Red Nev to join Roy's England revolution
Roy Hodgson began work as England manager yesterday with a major shock by appointing outspoken former Manchester United captain Gary Neville to his senior coaching staff.
Neville, who famously led a threatened strike by the England players in 2004, has been permitted by the FA to combine the role with his work as Sky Sports' lead pundit for live Premier League and Champions League matches.
Hodgson made it clear that he wanted to recruit Neville during his first interview for the England job and, with Ray Lewington appointed assistant manager and Dave Watson named goalkeeping coach, the coaching staff for Euro 2012 is now complete.
Neville said yesterday that he had "absolutely no hesitation" in accepting the job, despite having admitted to sometimes looking back on his own England career with the thought that it was "a massive waste of time".
Hodgson, though, felt that it was crucial to have someone with recent playing experience in his coaching team and, having represented England in five international tournaments, Neville will clearly command huge respect from the dressing-room.
Neville has won universal praise over this past year for his astute punditry with Sky and he has also already gained the UEFA 'A' and 'B' coaching licences.
His appointment was unexpected but was greeted yesterday with almost universal praise.
Former England captain Gary Lineker described it as "inspired".
Neville, though, has never worked as a full-time coach and now faces the difficult balancing act of working closely with players who he might then criticise in his work for Sky or as a newspaper columnist.
Neville will not undertake any media work while he is on England duty and, as with Gareth Southgate, their head of elite development, the FA do not regard his television punditry as a problem.
Sky are also confident that Neville will continue to be objective and hard-hitting with his opinions. He has certainly not held back since retiring last year.
Only last week, Neville admitted that Harry Redknapp rather than Hodgson would have been his preferred choice as England manager.
He also lambasted FA chairman David Bernstein for the decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy, pending a criminal trial into the allegation that the Chelsea defender racially abused Anton Ferdinand. Terry denies the charge and Neville has argued passionately that a player should not be sanctioned by his club or England before the criminal process is complete.
He described the Terry decision as, "typical of the FA: inconsistent, bowing to media pressure and half-hearted."
The FA is, of course, acutely aware of Neville's comments and, in approving his appointment, have shown a surprising boldness.
As well as his views on the FA hierarchy, Neville has been equally candid on the recent failings of the international team and called for the next generation of players to be given their chance at Euro 2012 -- a competition he does not expect England to win.
He has also advocated squad rotation in major tournaments to guard against player fatigue and described Steven Gerrard as the "outstanding candidate" for the England captaincy.
Having used his autobiography to graphically describe the damaging "fear of failure" within recent England dressing-rooms, one issue that Neville will certainly be keen to address is the mental state of the England players.
Neville said yesterday that he had no doubts about accepting a four-year contract that will also see him work with England at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championships.
"To work with the national team is not only an honour but a very special moment for me," said Neville.
"I am relishing the opportunity to work alongside Roy and the team at the Euros and through to the next two tournaments."
Neville made 85 appearances for England during his playing career and represented the country at the European championship finals in 1996, 2000 and 2004, as well as the World Cup finals in 1998 and 2006. He also won every major club honour with Manchester United, including the spectacular 1999 Champions League victory.
"Gary has achieved so much in the game as a player," Hodgson said yesterday.
"He has obtained UEFA coaching qualifications and will be tremendously respected by the players." (© Daily Telegraph, London)