Monday Night Football will never be the same again. The small Mancunian who sits next to Jamie Carragher, whose nuggets of football knowledge and one-liners have entertained football fans throughout England, will be standing on the touchline for the foreseeable future – and not as a pundit.
It came as quite a shock, but it seems Gary Neville has a huge amount of enthusiasm left for the game and a hunger to succeed after being appointed the new manager of Valencia CF. The pressure from fans had finally tolled for Nuno Espirito Santo and the Spanish manager has been replaced by Neville. He has shown its about more than the money too, after reportedly rejecting a 5-year contract with Sky worth £15m to take the job.
Our Gary will be getting on the flight to Valencia looking to add yet another feather to his cap, but many will be questioning his qualifications and ability to do the job. I take a look at the man who will be giving the orders at the Mestalla and whether we can see anything in his past which indicates this new adventure will be a success.
The boy from Bury would never have imagined getting to this point when starting out in football, it was not even his first sport. The son of a former professional cricketer, Neville played cricket for Lancashire as a schoolboy and even made it into the local news after scoring a century alongside Aussie legend Matthew Hayden for Bolton CC. Though talented, Cricket was not his first love and football was always ranked higher in priorities for young Neville. However, there were issues that even Neville saw as being an obstacle. He was neither the most talented nor the most athletic of players and realised that he had to do something else in order to make his dream come true. Neville‘s only option was to simply want it more. He had to train harder, run harder, practice and look after himself better than the other players around him.
The work payed off and a 20-year career with Manchester United and England ensued with countless trophies and caps. He showed every fan at the top level what he showed coaches as a boy, pure commitment. This firmly put him in the hearts of the United faithful and there was no doubt he deserved to be there.
Swapping the Kit for a Suit
This passion on the pitch had to go somewhere after his retirement, and luckily for football fans in the UK he has stayed in the public eye. We all know about his success on the screen with Neville shining in his position on Monday Night Football. He has proved popular in UK homes with his quick wit and vast knowledge. He also puts his thoughts in print with several columns, it seems you can’t follow football without following Mr. Neville too.
He has never taken his boots off fully though, just swapping the kit for coaching gear. He has his UEFA A and B licenses and 3 years of coaching with England under his belt. He also joined his former graduates of the Class of 92 in buying non-league football team Salford City (A club he co-owns with none other than Valencia’s CEO Peter Lim). A TV show about the purchase followed and there appears to be a lot of ambition to turn the club into a professional team.This is before we even mention GG Hospitality, a company he owns with Ryan Giggs, which runs football themed Café’s and Hotels in London and Manchester. Gary Neville has given himself no time off since his time as a player ended. The venture to Valencia will be his first abroad and it won’t be all fun in the sun for a man with a career which has hardly ventured down the M6, let alone over the channel.
Fun in the Sun
The appointment should not be as crazy as it sounds according to Michael Butlin of Bookmakers TV who says “The owner of Valencia CF is co-owner of Salford City with the Neville brothers and so they have a personal relationship which has made it possible. Even though his contract is only to the end of the season, I am sure he will be looking to turn this opportunity into yet another successful career path.”
Despite it seeming a nefarious appointment by Peter Lim, who has obviously exercised his personal relationship with the Neville brothers, I do not think it will be as much of a car crash as some people (Jamie Carragher) are probably hoping. He has a huge amount of experience from playing under Sir Alex Ferguson which will count for a lot and his job with England has taken him to a World Cup. I am sure he will be on the phone to the Omnipresent Scot when he needs some tips on controlling some unruly players.
Whatever happens it seems there is no doubting Neville will make every effort for this move to be a success, but only time will tell whether the Spanish fans will have as much time for him as the Brits do.