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October 2016
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Gary Neville’s experience should teach everyone lessons but of course it won’t.

By Tony Attwood

According to Wikipedia G Neville is one of the most decorated English and European footballers of all time, having won a total of 20 trophies, including eight Premier League titles and two Champions League titles.

After retiring as a player he went into the world of the pundit with Sky Sports and during his time as a pundit he was particularly scathing about Arsene Wenger, often calling his tactical performances naive.

Of course one must fully admit that G Neville did something many other ex-players and pundits would not do – he tried his luck as a manager.   And like many other players before him, he flopped.

The question now is whether having flopped as a manager he will return to punditry and continue to attack Arsene Wenger in the way that other managerial flops such as Frank McLintock and Paul Merson have done, or whether he will have a spot of humility and shut up.


I suspect (but it is only a suspicion) that when Neville took over at Valencia, and he heard that they were in crisis because they were ninth, and just five points away from a Champions League place, he didn’t really think it was a crisis, because he didn’t do the bit of arithmetic that anyone who follows Spanish football ought to do.

It goes like this…

Celta Vigo currently in fifth are closer to relegation than they are to winning to league.   All of the top seven clubs have a chance of European football next season.  The eighth club (Malaga) is actually only 11 points above a relegation place.

This is what you get from a league where only three teams can ever win the league, where the much celebrated (by the media) upsurge of Tottenham and Leicester and perhaps WHU, never happens.  The top three are the top three forever.

And ever.



# Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts
1 Barcelona 30 24 4 2 86 24 62 76
2 Atletico Madrid 30 21 4 5 46 14 32 67
3 Real Madrid 30 20 6 4 87 28 59 66
4 Villarreal 30 15 9 6 37 25 12 54
5 Celta Vigo 30 14 6 10 43 51 -8 48
6 Sevilla 30 13 9 8 43 35 8 48
7 Athletic Bilbao 30 14 5 11 48 39 9 47
8 Malaga 30 10 9 11 29 28 1 39
9 Eibar 30 10 8 12 42 42 0 38
10 Deportivo La Coruna 30 7 15 8 39 43 -4 36
11 Real Sociedad 30 9 8 13 37 41 -4 35
12 Espanyol 30 10 5 15 31 56 -25 35
13 Real Betis 30 8 10 12 27 40 -13 34
14 Valencia 30 8 10 12 33 36 -3 34
15 Las Palmas 30 9 6 15 32 42 -10 33
16 Rayo Vallecano 30 6 10 14 41 63 -22 28
17 Granada 30 7 7 16 32 56 -24 28
18 Getafe 30 7 7 16 28 52 -24 28

So Valencia had to keep up their record that they had when Neville took over not in order for the club to stand still, but in order to avoid relegation.  Now they are just six points away.

Of course multiple pundits never dare attempt management but spend their time endlessly attacking managers and their tactics.  So 1-0 to the Neville for having a go.  0-1 for his ability as a manager however.

Unfortunately his statements don’t give us much hope for the future.

“I believe in myself and I believe that I can deliver or I would not have taken this on,” Neville said when he took on the job.  Of course the media will not turn on him, because he is a man who attacks Wenger, so the “young, divided, disconnected and unfit squad” is being blamed.  “An unstable club in a foreign country, where he does not speak the language and midway through the season, too.”

Yep – but they were doing better without him than they did with him.

What he did find out was that the instant changes that he and so many other pundits have tried to press upon Wenger simply don’t bring changes in a TEAM sport.  Neville changed everyone and everything – captain, assistant coach, players, tactics…   it took 10 attempts for Valencia to win in the league under him.  Before he came they were invincible at home.  Not any more.

Then, not knowing the meaning of either humility or reality he refused to resign. That surely was the biggest mistake of all – although of course the media won’t see it that way.  He attacks Wenger; they love him.

It would be lovely if those who had not managed with success didn’t give their comments on current managers – but then that would leave us with precious few pundits (which would be good).  And indeed even those who have managed with success don’t always make good pundits.

