Friday 23 March 2018

No WAG distractions at England camp this time, says Gary Neville

Gary Neville
Gary Neville

Press Association

ENGLAND coach Gary Neville has vowed that there will never be any repeat of the WAGs debacle at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

As with this summer, six years ago, England opted to base themselves in an accessible location for a major tournament, the rather genteel spa resort of Baden Baden, close to the Black Forest.

However, England's presence was completely overshadowed by that of their glamorous wives and girlfriends, who became a magnet for photographers and a massive distraction.

Poland's second city Krakow may not hold the same appeal and, a combination of the logistical difficulties of getting to matches taking place in Ukraine - a two-hour flight away - and the potential for racism has led some families to make a decision to stay away altogether.

Whether the lure of Brazil in 2014 raises the WAGs issue once more is open to debate.

Neville, part of that England squad in Germany which bowed out to Portugal in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out, is confident those chaotic scenes are a thing of the past.

"That won't happen again," he said.

"The FA learned from the experience in 2006. The England team did. The England players did.

"That wasn't ideal for anybody.

"It was symptomatic of the times. Between 2002 and 2007 everyone got carried away with everything in life.

"It is a different world now and those mistakes won't happen again under any manager or any regime. The platform won't be given.

"We are managing it this time in a completely different way. We are here to play football. We are here to work."

England's response to Baden Baden was to shut their players away in the relative isolation of Rustenburg in South Africa.

That did not work either, with many players complaining of boredom.

So, when they leave England on June 6, they will do so for the centre of a city with approximately 750,000 inhabitants.

Yet, according to Neville, this is the only way to replicate the normal day-to-day experiences of the England squad, and get the best out of them.

"Players would not pen themselves into a countryside location between a Saturday and Tuesday game for their clubs," he said.

"That is the big message, to have players doing what they would normally do.

"You can never replicate the home environment but in terms of being free to go for a coffee or to the shops - we should embrace it, even though it has never been done before."

Though he went to five major tournaments as a player during an 85-cap England career he regards as "a waste of time" in the sense of never winning anything, this will be Neville's first as a coach.

It represents a giant leap of faith from manager Roy Hodgson, who knows the 37-year-old has no relevant coaching experience.

Hodgson was attracted to Neville though because of his astute observations in his role as a TV pundit on Sky.

Yet, during that time, the former Manchester United full-back has made many forceful comments about most of the 23-man squad he is now trying to get the most from.

"I don't think the players are too fragile," said Neville.

"Yes, at some point I will have highlighted a mistake from every player in this squad, or praised them.

"But football players are very honest.

"If someone makes a mistake in a big game millions around the world will have seen it, plus their own coaches, own fans, family, themselves.

"The last thing they will be worried about is me sat in a little glass box saying something.

"A lot more questions were being asked about me and my role at Sky 12 months ago.

"I had been at United for 20 years and I was still an ambassador. How was I ever going to talk openly and honestly about Manchester United's players and their opponents?

"I would like to think I have proved I am impartial and can speak openly.

"As long as you are fair and honest across the board I don't think anyone has a problem, although the real proof will come next season.

"That is when I have to prove I can handle both of these roles.

"But I am not worried about it at all."

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