Gary Neville’s Natural Next Step


Platinum One’s Rory Kelly discusses Gary Neville’s move to management and the process…

I scrolled through my Twitter timeline on Tuesday evening whilst waiting on a train. Through endless posts of football, music and news from home, one tweet in particular caught my eye. Not believing the source, it read:

“Manchester United legend and #MNF pundit @GNev2 to be announced manager of Championship club”

The tweet was in relation to the ‘imminent’ appointment of Gary Neville as boss of a certain team in England’s second tier. Having come across many similar ‘ITK’ stories in the past few years on Twitter, my instant reaction was that it was another of these spoofed up stories.

And it was. Instead, he was appointed Head Coach of Valencia the very next day – much to people’s shock, but at the same time, understanding.

Since his retirement, Neville has become one of the most respected pundits in football, being many people’s main attraction for watching football on a Monday night. His insights are thorough, his knowledge comprehensive, and his light-hearted banter with Jamie Carragher a joy to watch. It is Neville’s transition from full-time professional footballer with one of the biggest clubs in world, to his almost natural role as a pundit with Sky Sports, which makes his next step not so surprising.

This is a man with a huge knowledge of the game. A man who’s education was enhanced every time he sat down and analysed a match. Pointing out to millions of viewers the flaws evident in certain players’ games, examining teams’ styles and why they do and do not work – Neville you could say, would have been a shoo-in for the Manchester United role had Ryan Giggs not been afforded his current role under Louis Van Gaal. In fact, he may be in a better position than Giggs should he be successful at Valencia.

I see Neville’s move to La Liga as a massive opportunity to put his findings into practice, at a massive club. In his press conference yesterday, he explained that he intended on ‘immersing himself in the culture’ and noted that every decision would be ‘long-term’. Coming from Neville, you know that this will certainly be the case. This is the man that months before his first appearance on Monday Night Football, had installed all the gadgets in his home to make sure he was correctly prepared for his next venture.

In a way, he is an example of a footballer that may not have necessarily had his career path drawn out, but once the end came, he threw himself into other projects and engrossed himself while doing so. His work with Sky Sports shot him to stardom off-the-field, while he built his knowledge further working with Roy Hodgson’s England squad. Indeed, the youthful nature of the current England squad has allowed Neville have an influence on the most promising young players in the Premier League, and having been there and done it as a player, his trophy-cabinet alone would demand respect.

But do you need a job on national TV, or a resumé with Champions League medals to obtain such a job? Not necessarily. Many players have gone straight into management – minus the profile. For every Gary Neville, you have four or five Gary Monks – players that were brought through the club and given the manager role almost immediately after ceasing playing. There is no set-in-stone pathway.

One thing he has to be credited for however is his decision making throughout. Now is the right time for him to try his hand at management. Had he turned this opportunity down, he may have ended up starting his club managerial career at a Championship club. And like many others, I think he will be a success in La Liga.

After all – the Spanish language couldn’t be any harder to understand than the Scouse accent.

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