team’s hotel,” he said. “But it’s their problem. I’m sure that Jill probably wasn’t too happy with that arrangement. I wouldn’t have been if that was my team ops person going ’round.”

He also said the Americans would gain no advantage on the game from the visit.

“It has no bearings on the game,” he said. “I actually found it quite funny. I just thought, ‘What are they doing?’ It’s not etiquette, really, is it? I just think that that’s not something that I would allow from our organization.”

Ellis said the two U.S. representatives weren’t being rude and were merely ensuring that the hotel would be adequate to accommodate the U.S. team.

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“In terms of arrogance, that stuff has nothing to do with us,” she said. “That’s planning, preparation for our staff. I think that’s pretty normal.”

Neville has some cheekiness in his own personality. During a news conference after his team’s 3-0 quarterfinal victory over Norway, he said he waved after each goal to the scouts from France and the U.S. who were sitting behind England’s bench.

Sign him up for Rapinoe fan club

Megan Rapinoe, who scored all four U.S. goals in the elimination stages of this Women’s World Cup, has taken stands on several controversial political issues and even taken a knee during the national anthem in support of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s campaign to call attention to racial inequality and police brutality. And that has won her many critics.

But Neville isn’t one of them.

“I admire people that have personality and character. I admire people that stand up for what you believe in and that have strong values,” he said Sunday. “So yes, I admire Megan Rapinoe for standing up for what she believes in in terms of a lot of things. The fight for equality. The fight for diversity.

“Me personally, I would never get involved in any political issues. I’m a football manager. I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t like it when politicians get involved in football. So I think it’s sometimes ‘stay in your lane.’ But if you’ve got views, if you’ve got values and you want to air them, you’ve a platform to air them. I admire people that will stick their head above the parapet.”

Glory, glory Man United

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Ellis, who was born in England, said she’s been a Manchester United fan since she was 7. That means she spent a good part of her life cheering for Neville, who played 11 seasons for the Red Devils.

But she also admired Neville’s former coach Alex Ferguson, who won 38 trophies at Man United, including 13 Premier League crowns and a pair of Champions League titles.

Ellis bumped into Ferguson in a hallway at an awards ceremony once and found him “super gracious. Charming, nice,” and still counts him as one of the inspirations in her coaching life.

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“I’ve had a lot of different influences in my life,” said Ellis, whose second head coaching job was at UCLA. “My father’s a coach, he was my earliest influence in terms of just an approach and a mindset to the game. I had the privilege when I worked at UCLA to sit down with John Wooden and talk to him and pick his brain. So I think I’m just kind of a sum of all the parts.

“I’m authentic in who I am. But I definitely think you grow and learn from watching and speaking to other people.”


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