Friday 20 April 2018

Comment: Gary Neville's disastrous time in Spain will actually make him an even better pundit

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

There is no getting away from the fact that Gary Neville's brief four-month stint as Valencia manager was a failure.

Just three wins from 16 in the league and elimination from the Champions League, Europa League and Cope del Rey accurately sums up Neville's troubled time in Spain.

When the appointment was announced, most fans were shocked and curious in equal measure. Shocked because his punditry had made Monday Night Football appointment viewing, and while it was obvious that he had an eye on coaching once he joined the England set-up, nobody foresaw him taking his first managerial post abroad.

But we were also curious - how would his knowledge of formations and tactics, which was so evident during his TV work, translate to the dugout.

Not well, as it turns out. Neville came into a club in disarray and without a comprehensive grasp of Spanish - two big red flags that were always going to be hard to get past.

The Manchester United legend said that he would have lost credibility had he turned down the Valencia job, given the amount of scrutiny he had placed on managers in his TV role.

However, many feel that he has lost even more credibility by taking the job and failing rather spectacularly.

That is partly true. Undoubtedly, his coaching credentials are open to question after such an underwhelming first foray into management, but Neville will likely be given another chance - either with England or in England - where the circumstances will be more favourable for him to succeed.

Has he lost credibility as a pundit though? You could argue that he has gained more insight. Now, instead of speculating as to what a manager may have been thinking when making a particular decision, Neville can draw on his own experience when critiquing it.

He'll also better understand why a coach lined his team up a certain way or even how a manager deals with a club's board.

Another thing that works in his favour in punditry is that Neville, you know, actually speaks the language, unlike during his time at Valencia when he was mostly just gesticulating wildly on the sideline while screaming in pigeon-Spanish.

There will always be a section of people who say his opinion is cheapened by his sacking in Spain, but surely the more context Neville has when analysing games can only improve his arguments and thus, improve the viewing experience.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Neville will return to Sky. Perhaps when he is finished at Euro 2016 he will either succeed Roy Hodgson or look for another managerial job.

But if he returns to punditry - and after he receives a number of withering burns from Jamie Carragher - Neville should be an ever better pundit than when he left for Valencia.

Online Editors

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