Thursday 22 June 2017

Comment: Dire results not language issues led to Gary Neville's demise

Gary Neville will now concentrate on his role with England after being sacked by Valencia (Reuters)
Gary Neville will now concentrate on his role with England after being sacked by Valencia (Reuters)

Richard Martin

With no experience as a first-team coach, no knowledge of the Spanish language nor first-hand experience of La Liga, Gary Neville's surprise appointment was questioned by many in Spain from the off, including Valencia's former goalkeeper Santi Canizares, who warned: "Valencia is not a team for experiments, it's not a place for a coach to get his apprenticeship."

As Neville watched from the stands last September as his new side held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw, he must have thought he was taking over a team capable of getting back into the top four.

Yet defeat to Lyon in his dugout debut and draws against minnows Eibar and Getafe indicated turning around this talented but young and inexperienced set of players was going to be harder than it looked.

A lengthy injury list and playing two games a week did not make things any easier for the coach, who was forced into a dilemma of keeping an already stretched squad fresh or finding a fixed starting XI.

Playing two-legged ties in the Copa del Rey and the Europa League also meant many encounters with the press. At first, they were impressed with his jovial manner and knowledge and experience of the game at the highest level, one glowing editorial in sports newspaper 'Superdeporte' titled "Neville is pure football".

But as he kept searching for a first league win two months into the job, the exchanges grew tenser, and Neville more tired of the questions about his future and suitability to run the club, one day remarking: "I've grown tired of listening to myself."

There were also clear problems of communication with his players, however much Neville denied it. The TV show 'El Dia Despues' (The Day After) produced almost weekly videos of his amusing touchline antics and strained efforts to get his message across. Despite the obvious language barrier, the players enjoyed working with him.

One player misinterpreted Neville announcing Pako Ayestaran was joining his coaching staff as Neville resigning, and responded: "Oh no, we want to work with you."

Yet inevitably his relationships were conditioned by results and the atmosphere worsened with every defeat. Take Alvaro Negredo, who had been isolated by predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo and given a major role by Neville.

"Neville has changed everything," he smiled after scoring a hat-trick in a cup tie. But in an interview after defeat to Real Betis, he refused to back the coach.

Valencia owner Peter Lim, whom Neville had been advising long before he became coach, must have undergone a similar process. Neville would probably never have accepted the job - or been given it, for that matter - had Lim not been owner, and the Singaporean billionaire certainly had more patience than many other owners would have.

But following a 2-0 defeat to Celta Vigo, the 11th loss in 28 games, the sound of thousands of Valencia fans screaming "Gary go now" was too compelling for even his friend and business partner to ignore. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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