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Gary Neville's Leap of Faith

Tuesday 8th December 2015
In the last four years, Gary Neville's emergence as the best ‘pundit' on television has helped him almost wholly change public perception of his character. Unsurprisingly, many Chairman have sounded him out for roles within their football clubs, but none have succeeded. That is until Los Che, Valencia, came calling.
Aggressive and confrontational as a player, Neville's thorough and entertaining analysis on Monday Night Football has gained critical acclaim whilst winning over those who loved to hate him in a Manchester United strip. Those that have followed his budding career on Sky may not be surprised that he has finally stepped into management, with his current colleagues and former team mates all voicing their support for one of the most professional people they have met. But for a club the size of Valencia, with around 50,000 (FIFTY) thousand season ticket holders, to put their faith in a rookie is an eyebrow raiser.

Of course there are factors surrounding the move that begin to explain Valencia's unprecedented step. Phil Neville has been a member of the Valencia coaching staff since early July and has successfully made the transition into speaking the native language – something that Gary will hope to replicate, despite the apparent lack of teachers willing to work an early morning shift. The new Manager's employer is no stranger either as Peter Lim is a joint shareholder in the ‘Class of 92' run Salford City. Although moving abroad and acclimatising to a different football culture is an uncertain task, having familiar faces on the training ground and in the board room will certainly help.

Speaking in Thursday's press conference, Neville made several references to his time working on television and the comment he has offered. An observation he has often made is the lack of British players and coaches willing to further themselves by heading for pastures new, to gain a different perspective of football. It is something that very few have done with little success in recent years. Chris Coleman jumped rather being pushed from Real Sociedad after the arrival of a new President, with David Moyes' style of play also failing to impress the Basque club over the course of a year. Gary and Phil have the opportunity to not only heighten their own stock in terms of coaching, but to also push the case for English football and what it can offer above shouting that it is supposedly the best in the world.
Although currently sat in 7th place in La Liga, far below the expectations of the demanding Valencian supporters, Neville has plenty to build on. They remain unbeaten at home so far this season, having only conceded 3 times in the Mestalla. This record stands even after the visit of Barcelona, the first game following the appointment of England's former right back. Somewhat wisely, Gary Neville chose to watch on from the stands as his brother Phil shared match day duties with coach Salvador Gonzalez Marco. What better viewing for a new Manager than to see his players test themselves against the best team on the planet, and hold them to a hard fought draw. Reduced to the bare bones after injuries to seven key players, Valencia rode their luck throughout the first half as Messi, Neymar and Suarez created several glorious chances without converting. Even after the Suarez opener in the second half, Valencia's young side remained resolute and took their chance as it arrived in the 86th minute to the joy of the vociferous home support.

That home support, as eluded to by Neville, will always be key to the success of Los Che. As a player visiting with Manchester United, he experienced the Mestalla at the turn of the millennium when Valencia had one of their most decorated periods. A La Liga title and back to back Champions League final appearances are a reminder of the potential of Spain's third biggest football club, despite their recent financial plight. A potential that those within football will always acknowledge.

It is plain to see that Neville will, like his brother, totally immerse himself in the traditions of the Spanish city. His family are also moving in the coming weeks and he was pictured handing oranges to local fans hours after his unveiling. But more than just hard work and total self-belief is the analytical precision that Neville has demonstrated on Sky and in his work with Roy Hodgson, an ability that has put him in contention for such a prestigious job.

Whilst nearly all can make a case for Neville's surprise appointment, there is still trace of unpredictability in what to expect as Valencia travel to over achieving Eibar next Sunday. And most will hope that the next five months match up to the rise of one of Manchester United's iconic former players following his retirement from playing. Incidentally, the game will be live on Sky proving he will never be far from the glare of the UK viewer.

Perhaps Paul Scholes offered the perfect summary when he said on BBC television that Gary Neville knows no other way than total control and commitment - a quality that will endorse him to supporters on the Orange Blossom coast.
James Dean
A lover of football. Season ticket holder at Sheffield Wednesday and known as the "Andrea Pirlo of the North".

Total articles: 24

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