Valencia’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg on Wednesday night may just have given beleaguered boss Gary Neville some breathing space, although the draw meant that Neville’s side went out of the competition 8-1 on aggregate.
Los Ches have struggled this season and Neville has not been able to turn things around, which has already led to calls for his removal from his position.
Both teams fielded weakened sides in Wednesday night’s game at Mestalla and the lack of fans in the stadium showed the feelings of the Valencia faithful at the moment.
Winless in La Liga
Neville has not enjoyed the best of starts to life in football management, as Valencia are now nine games without a win in La Liga under the former-Manchester United defender. This weekend’s clash with Espanyol is a vital one, as Los Ches are now just four points clear of the relegation zone.
Valencia fans are obviously frustrated by their team’s form. Neville has urged the fans to get behind his team this weekend and show their support against Espanyol. However, Los Ches boss needs to win over the fans again after the team’s poor run of form.
Fans all over the world are the same when it comes to an out of form team. When everything is going well stadiums are packed, when things go badly fans tend to stay away until fortunes improve it is just a fact of the game.
Challenge for Neville
Gary Neville is a man with a vast football knowledge and displayed that numerous times in his role as a Sky Sports analyst. He bridged the fan divide, as he gained fans from clubs who would have despised him during his playing career.
Neville was also gaining coaching experience as part of Roy Hodgson England set-up, with a view one day of eventually becoming the England boss in the future. I have touted Neville as a possible Three Lions boss just for his sheer knowledge and his ability to talk sense, which some managers do not seem to have in the modern game.
Some managers are pretenders. Spouting rubbish constantly in the press and believing their own hype. Neville is a football man, somebody who knows the game inside out. His time playing under Sir Alex Ferguson obviously helped turn him into the character he is today.
For all his football knowledge though, he took a massive gamble in moving to another country for his first managerial experience. Never one to shirk a challenge, Neville took the Valencia job which was always going to be difficult.
The language barrier is an obstacle straightaway and the fact that Los Ches were already experiencing a difficult campaign was also always going to make it more difficult.
Neville has the knowledge to turn things around, but maybe he has not yet gained the experience to do such a tough and demanding job. He may just have bitten-off more than he can chew, as Valencia as a club has a history of chewing-up and spitting out bosses.
Desperate for a victory
Saturday evening’s home game against Espanyol is a must-win one for Los Ches, with Neville’s side favourites to come out on top at odds of 8/11.
Another failure to record a win will increase the calls for Neville to be removed from his position and add to doubts about Neville’s ability to be a manager at the top-level.
For me, Neville has undergone an incredible transformation in recent years courtesy of his work with Sky Sports. A lot of fans had their opinion of Neville changed immensely during his Sky years, as he came across as an affable and unbiased pundit. His time as a pundit illustrated his football knowledge.
The 40-year-old is refreshingly honest and is regarded as one of the most highly-rated up-and-coming English coaches in the game. There are too few of those at the top end of the game at the moment.
Hopefully for Neville’s sake his decision to take the Valencia job will only help him in the future and results turn around for the managerial rookie. It would be a crying shame for Neville to have his good reputation ruined by an ill-fated stint in a very difficult role.
Does Gary Neville have a future at Valencia?