England managers admit Lionhearts selection among their toughest squad decisions

Wednesday 22 Jul 2020

Gareth Southgate and Phil Neville were left humbled and proud after helping select our team of Lionhearts, in what they both admitted was their hardest squad selection ever.

The individuals chosen will join Captain Sir Tom Moore in our squad of Lionhearts, as we pay homage to those who have gone above and beyond during the nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two England bosses were part of an eight-person judging panel that helped decide our Lionhearts – and with over 1000 nominations and so many inspiring stories, it was never going to be an easy challenge.

“It was just as difficult as picking a normal squad, if not more so!”, Three Lions manager Southgate told TheFA.com. “Everybody that was nominated was a deserving nomination so how do you start to narrow that down?

“What was clear was that there were certain categories that people slotted into: lots of really good charity work, young people who’d done exceptional feats, people who’d been working on the frontline and then people from different parts of the country.

Sir Captain Tom Moore is the first member of our Lionhearts squad

“I wanted to get a balance on areas that people had affected, but there’s so many brilliant stories. I really felt the lockdown in particular brought people and communities together.”

Lionesses head coach Neville also found the selection process extremely difficult, but spoke of his pride at reading through the nominations.

“Three weeks ago I would have been picking an Olympic 18, which I thought would be the hardest thing to do at the time," he revealed.

"Then ten days later, I was asked to take part in picking our Lionhearts. It was almost an impossible job. It made me emotional at times and it made me utterly proud that, in this country, we’ve seen real heroes.

“I know we talk about footballers as heroes, but the people who are going to be named as Lionhearts are the true heroes in this country over the last four of five months."

Captain Sir Tom Moore became our first Lionheart earlier this month, with Three Lions legend David Beckham paying him a visit to welcome him to the squad and appoint him as captain.


Speaking about Captain Tom’s inclusion, Neville added: “I think there is no better captain, if you think about someone during this period who has inspired the whole country with something truly remarkable.

“It inspired us all and I think it’s fitting that he’s one of our most iconic England captains and an iconic England footballer was there to announce Captain Sir Tom Moore as our captain.”

Southgate was also full of admiration for our Lionhearts captain, adding: “He was probably the most high profile person in the country for a period of time that really brought that warmth and feel-good, that’s what England is about.

“That’s a great example of someone who’s lived through probably the last massive disruption to the country that had affected lives in the way this did. His story and efforts really did unite people.”

Keep an eye on the TheFA.com and England’s social channels over the next few months, as we reveal our full squad of Lionhearts.

By Tom Biggs