Phil Neville emerges as frontrunner for England Women’s manager job

• Former Manchester United player has admirers at the FA
• Neville has zero experience in the women’s game

Phil Neville has emerged as the controversial frontrunner to become head coach of the England Women’s team and is close to landing the job.

The former Manchester United, Everton and England full-back has zero experience in the women’s game. Although a holder of the pro-licence qualification who has filled backroom coaching roles at Manchester United, Valencia and the England Under-21s, Neville has never managed a men’s first team.

It is understood the 40-year-old’s name was initially suggested to the Football Association in a light-hearted manner by a well known broadcaster at a drinks reception last month. However, the idea clearly resonated in the corridors of power and is seen by Neville’s many admirers at the FA as a way of potentially getting him into the organisation. Back in December the game’s ruling body were struggling to find a suitable replacement for Mark Sampson, who was sacked last September, and had been rejected by their initially shortlisted candidates.

With interested and, suitable, female candidates apparently thin on the ground for a while it seemed that John Herdman, the Consett born Canada coach, would get the job but, rather than lose Herdman, the Canadian FA switched him from managing their women’s side to the men’s team.

With Sampson having led England to the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup in Canada and last year’s European Championships in the Netherlands while also lifting the team’s ranking to No1 in Europe and No3 in the world, his successor will be expected to win the next World Cup in France in 2019.

Neville or whoever does take over – and FA sources said no final decision has been made and more than one candidate is under consideration – will also have to win the hearts and minds of England players many of whom were upset and angered by the decision to dismiss Sampson at a time when he was embroiled in a dispute with the striker Eni Aluko.

Mo Marley, another pro-licence holder, has been in temporary charge since September but Neville – who has started following several England players on Twitter – would prove much more of a “box office” appointment.

After being contacted by Dan Ashworth, the FA’s technical director last month, he is believed to have spoken to Martin Glenn, the chief executive, and Sue Campbell, the head of women’s football, this week.