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Phil Neville: The controversy deflects from the real issue

Saturday 27th January 2018

Social media is a world in which people can always be caught out. A politician came on BBC Radio 5 Live a few weeks ago, admitting as much.

If an interested or opportunistic agent were to look hard enough, they would unearth controversial statements of his own on his social media profiles. It was honest of him. It was also accurate.

The same could be said for everyone, I suspect, if they've held a social-media account for an extended period. 

This week, it was Phil Neville's turn to be spit-roasted over the Twitter fire. The new England women's boss was seared to the bone with past missteps splurging oil into every sinew. A series of unwise, to say the least, tweets in his thread disregarded, denigrated, and ridiculed women. One joke included "battered [sic] his wife." Another insinuated a women's role in the home should be restricted to the kitchen, getting the kids ready, and changing the bed. Still more described women as hypocrites when it came to wanting equality, albeit not in paying the bills.

Now, it should be said that these tweets were seemingly meant in a joking manner. The hypocrisy tweet, for example, was in direct response to his wife. She took the joke in the light-hearted manner it was intended. But that does not exonerate the misogynistic, offensive language used, or the derogatory tone and dark subject matter of the tweets. Especially not by a man now thrust into one of the most senior roles in English women's sport.

Neville should be reprimanded. The FA has already announced it won't, or that he will at least keep his job. He is lucky, more so when you consider PNev is fortunate to have the job at all. He is simply unqualified. That a candidate with his extremely limited experience should be given the top managerial job in English women's football is possibly more offensive than the tweets themselves.

In principle, every job should be filled by the best qualified, most capable applicant. The criteria should have nothing to do with gender or any other demographic; it should have everything to do with the person's ability. Neville is not the man who best satisfies the skills necessary to manage England's women to the highest possible standard.

He has never managed or coached, other than as an assistant, any professional football team, men's or women's. He has never held an international coaching or managing position, other than co-managing Salford City for one match. Even Zinedine Zidane cut his teeth with Real Madrid Castilla before being entrusted with the senior squad. Neville has never worked in the women's game. There must be large gaps in his knowledge of its players, culture, and nuance.

There are some people who claim a women's team should be managed by a women. Intuitively, perhaps that makes sense. Intuition isn't the sole prerequisite for the job, however. Take Vic Akers. A man, he founded Arsenal Ladies, managed them for over two decades and won 10 Women's FA Cups, 11 Women's Premier League titles, and the UEFA Women's Cup in 2007. Arsenal was the first English side to ever win the competition.

The difference between Akers and Neville is the former has extensive experience in the women's game. He has worked with female players. He understands the difference between how men and women train, develop, work, and play. He has an extensive knowledge of the players in the game, the potential signings, the young prospects who need nurturing. He is, in a word, qualified. Neville is not.

So while the world may focus on the Twitter debacle, mismanagement of the Women's national team by the FA (again) is the real issue. Ramifications Neville's hiring may have on the players and upcoming World Cup campaign are being almost completely overlooked. Phil Neville was not qualified for this job. He was given it based on name value and the recommendation of another broadcaster at a dinner. He didn't even apply. If you are an England player, and female, that is the travesty.

Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!

Total articles: 175

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