David Moyes won the second division with Preston in 2000 and the Charity Shield with Man U in 2013 but didn’t really impress on his move into punditry with his comment about the jury being out over Ozil (player of the year in Germany, David).

The point about punditry is that it is instant, it is totally surface (there is no background analysis, no in-depth consideration) and there is no come back, unless people on blogs remember and throw it back in the pundits face.

So I don’t expect a change – but at least Neville has shown us something: that being a smart pundit really reveals nothing about one’s knowledge of football.


28 comments to Gary Neville’s experience should teach everyone lessons but of course it won’t.

  • Gouresh

    ohh shit….Mr “I know all” we will have him back on sky slagging off AW….

  • Brilliant footballer, a fantastic flop as a manager, but most importantly for me, a loudmouth with a bloody nose. He probably will shut up a bit.

    Great write up Tony, as always. Always giving a great perspective.

  • Rich

    A lot of it hinges for me on whether or not he believes the things he says. Naturally I’m most interested, overwhelmingly so, in the stuff he has said about Arsenal over the years.

    Hence, if he actually believes the things he has said about us in relation to aggression and what is legitimate, he is near enough guaranteed to fail as a coach in nearly all environments.

    If he doesn’t believe it, and knows in his heart that things were helped along by generous refereeing, well, that just makes him a cynical shit.

    If it’s the former, I feel a little sorry for him. It would make him like a pampered child who is ill-prepared for the real world or carries a distorted view of it. Bad news if you step into any environment very different from the one you are accustomed to.

    If the latter, and my guess is it’s closer to that, yep, that makes me enjoy his failure. I do still have some doubts about which it is for him,though.

  • Menace

    Neville? I never rated him as a footballer. He was good because he played on sloping pitches. How many red cards did he evade? Scholes was the same.

    There were several players at Man U who were class but neither of the ugly sisters came close.

    His punditry started with some quality but then came the bile. Too much oil in his feed!

  • Luscious Lisa

    Agree with everything you write, but there is such a thing as kicking a man when he’s down.

  • Andy Mack

    Initially he wasn’t a bad pundit. He actually gave a few genuinely informative comments. But then Carragher joined him and started making outrageously ignorant comments which the other pundits congratulated him on and the rest of the media didn’t pick him up on. Carragher and Neville are extremely competitive with each other (it’s the Liverpoo-Disunited thing) and this seems to have pushed Neville into making more and more ridiculous comments (copied by his idiot brother).

    Valencia have a real problem with injuries at the moment (Obviously Wengers fault!) but I don’t know if it was a problem before he arrived. If not then it was probably because of his insightful instruction to the squad to “run around a bit more” and “kick them a bit harder”….

  • Polo

    Let give Gary some credit for having a go at management, now he probably understand that gadgets on tv don’t work out in the field. I hope he learnt from this experience and don’t call other managers ‘naive’ or ‘arrogant’ in his future punditry work. Anyway, I wish him all the best in his next job.

  • serge

    This is taken from this evening’s Fiver in The Guardian.

    “The question is does he deserve to be the one pontificating to the nation on tactics and team spirit, having shown such ineptitude himself? There are those who suggest that one failed managerial role fatally undermines his credentials as a TV pundit. They are, of course, absolutely correct.”

    Absolutely spot on!

  • BarryL

    Let’s face it the TV channels (including BBC and ITV) expect these so-called experts to make controversial statements to spice up their programmes.

    But what are they experts of? Playing yes, managing or coaching a club definitely not.
    They fact that some of them played in title or trophy winning sides does not make them experts on how to build, nurture, develop and manage winning sides; on a continuing basis.

    It is to be hoped that Neville will have a little bit of humility now after earning the Valencia fans bile and derision for his performance. Though Shearer doesn’t seemed to have learned from his abysmal foray at Newcastle.

    It is easy to criticise and mock teams and managers from the comfort of the TV hospitality lounge; a whole different story when you have to deliver from the dug-out

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think the Neville brothers deserve every little kick they can get even when already being down. After all it is what they have build their careers on and what they tell other players to do when they come up against skilful players….

