Gary Neville's bright ideas ended in tears

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Football News

Upon retiring as a player, Gary Neville thought he knew what was needed to make England a successful tournament team. But after two embarrassing exits in two years with the Manchester United legend in the coaching staff, the Three Lions appear to have gone backwards.

Neville's 2011 autobiography ‘RED’ was largely a first-hand recollection of United's glory years in English football.

Typically it was the chapters detailing his 12-year career with England which contained the most accounts of bitterness and disappointment. But Neville - just as he did as a pundit for Sky - offered insight and solutions.


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From Glen Hoddle's man management mistakes leading up to France 1998, to Sven-Goran Eriksson playing Paul Scholes out of position in Euro 2004 - Neville had plenty to say.

The right back's final tournament was the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where the so-called 'golden generation' of England players were knocked out on penalties at the quarter-final stage by Portugal.

To the younger England fans, this sadly may seem like an achievement, but Neville was left frustrated by the campaign.

This article assesses whether he successfully addressed four of his own main criticisms from his last two tournaments with England, during his four-year stint as Roy Hodgson's coach.

“Instead of cruising through, we flogged all of our best players in the group stage. We should have been brave and changed the team around, but in my view England has never been brave enough in major tournaments.”

With the latter stages in mind, England perhaps bravely rested a number of key players including Wayne Rooney for the third group game against Slovakia.

But Hodgson’s under-strength side drew 0-0, missed out on the top spot in the group. And the gamble seemingly failed to pay off in a laboured last 16 performance against Iceland.

“The big names were guaranteed to play rather than the best team.”

Joe Hart kept his place after mistake against Wales, while Wayne Rooney was picked in the centre of midfield. There weren't many obvious stars, but those two seemed un-droppable to the management team.

“The team was put out of shape to accommodate the big players.”

It can be argued that England didn’t know their best system, and after coming off the bench to good effect against Wales, Daniel Sturridge started the next two games out of position. Hodgson clearly wanted him in the team, and the shape was sacrificed.

“It was understandable that the manager should give two big players every chance to recover, but it did emphasise how little faith he had in his understudies.”

On this occasion, the England coach was referring to Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney but faced a similar dilemma in the run up to Euro 2016.

Jack Wilshere spent the majority of the 2015/16 season the Arsenal treatment table but was selected based on his performances for England during qualifying. Did Hodgson and Neville have no faith in their other midfield options?

England may have rested players for the third group game just as Neville wanted.

But in a position of power, he was unable to change the philosophy in the England camp which has seen them become the great under-achievers in European international football.

Neville’s spell as part of the England coaching team – much like Hodgson’s – will go down as a failure.

But was he guilty of hypocrisy?

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Wayne Rooney
Gary Neville
England Football
Manchester United
Euro 2016

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