Neville grilled over Valencia traditions, Lim link at unveiling
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | December 3, 2015
Former Manchester United and England right back Gary Neville’s appointment as Valencia head coach has attracted media from both Britain and the continent to his official unveiling.
Embarking upon his first managerial role after a lengthy stint as a Sky Sports pundit and a job in the England national team’s backroom, the 40-year-old has signed on at Los Che for at least six months. Coral make Neville a 5/1 chance to steer Valencia to a top four finish this term.
This intriguing appointment by Bats billionaire investor Peter Lim, who knows Neville through their joint business venture at English non-league side Salford City, is not without question, however.
From Manchester to Mestalla
“I’m incredibly excited to be here,” said Neville. “I understand and respect the huge responsibility that I’ve been given and accepted. I understand that by playing against Valencia, the passion and intimidation of the fans and I want to recreate and harness that.”
Valencia’s traditions, particularly the use of orthodox wingers, plus the influence Sir Alex Ferguson is going to have had on Neville during their long association together as manager and player at Manchester United were other main topics raised.
“I’m aware of the traditions here at Valencia,” Neville added. “I’ve played out here a few times against some fantastic wingers. I understand my responsibility is to appraise the players as quickly as possible and pick the right system that gets us winning matches right away, irrespective of style.”
“I’m not going to insult Valencia by saying I’m coming over here and playing football like Manchester United. I’ve got to play football in the traditions of Valencia. Every coach wants to play offensive, attacking football to entertain the fan but we’ve also got to find a way to win.”
In it for the long haul
Initially appointed by this La Liga club on a six-month contract, Neville is clearly keen to make himself Bats boss on a more permanent basis.
“The only way to approach any football job is to think of it as a permanent job even though we know it’s only six months,” he continued. “We will appoint people from within, I’m not interested in bringing over an army of coaches. I’m interesting in creating stability.”
Neville’s backroom team inevitably includes brother Phil as assistant, but also the promotion of youth coach and Mestalla cult hero Miguel Angel Angulo.
“I’m delighted to announce that he’s accepted the invitation to become a coach,” Neville said of one-time forward Angulo. “I spoke to many people in Valencia, and the respect he’s had from everybody is incredibly important.”
“We all have dreams”
Highlighting the success of other British bosses on the continent, Neville played down dissenting voices from Spanish journalists, almost jabbing accusing fingers that he was using Los Che in order to move on to what he will see as bigger and better things – like being a future Manchester United or Three Lions manager.
“There have been English coaches who’ve been successful abroad – Bobby Robson, Roy Hodgson and Terry Venables to name three,” Neville added, who remain on the England staff until their participation in Euro 2016 ends.
“From a long-term perspective I would never look at that or future jobs – I’m focused completely on the next two training sessions and the team to pick for Wednesday. We all have dreams but the only way you get there is focusing on the individual bits one at a time.”
“What an opportunity, what a challenge”
Neville feels the time is right at last for him to come out from the Sky Sports studio and take top seat in the dugout.
“I’ve been offered jobs in football over this last four to five years,” he added. “I wanted to give myself time to learn, but when I received the call on Sunday evening I thought ‘what an opportunity, what a challenge’.
“From my point of view, sitting on TV, talking about coaches, the time has now come for me to stand up. This is a wonderful football club. I’m precious about what I take on and what I’m associated it, but if I’d turned this down I could have said goodbye to my credibility because this is an unbelievable football club.”
“I’ve got to prove myself”
But Neville knows he has to display his credentials to an understandably sceptical significant minority of Los Che’s supporters.
“I understand that I’ve got to prove to the Valencia fans, to the players that I’m capable of doing this job,” he continued. “Any doubts will only be removed by winning football matches. I’m not going to shy away from the very direct approach I had on television.”
“I think we’ve all seen inexperienced coaches succeed and we’ve all seen experienced coaches fail, there’s no magic formula. I accept I’ve got to prove myself. The Valencia fans are known as demanding but they should be – it’s a fantastic football club and it’s up to us coaches and players to meet their demands.”
And there will be demands and doubters, who see Neville as little more than a pawn of owner Lim. Brigades of unhappy Bats fan may view the plea for a Spanish teacher to tutor their new boss in the early mornings as a smokescreen to shield Neville from the kind of criticism David Moyes endured at Real Sociedead.
“We see something very special in him”
Valencia chairwoman Layhoon Chan played a fairly straight bat when Neville and Lim’s relationship came under the microscope. “We need someone with strong leadership, a fresh approach and understand the engagements of our fans,” she said.
Gary is an excellent coach and has these qualities that Valencia need right now. He is a leader, a great motivator and hugely respected in football for his understanding of the game. His personal success at the highest level of the game will inspire our players.
“We see something very special in him. Not about nationality, not about his friendship with Peter Lim, about his qualities to lead Valencia at this time.”
But will Los Che’s support, spoiled by the success of the Rafa Benitez era more than a decade ago, think Neville is so special, or just using the Mestalla as a springboard to other things?