Manchester City defender Gemma Bonner believes the England Women’s squad are learning to deal with a new type of pressure following the recent run of poor form and results.
From the high of reaching the World Cup semi-finals in early July, when manager Phil Neville’s side lost 2-1 to the United States, the Lionesses have since endured a surprising slump ahead of the upcoming friendly double-header against Germany at a sold-out Wembley on Saturday, and the Czech Republic in Ceske Budejovice on Tuesday.
That loss to the US was the start of a run in which England lost four and drew one of five matches that was finally ended with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Portugal a month ago.
Given England’s meteoric success up until the agonising World Cup defeat, and that of the women’s game on the whole in recent years, Bonner can appreciate expectations have risen and the additional burden that comes with that.
“From the outside, if you are not getting the performances, then the way the game has gone, we have pushed for so much media it’s only natural that when results don’t go our way there are going to be questions,” Bonner said.
“We’ve got to see it as a positive that we’ve put ourselves into that situation, and now it’s dealing with that pressure and managing it.
“We also know from within we’ve got the quality, and now come Saturday we’ve an occasion to put ourselves out there and put in a good performance in front of what will be an unbelievable crowd.”
With England staging Euro 2021, and therefore not involved in competitive qualifiers, it affords Neville the opportunity to assess the players at his disposal.
In essence, it could be argued this is a transitional period for England under Neville, who will celebrate his second anniversary in charge in January.
Eleven-times capped centre-back Bonner added: “The competition within the squad is probably the best it has been for a while.
“As long as he keeps pushing us as players, then the level is continually going to get higher.
“Along the way, if he tries different things in games, then you are not necessarily going to get the best performance if it’s the first time people have played together, or with new tactics.
“We’re in a lucky position that we’ve already qualified for Euro 2021, so we’ve got this time to try things out and learn. The results don’t necessarily have such a big impact.
“For us, it’s about learning going into each game, progressing with each camp, and being in the best place individually to help the team.”
A crowd of almost 90,000 is expected to watch the game with Germany, making it a record for a women’s match in England.
Bonner suggests that “it shows how far the game has come, how much it is a lot more respected now in terms of the interest”.
She added: “A couple of years ago you would never have expected it. To have potentially 90,000 people to come and watch a women’s football game at Wembley is unbelievable.
“It shows we are getting respected for the work we’ve done day in and day out. It’s been a long road to get to this occasion, but one we should embrace, enjoy, and what better team to play against than Germany.”