Gary Neville is unquestionably the greatest pundit this country has produced in some time. Following a glittering playing career at Manchester United, winning pretty much everything there is to win, Neville made an immediate impact in the punditry world, although admittedly that noise he makes after Fernando Torres scores for Chelsea against Barcelona is fairly unsettling. Regardless alongside Jamie Carragher he brought punditry into the 2010’s and genuinely seemed like a knowledgeable bloke. In fact he spoke so well about the game the natural question was: when was Gary Neville getting into management. Well in December 2015 Neville dove head first into football management and the results were less than stellar.
In fairness when Neville was appointed manager at Valencia he had not got zero coaching experience. He had been part of the super successful England setup, which obviously instilled that winning mentality into him from a coaching perspective. Neville was only really appointed due to the fact that the owner of the club also had a massive stake in Salford City, the club the class of 92 were running back in England. So added to the fact that Neville had no first team experience and was only appointed because he was mates with the owner, Gary also couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. But he did have his thoroughly entertaining brother Phil as his assistant, so swings and roundabouts.
When Neville took over Valencia they were not in a good state. The club is traditionally one of the biggest in Spain but they fund themselves in lower mid-table and effectively out of the Champions League. What the club badly needed was wins so naturally it would take Gary Neville 10 league games to clock his first win. It was already abundantly clear that Neville’s message was not getting across to the players and a lack of Spanish and a lack of experience was not helping the Manchester United legend.
Unquestionably the lowlight (or highlight depending on which way you look at it) of Neville’s reign was the 7-0 decimation in the first leg of the Copa del Rey at the hands of Barcelona. The result was an absolute embarrassment for the Valencia fans and they were slipping towards relegation in the league too. After those disastrous first ten games Valencia went on a decent run winning three in four but this was followed by three straight defeats. Neville’s position was untenable and he was sacked on 30th March 2016.
Valencia would go on to be guided to safety and eventually finish 12th but Neville’s managerial prospects were in tatters. Gary is clearly an intelligent bloke but Valencia was a bridge too far and arguably ruined one of this country’s prospective managerial superstars. On the plus side he is back on Sky now and is still the best pundit around, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for Gary Neville.