England Women manager Phil Neville feels there are “probably people out there” who would want him to lose every match at his first tournament in charge, the SheBelieves Cup.
Neville, who was appointed in January despite no prior experience of working in the women’s game, has taken his squad to the United States of America for matches against the host nation, France and Germany.
However, the former Manchester United and Everton defender has found himself under the media spotlight following more controversy in the wake of his appointment when he had to apologise for past remarks made about women on Twitter.
Neville, set to be missing captain Steph Houghton through injury, feels three defeats for his England team in the USA would be welcomed in some quarters.
“I don’t think I should be judged solely on this tournament. There are probably people out there that probably want me to lose all three games, and say ‘I told you so’,” Neville said in an interview with BBC Sport.
“But ultimately I have got a four-year contract.
“I have the backing of (the Football Association’s head of women’s football) Sue Campbell and (technical director) Dan Ashworth, and the FA board.
“They have invested a lot in me, and I see this as a long-term project, not just the next three games.”
The Lionesses open their SheBelieves Cup campaign at the Mapfre Stadium in Ohio against against France on Thursday, and then play Germany in New Jersey, before meeting the USA in Orlando on March 8.
Neville said: “These three games for me personally will be where I see us against the best two teams in the world plus France.
“Have we got the ability to compete with these teams and play the type of football we want to play?
“The next three games will be vital. I have got some players missing in the squad, but the most important players are those out here now – can they impress me? And if they do, they will stay in the team, in the squad and that is the way that I work.”
Neville added: “We want to be the best team in the world and we want to win a World Cup, so we shouldn’t come to this tournament with any fears that we can’t compete and can’t win games.
“I’ve challenged the team to win all three games. If we want to win a World Cup we have got to beat USA, beat Germany, beat France – these are our rivals.”
Neville has seen former England player Casey Stoney join up with his coaching staff ahead of the SheBelieves Cup.
“She’s been there and done it, been to major tournament,” said the England Women manager.
“The respect she has within the team is phenomenal, she is the link between me and the team.
“She’s been coaching for the last 15 years, it’s not something she just thought last Wednesday when she hung her boots up.
“She is an outstanding coach.”
Neville accepted the England Women squad had been through some “difficult moments” over the past 12 months, but has told the current squad “we have got to park that”.
He added: “We have got to cross the bridge now and look forward.
“To any footballer out there, it is a clean slate.
“If you are playing well enough, if you are defending well, playing well in midfield or scoring goals, you will be selected on merit and merit only.”