Phil Neville hopes nobody made an England scapegoat at World Cup
England open their World Cup campaign against Tunisia on Monday.
Former England defender Phil Neville hopes none of Gareth Southgate’s squad will be made a “scapegoat” should things not go to plan at the World Cup.
It has been a largely positive build-up to the tournament so far, with a relaxed atmosphere in and around the England camp.
That solidarity will be put to the test when England open their World Cup campaign against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday night.
Now manager of England Women, Neville recalled the fallout after the disappointment of Euro 2000, when his poor tackle gave away a late penalty against Romania in the final group game – and the subsequent defeat sent the Three Lions home.
“I got home and the next six months were probably the most difficult of my career. There was an England flag on my gates on fire. There were England fans outside my gates regularly shouting abuse,” Neville said to BBC Radio 5 Live Robbie Savage’s World Cup Breakfast show.
“It was a difficult moment, not just for me but for my mum, my dad, my wife, my kids. They really suffered, probably more than me.”
Neville added: “When I went back to pre-season training (with Manchester United), we went to Shrewsbury for a pre-season game and I got absolutely slaughtered by English fans.
“There’s a scapegoat in every tournament from an England player and you have to hope there won’t be one this tournament.”
Neville revealed it can be a testing experience for anyone to take on board, especially when far from home when “you are on your own”.
“When you’re in the England dressing room, you’re probably not as close to the players as at club level and they probably don’t know what to say to you,” the former Manchester United and Everton defender said.
“I remember Michael Owen tapping me on the shoulder and saying ‘I hope you’re okay’. Gaz (Gary Neville) and Scholesy (Paul Scholes) were obviously asking if I was okay.
“I remember Sir Alex (Ferguson) ringing the next morning saying ‘get back to your club, we’ll look after you’ – but apart from that, you’re on your own.”
Neville continued: “It was the most difficult moment in my career dealing with that disappointment and the personal abuse afterwards.
“It shows the passion England has in big tournaments. I just hope nobody suffers this tournament.”