Sunday 20 May 2018

Neville sacked as Valencia finally run out of patience

Gary Neville (Reuters)
Gary Neville (Reuters)

James Ducker

Gary Neville's brutal first taste of management came to an unceremonious end yesterday when he was sacked as Valencia head coach only 120 days into the job.

Yet despite the potential damage to his reputation, Neville does not intend to turn his back on management and hopes to be given another opportunity to stake his credentials, even if he plans to choose his next move carefully.

Neville had hoped to see out the season at the Mestalla and is thought to be hurt he was not afforded that chance after agreeing to step into the breach last December in part to help out the Valencia owner Peter Lim who is a close friend and business partner.

Despite the pressure for a change amid fears of the club being sucked into a relegation fight, Neville's reluctance to stay beyond the end of his short-term contract in May is also believed to have had an influence on Valencia's decision to sack him with eight games of the season still remaining.

Neville, 41, won just three of his 16 league games and had lost five of his last seven matches in all competitions. After the 2-0 defeat at home to Celta Vigo 11 days ago, which prompted some fans to chant "Gary, go now", Neville delayed joining up with England, for whom he is assistant manager to Roy Hodgson, as a gesture of respect to Valencia but he returned to Spain yesterday after the friendlies against Germany and Holland to discover that the decision to sack him had already been made.

Sources close to Neville said last night that he was feeling “raw”. Ninth when he took over, Neville leaves Valencia languishing in 14th position, just six points above the relegation zone.

Rafael Benitez’s former assistant at Liverpool, Pako Ayestaran, whom Neville appointed as his No2 in January, has been placed in charge until the end of the season. Phil Neville, who was already on the coaching staff before his brother’s arrival, is expected to remain at the club for now in another curious twist to the story.

Neville is understood to have turned down two jobs offers from Premier League clubs and two from Championship sides before taking the bold managerial plunge at Valencia and he is hopeful other approaches will be forthcoming, although whether his experience in Spain scares off some clubs remains to be seen.

For now, his focus will centre on assisting England’s preparations for the European Championship finals in France this summer. Neville has previously harboured ambitions to manage England one day and has been touted as a potential successor to Hodgson but a torrid four months in Spain may have hampered his prospects.

Neville was aware of the size of the challenge of taking charge at one of Spain’s biggest four clubs in mid-season in a country whose language he did not speak but was convinced the experience would benefit him down the line and claimed at the time that he “could have said goodbye to [my] credibility in football” if he had turned the job down.

Neville’s close relationship with Lim is expected to be unaffected by his dismissal. Although hurt by his departure, he has known the billionaire Singapore businessman for well over a decade and has a series of business interests with him. Lim co-owns Salford City FC, the non-league football club, with the Neville brothers and United’s other Class of ‘92 members, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs, and has a majority stake with the quintet in Hotel Football opposite Old Trafford.

Despite Valencia’s struggles, Neville largely avoided the fury of fans until recently, with many supporters training their anger on the players and club executives.

Neville had taken considerable effort to learn Spanish. Although he initially had lessons early in the morning, he later switched to take 90-minute daily sessions in the evening with his wife, Emma. His two daughters had lessons separately. Communicating with the players did, at times, prove difficult, though.

He also faced opposition from local media over his decision to end what had been daily open training sessions and faced calls to resign in the wake of a 7-0 hammering by Barcelona in February in the first leg of Valencia’s Copa del Rey semi-final.

In a statement yesterday, Neville said: “I would like to thank Valencia Football Club, the fans, staff and the players. I would have liked to have continued the work I started but understand that we are in a results business and in the 28 games (W10, D7, L11) they have not been to my standards or to those which are required by this club.” (© Daily Telegraph , London)

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