Rachel Brown-Finnis feels Hege Riise brings ‘freshness’ to England Women

Riise and former Canada international Rhian Wilkinson have been appointed to the England coaching staff on short-term contracts.

Rachel Brown-Finnis played 82 times for England (John Walton/PA).
Rachel Brown-Finnis played 82 times for England (John Walton/PA).

Hege Riise being brought into the England Women set-up has been welcomed by former Lioness Rachel Brown-Finnis, who feels the Norwegian will provide a freshness that is much-needed.

The Football Association on Tuesday announced Riise will lead the team’s camp next month after head coach Phil Neville, having previously been due to leave the role in July at the end of his contract, stepped down with immediate effect and took charge at Inter Miami.

Riise and former Canada international Rhian Wilkinson have been appointed to the England coaching staff on short-term contracts, with the FA to review things regarding the interim head coach role – and somebody managing a Great Britain team at this summer’s delayed Olympics – after the February camp.

Holland boss Sarina Wiegman is set to start as Neville’s permanent successor in September.

Riise helped Norway win the World Cup, European Championship and Olympic gold during a playing career featuring 188 caps, before working as United States assistant boss and then manager of LSK Kvinner.

The 51-year-old enters the England fold with the team having not played an international since March 2020, when a disappointing SheBelieves Cup campaign left them with a record of seven losses in their last 11 games.

Brown-Finnis, who played against Riise during her 82-cap England career, told the PA news agency: “I guess what England needed was an interim coach and someone maybe who comes with fresh buoyancy, because I think that is what is needed for this next few months, to lift the squad.

“They’ve had no competitive fixtures for a long time, just in-house camps (scheduled friendlies in October and December were cancelled for coronavirus-related reasons).

“I think it will be a complete kind of landscape change for the girls, a whole different way of thinking and operating, and that’ll freshen things up, which is what has been really, really needed.

“I’m very happy with Hege Riise coming in. I think it has become stagnant over the last 12 months, and that’s not all because of Phil Neville, there are so many different factors.

“I can imagine the girls will have been going to camp and in some ways be on auto-pilot. It’s the nature of not having competitive fixtures.”

Hege Riise helped Norway win the World Cup, European Championship and Olympic gold during a playing career (Jon Buckle/PA).
Hege Riise helped Norway win the World Cup, European Championship and Olympic gold during her playing career (Jon Buckle/PA).

Brown-Finnis’ impression of Riise the player was a “quite quiet, logical leader”, and the former goalkeeper added: “Her being able to share a lot of her experiences, stories, points of views – that will all be very, very welcomed from the England camp.”

England’s three years under Neville included coming fourth at the 2019 World Cup and winning the SheBelieves Cup earlier that year.

While Brown-Finnis says she felt she “wasn’t quite seeing the real DNA of how we wanted to play” at the World Cup, and that she thinks “after that is when it started to go a bit stale, a bit dry”, she believes Neville has had “a positive impact” overall.

“I think he’s definitely had a positive impact on the players and on the perception of women’s football and women’s sport in this country,” she said.

Phil Neville stepped down as England boss on Monday and took charge at Inter Miami (John Walton/PA).
Phil Neville stepped down as England boss on Monday and took charge at Inter Miami (John Walton/PA).

Brown-Finnis has also expressed her excitement with regard to Wiegman, who oversaw Holland winning Euro 2017 on home soil and then finishing as World Cup runners-up.

The first major tournament of Wiegman’s Lionesses tenure is set to be the England-hosted Euros that have been moved to 2022.

“They (Holland) have had that unrelenting belief in the system of play, and there’s no doubt that has come from Wiegman instilling that belief,” Brown-Finnis said.

Sarina Wiegman is set to start work as England boss in Septmeber (Richard Sellers/PA).
Sarina Wiegman is set to start work as England boss in September (Richard Sellers/PA).

“I’m so excited, because for me, that’s the missing piece of the puzzle. I think she will almost kind of polish off the work that has been done under the previous two managers (Neville and Mark Sampson).

“We have the quality of players to win the Euros, simple as that – we just need somebody to bring it all together and I’m hoping she’ll be the one.”

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