  • goonersince72

    Great post, Tony. Maybe Valencia Manager can be the next destination for the pundits and experts. Ready to try on the ‘suit’ Piers, Carragher, etc? Thought not, that job is difficult and has accountability. Also, I agree with Walter (@4:01 pm). The Neville’s are not down far enough for me. Perhaps a few actual kicks of the like they dished out are in order. Unprovoked and from the blind side.

  • @Swales1968

    It just goes goes to show how easy it is for ex players to talk the perfect game. We now have Shearer and Neville back after failed attempts at management but still lorded by the media as experts. Stewart Robson on talk sport last night discussing tactics and how managers should be doing this or that with players.

    Owen, Savage and even Hoddle just spouting the blindingly obvious during games and showing bias towards some and against others. They all have without fail tried at one point or another to tell Wenger what he is doing wrong and that is one of the main reasons supporting Mr Wenger these people are ingniramouaes of the highest level with really no idea of how to deal with top class management

  • nicky

    Walter, your 4.01 says it all.
    Neville and his gruesome brother were experts in GBH on the football field and deserve all the ill-luck possible.
    Whatever happens now, followers of Arsenal FC will never forgive them for the Night of Infamy, when, aided by a corrupt referee, both thugs destroyed much that is good and honest about our national game.

  • Menace

    nicky -‘Whatever happens now, followers of Arsenal FC will never forgive them for the Night of Infamy, when, aided by a corrupt referee, both thugs destroyed much that is good and honest about our national game.’

    True in every way. England would have had some real ball playing skill if it weren’t for these ‘role models’. So many kids with skill leave the game because of the ‘smash’ bullies.

  • serge

    I think Tony has misjudged the medias reaction to Neville’s sacking which seems to be more schadenfreude than sympathy.

    It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.

  • I am in agreement about the Nevilles but I have to take issue with the relationship between knowledge of the game and being a top manager. I dont think they go necessarily go hand in hand. I have no evidence to support this view but my sense is that players like Neville do indeed know the game but either they are too thick to be able to communicate that knowledge or are unable to deal with the complex other issues that go towards managing a team. It would seem to me to be practically impossible to coach any team if you cant speak the language.

  • Al

    I think Walter’s comment at 4:01pm says it all, I won’t add anything further 🙂

  • Richard

    Those that can, do. Those that can’t, pundit.

  • Al

    I don’t know what the headlines were like earlier, as I wasn’t checking, but looking at them now it looks like are firmly throwing their weight behind him. He’s being touted as the next Utd manager, favourite to be the next Villa boss, a championship club or two are after his signature, and has already been asked to come back to Sky.. It sounds like he’s the most eligible candidate for every managerial vacancy in England at the moment.

    I didn’t spend much time at it, but wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been mentioned elsewhere, or if piers morgan hasn’t already tweeted so, as being the man who should replace Wenger 🙂

  • Ken1945

    Humility, Respect, Acknowledgement,Experience, these are just some of the requirements that pundits need to have before trying to tell the most successful manager in Arsenal F.C.’s history how to “do it”.
    Merson and S.Robson are the biggest culprits of not having any of the above skills and just like Neville they have also failed completely at trying to emulate Arsene.
    As for Piers Morgan, he couldn’t even identify fake photos!!!!He wants Mourinho to manage our great club for gods sake…where does this mans arrogance end?

  • Pat

    True, Al. Still, let’s rub our hands and enjoy it while it lasts. He got the sack! Great article – and Walter and Nicky are right.

  • bjtgooner

    A good article. I never liked Neville or his sister as players – they indulged in too much premeditated serial thuggery – with the conivance of the refs and under instruction from the Red Nosed One. His thuggery in game 50 was a total disgrace.

    As a failed manager he will no doubt be touted as a returning hero and expert by the media – but for now we can enjoy the moment!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Hands up all those who that predicted that he would be a great success in Spain ?

