Despite giving his all, Gary Neville’s Spanish excursion has ended in failure. It was widely expected that the former Manchester United and England defender would depart Valencia at the end of the season but the club has decided to part company with Neville now so that they can start the build for next season. Manchester City’s exiting manager Manuel Pellegrini has already been installed as the early favourite to take over. Neville unfortunately leaves with one of the worst records for a manager in Valencia’s history, denting his pride but not his belief.
Throughout Neville remained professional. He refused to turn on the club or talk badly about it behind its back even if he does feel slightly chewed up and spat out. Success at Valencia was always going to be challenge given the clubs internal problems and high fan expectations. Neville was informed of the clubs decision well before the start of the international week but preferred to keep the news quiet so that the players both in the Valencia squad and England setup where Neville is a coach under Roy Hodgson, could concentrate on that. Even Hodgson was on the dark until after the defeat to Holland once again highlighting the mark of the man. Neville returned to Spain to tell the players, speak with the media and pack up his things.
If given the option again, Neville would still chose to go to Spain to start his managerial career highlighting the self belief that radiates from the man. Those who mocked Neville’s move will bask in his abject failure, quickly highlighting the differences between giving an opinion on television versus managing a club day to day. But in truth he should be praised for taking the risk in the first place. Moving to La Liga is never easy regardless of how much experience you have, look at David Moyes. Not being able to speak the language hardly helped too. But Neville poured his heart and soul into the project alongside his brother Phil but in the end was beaten by a combination of bad luck, injuries and poor results. In his exit statement, Neville was honest and open – results were not good enough (only ten wins from twenty eight games, three of which were in the league) so he had to fall on his own sword.
Returning to England will be tough for Neville but he is thick skinned enough to handle it. Decisions over what to do next will be front of mind for him and he will not be short of options despite his failure in Spain. Going back into his media job with Sky looks to be an easy option for Neville who did insist during his announcement as Valencia boss that he doesn’t see himself as a manager long term. But now that he has had a taste of the managers chair, will be be able to turn his back on it? If he does take up another managerial position, Neville needs to find a project outside of the critical English media lens. Resurrecting a fallen giant like Leeds United, Derby County or Nottingham Forest would make sense both for him and the club. Betting odds have reduced on Neville taking over at Aston Villa too but given the well documented internal issues at that club, he would be advised to stay well clear. First and foremost he will turn his attentions to England and helping Roy Hodgson to prepare for Euro 2016. England are many people’s dark horses after good showings against France, Germany and Holland in recent friendlies. Once the tournament has finished, Neville will look to start his next challenge whatever that may be.
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