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Gary Neville’s conundrum at Valencia
There was an alleged quote from Gary Neville that recently surfaced on social media after his Valencia side lost 7-0 to Barcelona over the weekend. It wasn’t, in fact, the score of the match for which Neville was most criticized, but the quote.
It was first tweeted by the account GeorgeWeahsCousin, who has a decent history for these kind of photoshop edits, and spread like wildfire from there. In the background of the picture of Neville at his Sky Sports desk and on top, the following quote was pasted: “You see teams go to the Nou Camp and get beat 5, 6, 7-0. Barca are a good sign, well they’re a great side. But if I was involved with a team who got beat 7-0 there I wouldn’t be able to look my family in the eyes anymore.”
In fact, Neville actually never said the above quote, yet the fact that so many automatically believed the quote is a vague testament to the incompatibility of his old job, punditry, as a route into management.
Neville himself is a very dedicated and intelligent football man, as his time at Sky proved. Yet it’s a risk simply to have anything you might have said in the past with an honest intention come back to bite you, especially in his current, tense situation at Valencia.
His incessant practice and perfection (“robot Gary” as they used to call him) hasn’t mixed well into the harsh, ever-changing managerial landscape in European football. Valencia have been a chaotic club in recent times, going through six managers since 2010 and many, many players. He has taken risks, such as benching Paco Alcácer and Álvaro Negredo in favor of a more defensive shape against Barcelona, which have panned out poorly and his records read as nine league matches and not a single win in La Liga. Their successfully Copa del Rey campaign was supposed to be their respite before they drew Barca in the semifinals.
Nor has it been solely his fault. Valencia have been under pressure for some time in a past few years. As Sid Lowe put it in The Guardian: “Neville might not be the problem, and certainly not the only one, but some [wonder] if he [is] the solution.”
Neville has been direct in his squashing of all the ensuing rumors following the result. He will not, he says, resign. The club’s sporting director Suso Garcia Pitarch, however, dodged the same questions and squirmed under the spotlight. It’s uncertain, if it’s even his decision to sack Neville; Pitarch himself was only appointed a few weeks ago.
The indecision will likely be settled in a league visit to Real Betis on Sunday. Lose, and Neville is surely out the next day. With a win, however, he may yet salvage his Valencia career and have brighter days ahead of him.
Photo credit: Austin Osuide [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons