Women's Football: Caretaker England manager Brent Hills aiming to prove that he is the man for all seasons

 

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The Independent Online

Played two, won two, scored 14 goals, conceded none. The start of Brent Hills' reign as caretaker manager of the England womens' team could not have gone much better.

Tonight the man who was Hope Powell's assistant for many years hopes to continue emerging from her shadow when England play their third World Cup 2015 qualifier against Wales at Millwall. Hills has a fourth tie to negotiate, in Turkey on Thursday, before England's campaign goes in to hibernation and the Football Association finally decide who should take the reins on a permanent basis.

"We've made a solid start but most of the credit goes to the players," said Hills. "They wanted to redeem themselves after the Euros and they have done that."

It was England's abysmal display in the summer's European Championships, when they picked up one point from three games and had the worst record in the competition, which persuaded the FA to fire Powell. That and reports that the players wanted her out.

Hills said he "did not recognise" those reports but accepted that "all coaches come to the end of their time with players". He added: "I have made a few tweaks but the things we did got us to two World Cup quarter-finals and a European final (in 2009) so it was not so bad. In 1999 we lost 8-0 to Norway, that is a drubbing. Ten years later we beat them on way to the final of the Euros. That is a measure of Hope's achievements."

Karen Carney, the Birmingham winger who has won 85 caps in an eight-year international career, said: "We were obviously very disappointed with the Euros but we did not become a bad team overnight. The manager has tweaked a few things – we needed a bit of freshness, we needed to believe in ourselves and come together as a group.

"In a tournament when you are living with one another it can become intense when results do not go well. Being with the same people everyday you can get into a negative spiral, you need a result to get out of it and we did not get one."

Carney's comments suggest tension was present in the summer and many players are thought to want a completely fresh start with a coach from outside the old set-up. But Hills, affable and experienced, is making a decent case for himself even if the opposition so far has been limited.

Wales will offer more threat than Belarus and Turkey, with England needing to watch Glasgow's Jess Fishlock and Chelsea's Helen Ward, but they remain strong favourites. "I will be telling the team to give them respect," said Hills.

There is another home nations clash in Motherwell with Scotland, who top group four with two wins from two, hosting Northern Ireland. It is likely both are chasing the runners-up spot behind group favourites Sweden. Group winners qualify directly for the finals, in Canada, runners-up enter the play-offs.

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