What Next for Gary Neville?
5th May 2016.
In December, Manchester United legend Gary Neville took on his first-ever head manager position at Valencia. On March 30th, his tenure with the Spanish soccer squad came to an early and abrupt conclusion.
All told, Neville’s dismissal from Valencia after a little less than four months in charge wasn’t a surprise. The Bats have been in shambles for most of the season and Neville did little to put new wind behind the team’s sails. At the time of his sacking, Neville’s Valencia side had lost three La Liga games in a row, culminating in a 0-2 at-home defeat against Celta de Vigo.
The Win-Draw-Loss Record
Neville exits Valencia with the kind of unimpressive record that he will likely be trying to live down for several years to come. In total, he coached the Bats for 28 games. 10 of those ended in victory, seven in draws, and 11 in losses. Those numbers figure out to a 35.7% win percentage.
In the domestic league, however, Neville’s average was worse. He failed to grab a victory until Valentine’s Day when his squad beat Espanyol 2-1. That game was his 10th La Liga match as manager. In the end, Neville coached 17 La Liga matches and only managed wins in three of them. That win percentage, of 17.4%, explains without much argument necessary why Neville was let go from his position so early.
Neville leaves Valencia in a difficult spot as the end of the 2015/16 La Liga campaign approaches. The Bats placed fourth in the 2014/15 La Liga and even managed to qualify for the Champions League. This year, they’ll be fighting to avoid relegation. Suffice to say that Neville’s replacement, Pako Ayestaran (technically Valencia’s fourth manager this season, if you count caretaker Voro Gonzalez) has a lot of work to do in the final weeks of the season.
Neville’s Next Steps
As for Gary Neville, he’s gone on record saying that he fully understands Valencia’s decision to let him go. Speaking to valenciacf.com, he said that he “would have liked to have continued the work [he] started” but that he also understands that he is working “in a results business.” “In the 28 games,” he continued, [the results] have not been to my standards or to those which are required by this club.”
Unlike many managers who have been sacked this season, Neville actually isn’t jobless. In addition to his brief post as Valencia’s head coach, the former Manchester United captain is also an assistant coach with the England national football team. With the 2016 European Championship coming up and the date of Roy Hodgson’s squad announcement nearing, Neville’s duties for the Three Lions will likely be ramping up. As such, he might not be in such a hurry to find a new head coaching position.
With that said, though, there has already been some speculation about where Neville might end up now that he is back on the market. Most of that speculation is pointing back to England, and specifically, to the relegation-doomed Aston Villa.
Indeed, according to a report by The Telegraph, Neville is currently considered at 12/1 odds to become the next Aston Villa manager. If he does take the job at Villa Park, though, he will be entering an organization in even more turmoil than the one he just left. Unlike Valencia, Villa did not have a strong season in 2014/15. Instead, the Lions just narrowly dodged relegation—something they won’t be lucky enough to do twice in a row.
This season, Aston Villa have spent most of the campaign ranked at the very bottom of the Premier League’s 20-team table. One thing the football club does have in common with Valencia is that, counting interim managers, both teams are currently on manager number four for the season. If Neville is hired at Aston Villa, he will be the fifth head coach since fall, succeeding head coaches Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde and interim managers Kevin MacDonald and Eric Black.
The Right Fit?
The obvious question here is whether or not Gary Neville would be a good fit at Aston Villa. With relegation certain could he help the Lions make a speedy return to the Premier League for the 2017/18 campaign? Aston Villa will have to weather their first relegation since the inception of the Premier League, but will Neville be the man to guide them through the storm?
However, coaching a once-great English football club in the second tier might just be the opportunity that Gary Neville needs to become a world-class manager. Despite having served as an assistant coach for the England national team since 2012, Neville’s post at Valencia was his first head coaching gig. Not only that, the job was Neville’s first coaching position outside of the national team where he once won 85 caps as a player. In others, Gary Neville is still fairly green as a manger, and a season in a less competitive and lower-pressure environment might help him develop his coaching style.
Gary might not be the right fit for Aston Villa as the club currently exists, but the same could be said of virtually any other coach. Tim Sherwood managed to keep his job at the end of last season because he helped the Lions avoid relegation, but he was sacked before the end of October as things rapidly began to unravel at Villa Park.
Sherwood’s replacement, Remi Garde, was even more of a disaster. Garde came off sabbatical to coach the Lions, with three solid seasons at Lyon and a 50% win percentage under his belt. In his 23 games with Aston Villa, though, he coached just three winning games—a dismal rate of 13%.
Ultimately, taking on the coaching job at Aston Villa right now might just add a few more unflattering statistics to Gary Neville’s already not-so-stellar head coaching record. Leading the team in the 2016/17 Football League Championship would probably afford him with more chances to win games, nourish young players, and improve his coaching statistics.
A Return to Manchester United?
In addition to the chances of Neville taking over at Villa Park, there is also a bit of speculation—or, perhaps, hopeful rumors among fans—that Gary could make a return to Old Trafford this summer.
Manchester United fans have spent much of the season calling for the dismissal of Louis van Gaal. The Dutch manager is certainly on the borderline between keeping his job for another season and heading out the door at the conclusion of the current campaign, and United’s chances of landing Pep Guardiola have already been long dashed by their crosstown rivals. As a result, the Red Devils will need a different replacement if they do decide to send Van Gaal on his way, and Neville might be a decent fit considering his history with the club.
Gary Neville, who played for United from 1992 to 2011, is one of the few professional footballers to spend his entire senior career playing for a single football club. He’s also fifth all-time for Manchester United appearances, having played 602 games for the team. (Former teammate and club record holder Ryan Giggs, who made 963 appearances for the club from 1991 to 2014, is also a reported coaching prospect.)
Bottom line, Gary Neville knows Manchester United and has firsthand knowledge of how the club operated in its golden days. That knowledge could be invaluable in helping the Red Devils get back to powerhouse status, but does Neville have the coaching experience to make it happen? And would United officials take a risk on an unproven coach—even one who does have huge ties to the organization?
The answer to that last question is probably “no,” but that also explains why most of the fans lobbying for a Neville appointment are suggesting him as a partner to Jose Mourinho. The former Chelsea manager, himself looking for a positive turn of events after a disaster-fraught title defense, might just be the perfect mentor to take Neville’s coaching career to the next level.
What do you think? Should Gary Neville focus on England’s 2016 Euro campaign? Should he try his hand at turning the tide for Aston Villa? Should he set his sights on returning home to Old Trafford as Jose Mourinho’s assistant manager? At Soccer Box, we want to hear your vote. Find us on social media to share your thoughts. We are active on multiple social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.