    None ? Oh , Ok . Then nothing to add . Lets go the funnies then.

    Many years ago during my married days, I accidentally overturned my golf cart.

    Elizabeth, a very attractive and keen golfer, who lived in a villa on the golf course, heard the noise and called out: “Are you okay, what’s your name?”

    “It’s John, and I’m okay thanks,” I replied as I pulled myself out of the twisted cart.

    “John, she said, (firm loose breasts undulating beneath her white silky robe) “forget your troubles. Come to my villa, rest a while and I’ll help you get the cart up later.”

    “That’s mighty nice of you,” I answered, “but I don’t think my wife would like it.”

    “Oh, come on now ” Elizabeth insisted.

    She was so very pretty, very very sexy and very persuasive … I was weak. “Well okay,” I finally agreed but thought to myself, “my wife won’t like it.”

    After a couple of restorative Scotch and waters, I thanked Elizabeth. “I feel a lot better now, but I know my wife is going to be really upset. So I’d best go now.”

    “Don’t be silly!” Elizabeth said with a smile, letting her robe fall open slightly. “She won’t know anything. By the way, where is she?”

    “Still under the cart, I guess” I said.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Husband and wife went to court to get a divorce .

    Judge : ” You have three kids …how will you divide them ?”

    The husband had a long discussion with his wife and said :” Ok , sir , we will come back next year with one more .”

    Nine months later , they got twins !

    I’m not really sure if this is a joke or has some moral message in it .

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A young farm couple, Homer and Darlene, got married and just couldn’t seem to get enough lovin’. In the morning, before Homer left the house for the fields, they made love. When Homer came back from the fields, they made love. And again at bedtime, they made love.

    The problem was their nooner – it took Homer a half hour to travel home and another half hour to return to the fields and he just wasn’t getting enough work done. Finally Homer asked the town doctor what to do.

    “Homer,” said the doctor, “just take your rifle out to the field with you and when you’re in the mood, fire off a shot into the air. That will be Darlene’s signal to come out to you. Then you won’t lose any field time.”

    They tried Doc’s advice and it worked well for a while. Homer came back to the doctor’s office…

    “What’s wrong?” asked the Doc. “Didn’t my idea work?”

    “Oh, it worked real good,” said Homer. “Whenever I was in the mood, I fired off a shot like you said and Darlene’d come runnin’. We’d find a secluded place, make love, and then she’d go back home again.”

    “Good, Homer. So what’s the problem?” asked the Doc.

    “I ain’t seen her since huntin’ season started.”

  • Mandy Dodd

    I hope Neville takes the villa job, fails, and gets branded a failure for the rest of his managerial career. Which will not help him as a pundit.
    Apart from that, don’t wish him any ill, he is just a product of a manager/PGMOL stitch up

  • Goonermikey

    At least we will no longer have to listen to those Man U brown nosing sycophants at the BBC perpetually banging on about the team they arbitrarily renamed “Gary Neville’s Valencia”.

    I understand he actually has achieved the record of the worst manager in Valencia’s history…………ideal qualifications for TV punditry based on the evidence!

    And to those who say ‘fair play’ to him for having ago, I say let’s not forget that bloody Lawrenson managed the mighty Oxford Utd and then Peterborough and having failed miserably in management the BBC gave him the title of “Football Expert”. And he seems to think that qualifies him to criticise managers who are infinitely more successful than he ever was. I’m sure Neville will go the same way.

    One positive for G Neville though. As unsuccessful as he may be at management, he will never be as stupid as his brother.

  • finsbury

    Moyes knew what he was saying when he spoke about Ozil:

    As in he was happy to read from the script provided by the far far off and beyond the verge (politically speaking) broadcaster.

    Same old same gibberish from the same old propaganda merchants. Doesn’t matter what chattering monkey they’ll pay to humiliate themselves from the chair they’ll be squeaking ‘au revoir Venga’ before you could even mention The War.

    Blooming ‘ Gronghog Day innit 🙂