Rachel Yankey: Lionesses need to ignore off-field drama and focus on the football

Mo Marley has the England job on a temporary basis
Mo Marley has the England job on a temporary basis

The England women's team is in the headlines for the wrong reasons at the moment as the fallout from the Mark Sampson affair continues but Rachel Yankey says Mo Marley's Lionesses have to focus on on-field matters, starting with France on Friday...

Excited to see what Mo can bring

Friday's game against France will see Mo Marley (pictured) stand on the touchline as the England manager for the first time and I'm excited to see what she'll bring to the Lionesses game. These next few fixtures will give a good indication on whether Mo is auditioning for the job full-time.

Watch out to see if she follows the template that has seen England progress over the last few years or if she tries to improve the team based on her own thoughts.

Is she the right person for the job? I believe with the FA's backing and her career to date she's in a great position. She'll enjoy being England manager with excellent players at her disposal and she has enough experience to mould the squad to what she wants.

It should be the best woman - or man - for the job

A lot of people ask me if the next England manager has to be a woman and my honest answer is: I don't think it matters at all. At international level you want the best person for the job. They need to push England to reach their maximum potential which hasn't always been the case and help take them to the next level. We all want a successful national team.

What we should focus on is getting more women into the game at all levels, giving them more experience working alongside elite managers and having more women with the skills to take the top job.

The blockage is getting more women onto coaching course, more women into clubs once they have completed their licences and that's what we need to change. It's why I'm so proud to support Betfair's #FairerGame initiative.

Maintaining momentum the key in France clash

Looking ahead to the game itself, Marley's main priority with the Lionesses will be to keep up the momentum from the Russia game and take that into Friday's match. I don't think she'll set up too differently than the last game but she'll have seen things on the training ground during Mark Sampson's time that she will want to change in how each player approaches the game.

For the players it's about now having a point to prove. They'll train like it's an audition to ensure they're in the starting line-up and that can create brilliant determination as the competitive edge creeps in. Mo has been in their shoes as an international player so will understand the players' mindsets which will work in her favour in the dressing room.

It's only a friendly but the French have everything to prove after losing to England in the Euros. France performed poorly compared to their usual level so they need to lay down a marker and show teams they still need to be feared. That's why if Mo Marley and England win the game it could be just the start that secures her the role fulltime.

Mark Sampson affair may create more pressure

There's no doubt there will be talk around the recent Mark Sampson affair and that may even add a bit more pressure to the team. However as a player, it's about turning that drama off the pitch into winning ways and getting the job done.

When I was on the pitch my focus was winning, no matter what had happened elsewhere. Your professionalism kicks in and this is the time for the players to prove that the France game in the Euros was not a one-off. The only difference to the players will be the voice shouting on the touchline.

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