Hege Riise has said she was overwhelmed by the positive reception she received on being announced as the temporary head coach of the Lionesses for the current international break.
Riise, who is Norway’s most capped player and won the Euros and World Cup in 1993 and 1995 and Olympic gold in 2000, stepped up from her new role as assistant coach o take charge following the departure of Phil Neville for Inter Miami in the US.
The 51-year-old will lead England out for their first international in close to a year on Tuesday when they play Northern Ireland in a friendly at St George’s Park.
“I’m excited to be in this environment,” she said. “I love the game and to have such a good group, this competitive group, I love how the days have been for us.”
Having had a short time to assess things in training Riise said she had “not made many changes”.
“Maybe the switch of play in the attack, trying to break down a low block, working on how are we going to press,” she said. “We tried to put in bits and pieces over the few days. It might be a bit [of an] overload for players, with the team meetings and everything, but we feel like the players are really [excited] and want to do everything on the field and if they don’t understand they ask questions so we get a good balance of how we respond to each other.”
The England captain Steph Houghton – who joked she was “absolutely fuming” to be handing the armband to Jill Scott for her 150th cap – said that with the new manager in place and a long absence the game against Northern Ireland offers a fresh start for the players.
“We are excited. We just can’t wait to put on the England shirt again,” she said. “We want to show everyone what we’ve been working on and getting back into the rhythm of playing again.”
There will be no fans present for the friendly, but speaking after the plan for the gradual ending of lockdown in England was announced, Houghton said she was keen for women’s football to regain its momentum. “It’s been a bit strange as a player. We did so well in terms of building momentum from the World Cup, then playing in Wembley in front of 75,000 people, going to SheBelieves, then all of a sudden nothing,” she said.
“Regarding the announcement, nothing is certain, but ultimately that’s what we want to do, to make sure people are safe but when the moment comes to put on performances and to get fans excited and following the team again.”