Gazza Nev’s bravery should be treated with respect rather than bafflement.
When Sky Sports News announced they had some exciting breaking football news yesterday I wasn’t expecting much. I assumed Oldham Athletic were premiering a new pie, the network was launching a channel devoted to under 12’s tiddlywinks or most horrifically of all, Michael Owen was being drafted in from BT sport.
So it was with a tremendous amount of surprise when it was instead announced that Gary Neville had been appointed the head coach of Valencia until the end of the season. A piece of breaking news so random, unexpected and bizarre to many of us that it could have been read out on an episode of The Day Today.
Still, I’m not surprised the elder Neville has gone into management. It is obvious to anyone that our Gaz is an intelligent and driven man, not too dissimilar to Roy Keane, however he has the personable nature and ability to connect with people Keane does not. Neville would only be satisfied sitting back comfortably and talking about football for so long. Too many brains. Too competitive.
I believe Neville may have got bored simply talking about how the game should be played and decided to take a glorious opportunity to put his ideas into action. It is something we should have all envisioned when he took on a coaching role under Woy Hodgson.
His appointment from this cynical miser, is met with uncharacteristic optimism and respect. Deciding to make the step from the comfortable world of punditry to management is not easy. People will look at you as a man with everything to prove, as a man who made a living off being critical. “You can talk a good game son but can you play one?”
There is also the fact that he is an idealist. Neville was a practically whistling into a wind tunnel on a windy day in Wigan when he was preaching patience with David Moyes as he lurched from one disaster to another. Demanding that the club stand as a bulwark against the impatience of modern life. Arguably Neville’s rose-tinted ideal of Manchester United died before he even retired as a play. But that’s another matter for another time.
Neville’s bravery to take on such an enormous job, in another country, another culture having to get to grips with a new language is daunting and would put most people off. Thinking it’ll be safer to stay at home, all the more so seeing as Neville is from Bury, where a large part of the local populous think adventurous is adding parmesan cheese to chips and gravy.
I’m sure several English clubs with owners hungry for media attention have made approaches for Neville’s services. A media friendly media man. But the fact he turned them down for a job in a foreign land is a bold decision. Valencia fans are not a patient bunch, even by the standards of modern supporters, Unai Emery is a terrific coach but never won them over and Neville will have achieved a damn near miraculous piece of work just to keep them onside. To sacrifice the comfort of a studio for the white hot seat as Valencia head coach is an impressively courageous call.
It’ll certainly help that he is going to move his family over there and settle. David Moyes’ failure in San Sebastian was brought about the fact he never settled a life there, always one foot in the door and one out. Gary Neville has made a call that should serve as an example to English coaches throughout the country.
While the FA’s development of our production line of the next Bob Paisley or Brian Clough has stagnated, that cannot be 100% to blame, especially when it comes to ex-pros. Neville is in a financial position to take such a risk as are many recently retired players going into coaching. Those men should look to seek out a footballing education further afield than Manchester, Liverpool, London and Birmingham. Swap those places for Madrid, Lisbon, Lyon and Barcelona instead, even in failure the lessons learned will be invaluable.
I, for one, applaud The Neviller’s decision to take one of the toughest and most thankless jobs in European football. He decided to stick his money where his mouth is. To open himself up to ridicule. To leave the comfy criticism of punditry to be possibly eviscerated by his own former colleagues. To do all this for the possibility of bettering himself. Red’s everywhere should hope he succeeds, should he do so, he’d make a brilliant manager at Old Trafford.