By Michael Church
VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) – Gary Neville’s playing career will always be inextricably linked with his former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, but he is determined to establish himself as his own man as he prepares for life at the helm of Spanish side Valencia.
The 40-year-old, an eight-time winner of the English Premier League and key member of the Manchester United side that won the league, FA Cup and Champions League treble in 1999, was unveiled at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium on Thursday as the club’s new coach, replacing Nuno Espirito Santo.
Yet while icons such as Ferguson and former England manager Terry Venables had a major influence on Neville during his formative years, the former right back feels his time working in business outside the sport will play a significant role in shaping his coaching philosophy.
“(I was) not necessarily taking notes, but I think (I was) always remembering and understanding what was good about coaches,” Neville told a news conference.
“You remember their traits, you remember their mannerisms, you remember what succeeded, what you liked, what you didn’t like, but I think, for me, in terms of developing my own management style, I think the last four or five years out of football have probably been the biggest influence on how I work.
“(I’ve been) managing businesses with hundreds of people in them, dealing with issues every single day, not on the football pitch, but off the football pitch.
“Working under Roy Hodgson with England has changed my perception of what I think of coaching and football over these last four or five years and how to deal with players five years ago versus today…
“So I think the last five years have been the time that I’ve needed to develop and mature as a person, to be able to have the confidence to take a role of this stature.”
Since retiring as a player in 2011, Neville has kept himself busy as a coach, a pundit and an entrepreneur.
He has been credited with boosting the standard of analysis of English football in his television role with Sky Sports while being involved in running football-linked businesses with former Manchester United colleagues Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and, his brother, Phil. He has also served as assistant coach to England manager Hodgson.
Several of his business ventures have seen Neville strike up a professional relationship with Valencia owner Peter Lim.
Lim, a Singaporean billionaire, is a shareholder along with Neville in English minor league club Salford City and Hotel Football in Manchester.
With a well-rounded portfolio of experience, Neville is confident he can be a success in Spain.
“I didn’t consult Sir Alex (Ferguson) on whether to take the job, I discussed it with my family,” said the former England international.
“But I did speak to him over the last few days and had a good conversation with him and he offered words of support, but not just from him also from Roy Hodgson and other managers who have worked in La Liga and I would be stupid not to accept that support and advice…
“But I have confidence in myself and my understanding of the game and my belief is strong.”
Neville takes over a Valencia side that have struggled so far this season and sit ninth in La Liga after 13 games while their hopes of claiming a place in the last 16 of the Champions League hang by a thread.
Neville will not be in charge for the club’s meeting with Barcelona at the Mestalla on Saturday, with his first game coming against Olympique Lyonnais in a Champions League clash Valencia must win to have any hope of staying alive in the competition.
“I think looking at it in the last few weeks, it’s the confidence and belief that seem to have faltered slightly and that happens when you have results not going so well,” said Neville of his new team’s struggles this season…
“Everything I do, I set off with the aspiration to be the best. That’s what I’ve always done and this will be no different. There will be no holding back and Valencia will get every ounce of enthusiasm I can give and I hope that will lead them to success. I have seen managers here winning many titles… and they have created history, so it’s possible.
“I’m aware of the demands and the expectation and if I fall below those I won’t be here. I’m aware of the business we’re in.”
(Editing by Toby Davis)