- Bev Priestman is Phil Neville’s No2 with England
- Former Canada coach focuses more on tactics, preparation and opposition analysis
- THE LATEST: #NORENG Live Blog updating now
Phil Neville is often seen swapping notes with a studious sidekick on the touchline, eagerly consulting her for tactical observations. The trusted adviser is his assistant, Bev Priestman.
The devil is in the detail for Priestman, who allows Neville to concentrate on player management and getting the very best out of his squad. Her focus is on the tactical nitty-gritty of the matches and opposition teams, and she has been integral in formulating the plans for taking on Norway in Thursday’s quarter final.
“Our approach so far has been good in terms of resting, recovery and analysing opposition, and my role has a big influence on that,” said the experienced Priestman who has previously worked with both New Zealand and Canada. “So I think tournament experience is probably what I’ve brought to this group.
“Compared to the game we just had against Cameroon, you’re going to have a completely different game of football with Norway,” she said. “They’re very structured, they know what they’re good at, they are organised and can counter-attack, so I think it’s a style we are used to.
“They’re more predictable than what you’d get from an African or even a South American team, so we have to be organised and prepared to deal with their best players,” Priestman added. “[Caroline Graham] Hansen should be a key player for them, so we have to be patient. We’re going to have to be good with the ball and hard to break down and I think the way that we play, that’s one of our x factors.”
If the energetic Neville is the motivating influence who loves the cut and thrust of management, Priestman is the quieter, more thoughtful coach whose thorough approach helps to inform the manager’s decision-making. Many of these exchanges take place early in the morning when the pair head out for a run at 6am.
“Sometimes you think, ‘Should I sleep now or should I exercise?’ but it’s a big part of the culture here. The best head coaches in the world create a culture and bring people in who suit them. Phil is amazing at delegating and getting the best out of the people around him.”
Some of the tactical insight even comes from the team’s more experienced players.
“Karen Carney will analyse clips and as a coaching staff we engage players in what they have seen, what they’ve noticed on the pitch,” Priestman said.
“Karen Bardsley and Jill Scott enjoy that side of things too. What we’ve done is put the responsibility on the players in how we play. I think we are engaging the coaches of the future. We have a really good group and one in which all players could be great coaches in years to come.”
Priestman worked for many years with John Herdman, whom she credits with shaping her into the perfect deputy for Neville.
“I followed John in all his roles,” she said. “I took over his job as New Zealand’s technical director and then he brought me out to Canada, so it’s been a really close relationship.
“I would say a lot of my attributes have been developed through what I learned from him, while I’ve had a very different perspective working with Phil. He’s a brilliant boss and a great head coach so I’ve really enjoyed the move to England.”
Fans interested in attending the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 can still purchase tickets for the tournament via www.fifa.com/tickets, as well as via ticket booths located at stadia for remaining matches still available to the general public.