Sarina Wiegman said Steph Houghton had run out of time to be fit for the Euros after omitting the former England captain from the 23-player squad for next month’s tournament.
“It was a hard decision,” the manager said. “She is in a very good place but just not ready to compete. It was just a matter of time, and we just don’t have that time.”
The goalkeeper Sandy MacIver misses out, with Hannah Hampton, Ellie Roebuck and Mary Earps preferred, and the Chelsea full-back Niamh Charles and Manchester United’s Katie Zelem and Lucy Staniforth have also been dropped.
The five to miss out have been training with England since being named in a 28-player provisional squad cut to 23 for the tournament but they have played a combined 46 minutes in Wiegman’s 11 games.
Teams can swap players in and out of the squads submitted to Uefa in the event of Covid or serious injury up until their first game.
Houghton, who has 121 caps, has been in a race to prove her fitness after she missed much of the season. The Manchester City defender picked up an ankle injury during Wiegman’s first camp last September and has not played under her. She made her return for City in January but aggravated the injury after playing five games.
“It is hard for every player we have to disappoint,” Wiegman said. “She is such a big player and has had such an impact on the English game. Of course, she was really disappointed. I know she did everything to make it, so she wasn’t happy. She just took the arguments I gave her and we left it for now and we’ll be in contact later.
“It’s hard, but first of all you have respect for each other and you have open, honest conversations. Of course, it’s emotional but the best thing is to give honest answers and give the football arguments and bring that across.”
Wiegman confirmed the 34-year-old would not take on a non-playing role. “She has a lot of experience but in this squad we have other players who can share experiences with the team, so it’s just the 23,” she said.
England’s second-most-capped player, Jill Scott, and the Chelsea forward Fran Kirby are included after battling back from injury and a fatigue condition respectively.
“She’s done well,” Wiegman said of Kirby. “She has been in training a while and has been in camp with us. She has been playing training games and is ready to compete tomorrow.”
She said Scott was “in a good place now” and had been “training all the time and is ready to compete”. The midfielder has 156 caps, behind Fara Williams on 172, and has been to nine major tournaments with England.
Nine players – Roebuck, Hampton, Jess Carter, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Alessia Russo, Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Bethany England – will be taking part in their first major tournament.
Wiegman said recent training camps had played an important role in her decision-making. “We have the bigger picture. We had the whole season and players came in with different situations, so we evaluated all the time. Over time we got the picture. We used all the training sessions. Are we in the right place? What do we see now? Are they in a good place?”
The Lionesses are unbeaten under Wiegman and have scored 72 goals and conceded one.
England play Belgium on Thursday at Molineux in the first of three pre-tournament friendlies. They then face the holders, Wiegman’s former team the Netherlands, at Elland Road before travelling for a week-long camp and match in Switzerland.
England kick off the Euros at a sold-out Old Trafford on 6 July against Austria.