England manager Phil Neville says there has been “a bit of disrespect” shown to striker Ellen White in recent weeks.
White, the joint top scorer at last year’s World Cup, came off the bench to score the Lionesses’ winner against Japan at the SheBelieves Cup.
Bethany England – the joint top scorer in the Women’s Super League and who many have said should get more game time – started up front in New Jersey.
“She [White] is one of the best strikers in the world,” Neville said.
“What has been disrespectful over the last days has been the lack of respect shown to Ellen White, for what she has achieved over the last eight months.
“I think she has set the bar really high for everybody else to challenge her.
“[Sunday] showed what Ellen White is all about – one chance, one goal.”
Manchester City’s White scored six goals in England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals last summer. She started the defeat to the USA on Thursday and came off the bench to score in the 83rd minute against Japan.
Chelsea striker England, who has 14 goals in 15 games in the WSL, compared with White’s five in 11, showed glimpses of her ability with some good runs in behind against Japan but failed to capitalise on some big chances in the first half.
“Beth England is now with us on the journey,” Neville said. “She is with us 100%. She is in the squad; she deserves to be in the squad.
“I thought she was fantastic apart from the goal, it was only the goal missing. But we do play a system where we don’t play two out-and-out centre-forwards.”
White, asked whether she has discussed the prospect of playing alongside England, told BBC Sport: “You will have to ask Phil [Neville] that. I wouldn’t mind that.
“I thought Beth played well and had a few chances, so she showed why she should be here.
“I’d be delighted to play alongside any of them in the front line because they have an amazing abundance of talent and showed that with England. It will be exciting to look forward to something like that.”
Neville added: “It’s something we’ve discussed. We’ll probably look to integrate that into our future planning and ultimately those two are now fighting for the number nine spot.”
I’m not sure what Neville means by that – reaction
Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis, speaking to BBC Sport: “I still think at this moment in time, Ellen just has that experience of playing at the top level as she showed today and that puts her slightly in front [of team-mate England].
“I’m not quite sure what he [Neville] means by that. People were saying they want Beth England to start because she is in form, but he started Ellen White and with good reason. She has done it before, she is tried and tested at this level and is clinical.
“I don’t think Beth England would be in such scintillating form for her club if Ellen White hadn’t been such a role model to her at England level for such a long time.”
Former England defender Laura Bassett: “I think that call [for England and White to play together] was a valid point. Beth England and Ellen White are at different stages of their careers, so to compare them would be wrong, but to play them together would be fantastic.”