ENGLAND Women embark on a new era at St Mary’s this Friday when head coach Sarina Wiegman takes her first game in charge, insisting: “I hope there’s a nice crowd but I do hope that we win, and we give a very exciting evening for the fans.”

The former Dutch national team boss arrives in England with big international pedigree, having won the European Championships and been runners up in the World Cup in the last two tournaments.

She kicks off her Lionesses career at the home of Saints, when England take on North Macedonia at St Mary’s Stadium in 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying (7pm).

Her appointment was announced back in September last year, succeeding outgoing coach Phil Neville, and she has finally now assumed the role after she took charge of The Netherlands for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The match will also be a first opportunity for fans to watch the Lionesses live since 2019, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and as a result 2020 FIFA Best Women’s Coach winner Wiegman wants to put on a show for those who can make it.

Speaking ahead of her first game, she told the Daily Echo: “I’m very excited also to get to Southampton.

“First of all to get together for the first time and get to know the players,” Wiegman added. “I have seen them play but to get to know them how they are as a human being.

“Very excited to start in Southampton, a very nice stadium and with fans so that has been a long time too. Hopefully we’re going to bring a good game.

“I hope there’s a nice crowd of course but what I do hope is that we play a very good game, that we win, and give a very exciting evening for the fans who come to the stands.”

Wiegman, who managed the Dutch permanently between 2017 and 2021, also revealed it will be her first visit to the stadium, adding: “No, I watched the pictures of course and it looks really good, but I haven’t been there so I am very excited.”

It’s an exciting time for the Lionesses with not only a new managerial era starting but a new TV deal that will see all of their games televised by ITV for the next four years – including the upcoming European Championships, World Cup qualifiers and tournaments.

To add, next year’s EUROs is being held in England, with St Mary’s one of 10 host venues.

Lionesses have made the semi-final of the last three major international tournaments and will be hoping Wiegman’s experience and knowhow can bridge the gap and turn them into winners.

She continued: “Well of course that’s what I hope, I don’t think I will do that alone.

“What we’re trying to do is get the game to the next level. We know the other countries in Europe are developing very quickly too so it will be very competitive but what we try to do is get our game to the next level.

“I am very excited, I’ve had a great role with the Dutch national team but now to step to the England team, a country with so much history in football and they have very strong competitions.

“The FA is one of the biggest in the world and the women’s game in England is huge, visibility too with TV coverage, it’s really exciting to have this role.

“They went to look for a new coach and also looked abroad and came across my path, they triggered me so yes I am excited, hopefully we can have some good collaboration together with the staff, FA and of course the players so we can be successful.”