England women’s manager Phil Neville fought back at his critics’ in the media this week – but was it the correct decision to do so and is he the right man for the job?
Neville was appointed as the England Ladies boss back in January and, although his tenure is still in its early days, it has been far from plain sailing in the opening weeks. There was initial disappointment expressed from some quarters of the sport about his lack of experience, and that then turned into anger following the unearthing of sexist tweets Neville made several years ago.
When previewing his first matches in charge ahead of the SheBelieves Cup, Neville said: “People are going to be watching this game wanting us to lose. We know that is going to happen. People want me to fail, 100%. They want me to come here and lose all three games. But do you know what? That’s just how it was in my playing career.
Neville continued: “It’s part of my motivation. The team has got their motivation, I have got mine. It is to show people that we will be successful.
“I think it’s the English mentality of wanting people to fail. I’m sure Gareth Southgate feels the same way sometimes. But also I think it was a surprise to people that I wanted to take this job and the negativity that surrounded it – there are people who want me to fail. The way I’ve been received inside the women’s game has been nothing short of fantastic.”
Of course, when people bring into question your character or your ability to do a job, you are not going to be happy about it – but don’t feed it. Ignore it. It’s not easy, obviously, but Neville is the manager of his country now and should not be getting himself involved in any war of words.
Following the uncertainty that the squad has been put through over the last several months during and after Mark Sampson’s time in charge, the last thing the player’s need is another controversial figure leading them.
The comments he made in the interview were not beneficial to himself or the team – they were simply about Phil Neville and portrayed a man with his mind elsewhere. The most important thing at the moment in time is to get the squad adapting to his methods and playing as a team, and this interview is by no means going to help that.
The tweets he made were wrong, everyone knows that and he himself is aware of that. Neville apologised swiftly after the tweets came out and he now has to move on from that issue, and the only positive way to do so is to focus on his team and ensure that they win matches.
Is he the right man for the job?
Neville’s appointment is his first managerial job in football, and The FA’s decision has come under plenty of criticism, with many suggesting that he is underqualified and that there are other figures in the game who are more capable.
The new boss took charge of his first game last night, with his team steamrolling France 4-1 in the SheBelieves Cup. If results like that continue, then the critics’ will surely go away before too long – but it is still early days.
One thing is for sure, though, although Neville may be lacking in managerial experience, he is certainly not lacking in football experience.
The 41-year-old has played under two of the most renowned managers in the English game, in Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes. He played 263 games in one of the most successful Manchester United sides in history and went on to captain Everton. Alongside that, Neville was capped 59 times by England and was selected for three European Championship squads – so he has plenty of playing experience to draw upon.
The former Everton man holds a UEFA B Coaching License and began his coaching career back in 2012 when he helped with the England U-21s. In 2013, he was also part of the coaching staff for the U-21s European Championship, which has given him some international football coaching knowledge at a tournament.
Neville’s next coaching role was with Manchester United, where he was appointed as David Moyes’ first-team coach. Although that role only lasted for a year, the opportunity to work at such an illustrious club must have given Neville invaluable experience, working alongside some of the biggest names in football.
In July 2015, he was appointed as a coach at Spanish side Valencia and was later named as the assistant manager; he then carried on that position when his brother Gary was then given the head coach role until the end of that season. The performances on the pitch were disappointing but, nonetheless, the experience of coaching in a different environment in another country – can surely only have had a positive impact on Neville.
A key figure he can draw upon for advice is his twin sister Tracey, who is the head coach of the England women’s netball team. With Neville having little experience working with female athletes, Tracey will surely have some valuable tips for him to take forward into his tenure.
The appointment of Casey Stoney to the coaching staff upon her retirement is a masterstroke. The former England captain will be able to provide an important link between the coaching staff and the squad, to go along with her undoubted knowledge of women’s football.
Yes, there may be question marks, but it is evident to see that Neville has certainly put the hard yards in over the last few years in his coaching career and, although this is a huge role, he does have valid experience in football which he can relay onto his player’s. Alongside that, he also has a number of huge figures in the game that he can seek help from if he needs it.
Neville can be a success as the England boss, but he needs to focus on his talented squad of Lionesses and then results like last night’s hammering of France will continue.