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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Clever Neville is just dipping his toe

Rare opportunity for Sky pundit to try to practice what he's been preaching

Gary Neville has found an easy route into top-level management
Gary Neville has found an easy route into top-level management

I wish Gary Neville all the best. He is very lucky to find himself in the fortunate position fate has found for him which is, effectively, a free pass at management.

He's a clever lad and has surprised me, I must say. The image he left Manchester United with when he finished his days as a player was of a nice enough character but not really cut out for the challenge of running a football team.

When you ran your finger down the list of Alex Ferguson's top men, names like Keane and Scholes jumped out as potential managers but not Neville, Gary or Phil.

In fact, I was more than a bit taken aback when he began his career as a Sky pundit but was soon impressed with his approach and his attempt to be honest.

I was less impressed when he took up his position as England assistant manager but continued to work as a Premier League analyst.

Once that happened, his ability to speak about England international players when they were working for their clubs was compromised. He couldn't do his job fully.

I believe he goes too far on occasion as he did with Arsene Wenger when he accused him of either naivety or arrogance, something I don't think a pundit needs to do. Offer your opinion. Play the ball and not the man.

That said, he has done a good job with his analysis and he sounds like he has a decent knowledge of the game.

I don't agree with some of his thinking or conclusions but he gets it right a lot more than he gets it wrong and he has found an uncomplicated way of explaining it in front of a camera.

Award

He deserved his recent award as top pundit and has established a nice for himself which, from the speculative salary numbers being mentioned if he had signed up for a long deal with Sky, he could have occupied for as long as he wanted and increased his already considerable wealth significantly.

So, in many ways, it would have been much easier for him to say no when Valencia called. Making a leap from talking about football to managing a team shows courage but I don't think he could have found an easier way to do it.

Put it this way, if everything goes spectacularly wrong in Spain, he can come back in May, link up with the England squad on the way to Euro 2016 and, I'm sure, link up with Sky again.

I don't think his credibility would be damaged a great deal by a four-month rescue mission which can always be retrospectively painted as a hopeless case if it doesn't work out for him.

From what I can see, he will not have to abandon his role with England and I would bet a big chunk of cash on him turning up on Sky between now and the end of La Liga as a pundit.

So, he is really only dipping his toe in management and very few get that chance without consequences.

Managers live or die by results and up to now, Neville has only had to talk about other people's efforts. Now, everyone will be analysing the analyst.

Can he be a success? I really don't know but he has a few other advantages over most young managers. For a start, his brother is a coach at Valencia and will be able to fill him in on some very fine detail.

A new boss usually has a few weeks to make his mark and the same time to suss out the personalities and talents available to him.

Neville will have already tapped into his brother's mental library and should have a good idea of what needs to be done. The players will know this as well.

He also some heavyweight advice available if he chooses to look for help and worked with arguably the greatest of them all in Alex Ferguson.

In the current environment, Neville could a lot worse than observing Jurgen Klopp closely when he is about his work.

He is a very formidable man, Klopp, and his approach to winning the heart of his dressing room and half of a city is fantastic to watch.

He doesn't calculate every move, Klopp, but he clearly has a wonderful sense of timing and an instinct for people which allows him to press buttons without causing pain.

His handling of Daniel Sturridge showed great skill and delivered a threat in a soft glove. The goals scored against Southampton proved that Klopp's approach works.

I sense that he keeps things simple. Whatever message he is delivering to the players at Anfield has been heard and understood quickly and without any apparent difficulty.

Neville will find out soon enough how hard it is to do that well and if he can cope with the task, he has a chance.

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