Gary Neville is no longer the smartest guy in the room as Valencia sack manager after four miserable months
- The ex-Manchester United defender became head coach in December 2015
- Valencia always looked an uneasy fit for his first managerial job
- There is reputational damage for Neville – but also a lot of sympathy
- It is impossible to sugar-coat the failure and his future is uncertain
It will have come as a great surprise to Gary neville to be sacked by valencia. Sadly, it won’t have come as a great surprise to anybody else.
Valencia always looked an uneasy fit as a first managerial job, and Neville’s task now is ensuring it is not his last. There is obviously reputational damage, even if there will also be much sympathy.
The appeal of a club of Valencia’s standing was plain, but in a new country, with a new language, and new culture around the game, it was always going to take time for him to settle. Yet major football clubs rarely afford time these days, not even when the owner is a personal friend.
Gary Neville has been sacked by Valencia just four months and 28 games into his first managerial job
It always looked an uneasy fit for Neville’s first managerial role and the failure can’t be sugar-coated
Neville has failed to revive Valencia’s season, winning just ten of his 28 games in charge in all competitions
NEVILLE BY NUMBERS
Record: P28 W10 D7 L7 F39 A38
35.7% – Neville’s win percentage in all competitions
7-0 – Valencia’s crushing defeat by Barcelona was their heaviest in a Spanish cup match since 1928
0 – Clean sheets kept in La Liga by Valencia under Neville. They have conceded 25 goals in 16 games
3 – Neville won just three games in La Liga
6 – Valencia are just six points above the relegation zone in La Liga with eight games to go
Valencia had their sights on the Champions League and Neville took them in the opposite direction. They began to fear relegation. The upshot is that Neville has been sacked and replaced by Pako Ayestaran, Spanish-born, a former assistant to Rafa Benitez and someone it can be argued knows the course and distance.
On the day Neville’s appointment was announced, Valencia were in ninth place in La Liga but just five points off the top four, and averaging 1.46 points per game. Neville leaves them 14th, with 20 points separating them from fourth-placed Villarreal but six points off the bottom three. The points average in his time is 0.88.
The numbers are unarguably poor. Valencia’s average before Neville arrived would currently see them eighth.
His brother Phil (left) will remain on the coaching staff at Valencia to work with caretaker boss Pako Ayestaran
Had they performed at his level throughout the entire season, they would now be 19th.
There is no way of sugar-coating what happened and Neville — who knew in advance of the decision — did not attempt it.
‘I understand we are in a business that is based on the results and, in 28 games with 10 wins, seven draws and 11 defeats, they have not been at the level that I demand,’ he said. His statement seemed to be the final acceptance that the initial take on the role was too idealistic. Analysts in television studios can work on theory; at the sharp end, there is a rather more finite reckoning.
‘Whatever happens in this next five months, people will want to put the word failure or success at the end of this,’ Neville said, early in the journey. ‘But I will put the words experience and lessons at the end of it, I think.’
And what if it only lasts four months, not five? Are we allowed to appraise in more black and white terms in those circumstances, perhaps? It is hard not to feels sorry for Neville. It truly did not occur to him that he would not be given his full term, until the end of the season, at least.
That was the deal. The lion’s share of this 2015-16 season and then a more permanent arrangement if all parties are satisfied. Neville is no fool and has suspected he might not get the longer deal. But he thought he would at least escape with his dignity and see this La Liga campaign out. From there he would decamp to international duty with the FA, his employment as Roy Hodgson’s England assistant another strand of what is a portfolio career.
The sacking is a blow to Neville’s status in the game and Valencia could not wait to bundle him out the door
BEFORE AND AFTER NEVILLE
LA LIGA WHEN NEVILLE TOOK OVER…
P W D L GD Pts
8 Eibar 13 5 5 3 +3 20
9 Valencia 14 5 5 4 +7 20
10 Seville 14 5 4 5 0 19
LA LIGA WHEN NEVILLE LEFT…
P W D L GD Pts
13 Real Betis 30 8 10 12 -13 34
14 Valencia 30 8 10 12 -3 34
15 Las Palmas 30 9 6 15 -10 33
Neville has media work, football engagements as both coach and club owner, property and business investments, he prides himself on multi-tasking at an elite level. Even if he left Valencia at the end of the season, with results disappointing, he would calculate that he could not be greatly harmed. So it didn’t work out. He wouldn’t be the first manager to find that at Valencia, and he won’t be the last. He was the club’s 16th manager in as many years.
Yet this? It is a blow to his ego, and his status in the game. The bottom line is that Valencia could not wait to bundle him out of the door, could not stand another eight matches with Neville at the helm. He will still command respect in the England dressing-room, because he was a great player — but his position as an authority has taken a hit, undeniably.
Neville (right) earned respect for his punditry work but his authority could be undermined by his Valencia spell
If he returns to broadcasting, there is now a very obvious riposte to some of his more strident assessments. It is one that Jose Mourinho, for instance, would not be shy of making. Neville’s persona was that of the smartest guy in the room, but that hardly tallies with three wins in 16 La Liga games.
The future is also uncertain. Had Neville performed reasonably in Spain, his services would have been much sought after in the Premier League. That may now change. Engaging Neville will be seen as a risk, a gamble, particularly if time shows Valencia are not as difficult as Neville made them seem. What if results pick up under Ayestaran — or simply return to the level of his predecessor, Voro?
Neville (far right) will play a key role for England at Euro 2016 in France under manager Roy Hodgson (centre)
Neville may have to realign his sights, embark on a more conventional apprenticeship in England with a smaller club, perhaps a Championship team with ambition. Will that even appeal to him, going to work far from the big arenas?
Certainly, he has been let down by Valencia and his friend and employer Peter Lim. Far from being an ally, Lim has left him damaged and humiliated. Arriving in Valencia, Neville’s motivation was plain. ‘If I’d turned down this job I’d have said goodbye to my credibility,’ he insisted.
At no time did he envisage that accepting it could produce a similar outcome.
Source: Daily Mail