Sport Soccer

Monday 27 January 2020

John Giles slams Gary Neville, 'political animal' Hodgson and basically the entire England midfield

Read John Giles every Friday in The Herald.

Gary Neville, right, will be part of the England set-up at Euro 2016
Gary Neville, right, will be part of the England set-up at Euro 2016

John Giles

Gary Neville now has his own chapter in football’s book of bad ideas. His is a cautionary tale of the boy who thought he could have it all and fell flat on his face.

A week ago, he was the Valencia manager, an England coach and on a break from his television work.

Now he only has his England role to fulfil.

Apparently, he had already been sacked when he turned up at the England camp just before the win over Germany, hardly in the right frame of mind to give his all to Roy Hodgson.

He may have enough sense not to turn up next Monday evening on Sky’s analysis programme alongside Jamie Carragher to lecture us all about how the game should be played but I wouldn’t rule it out.

When you feel that you are the master of the universe and can do super-human things, it’s hard to climb down from that mountain.

I believe that Neville thought he really could have it all and I don’t think there was anyone close to him giving him the advice he needed.

The moment he was forced to ring Hodgson to tell him that he had to stay in Spain, it all came crashing down around him.

That was the point when he understood in a very real way how foolish he was to try to do the impossible.


Very few in England felt the need to point out the conflicts of interest which governed but did not rule Neville’s actions but it was very obvious to me, even on a purely practical level, that he could not juggle everything successfully.

Before Valencia was even a thought in his head, I believe his work with England was compromised by his position with Sky.

I’ve said this before but it is worth repeating because I believe it will be relevant again before too long because Sky will want him to come back, badly wounded as he is by the decisions he made.

England have a squad packed with young lads, many of whom would look to the assistant boss or a coach for a shoulder or a confessional moment. It’s part of the role and always has been.

What if one of the young England lads decided to confide in Neville in a personal way and a few weeks later, had an absolute nightmare for his club.

Neville might know the reason why the lad is out of sorts from the contact he had with him in the England squad and as far as I’m concerned, that immediately disqualifies him from offering any opinion of substance.

He can’t tell the truth and so he can’t be honest with viewers.

This didn’t stop him before and Hodgson was prepared to tolerate it, which in turn, was a poor, poor choice.

But I’m never really surprised what Hodgson does. I can see all the classic signs of an over-hyped England team before a major tournament and I don’t have a great deal of faith in a manager who is probably the most political animal ever to take the job.

I run a finger down this supposedly exciting young England squad and what I see is a crying need for someone in midfield to run the show and Hodgson only has one man who can do it – Wayne Rooney.

Put bluntly, Jordan Henderson isn’t good enough and all the other options for midfield are what I call “on their day” players.

How many of the names look right when you add ‘on his day’ to a sentence describing their potential. Too many.

Wilshire, Walcott, Oxlade Chamberlain, Cleverly, Stones, Barkley, Sturridge. Good on their day.

All of these lads can play a bit and some might even be the real deal. But none of them have shown the kind of consistently at club or international level which tells me that England can buck the trend and make a big impact in France.

If they build a team around Rooney as the playmaker with perhaps Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater beside him and Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane up front, they have a chance but I’m not sure Hodgson will do that.

One thing I do know. If I was in Hodgson’s shoes, I wouldn’t like to be relying on Gary Neville for an opinion on Rooney. Or on anything else for that matter.

‘Naïve and arrogant’ were the words Neville used to describe Arsene Wenger. Say no more.

Herald Sport

The Throw-In: Dublin-Kerry cracker, scrap the advanced mark and Limerick's psychological boost

In association wth Allianz

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport