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Gary Neville was brutally honest on his Monday Night Football return

G-Nev talks Valencia and Iceland

Gary Neville was brutally honest on his Monday Night Football return
16 August 2016

Ever since agreeing to return to Sky as a pundit following his ill-fated managerial stints at Valencia and England, Gary Neville must have been preparing for this moment.

His first Monday Night Football segment since coming back featured a Q&A with questions submitted by the public - and people wasted no time in asking him exactly what had happened with his disastrous management efforts. Jamie Carragher even put his feet up in anticipation of his colleague's answers.

Fortunately, though, Neville held nothing back, admitting mistakes in some areas, but defending his choices in others.

Read on to see what he had to say.

What did you learn from your time managing Valencia?

"You learn a lot in terms of the decision-making, the responsibility of the fact that there seems to be a problem every single day... a problem every single day appears from somewhere - an injury, or a problem with a player, or something in the crowd, or whatever it might be. The decision making of being a head coach - I'd obviously been a coach for three years with England under Roy, so I understood, sort of, the decision-making process that went on, but when you're actually there yourself...

"I learned a lot living in a foreign country for the first time in my life, moving away from where I lived - it was a massive challenge for me but I enjoyed it, and I wish I could have stayed there for 18 months, because the idea of coming back and not completing what I wanted to do - which was to do well for the club first and foremost - but to not come back... four months, I was having lessons every single day - to come back without the language under wraps, to come back without the experience of wanting to be there and being able to sort of get to a summer where I could have more time with the team and get my own players in and things like that. The reality of it is the results were shocking and, y'know, when you go to that club, you're told very early on - when the white handkerchiefs come out, you're off, and you're gone, and nothing can save you and the reality is the results weren't good enough."

Do you regret going?

"No I don't regret going... I think if I was gonna take a managerial job it would have been something that was worth the risk, and the rewards would have been big for me had I got it right. The reality of it is, to manage a top four club in Spain, in one of the best leagues in the world, to turn that down... I've sat on here saying 'English managers don't get the chance, English managers don't get the opportunity' - the reality of it is if I'd turned that down it would have been a big mistake, so I can never regret going. I wish I'd done things differently. Two or three big things. I wish I'd done two or three big things differently. I would never speak about them, but I wish I'd done two or three big things differently."

How does it feel to lose 7-0? [In a cup game against Barcelona]

"At that point in the season, they were unbelievable, Barcelona; Suarez, Messi and Neymar were playing up front and to be honest with you Neymar was taking the - can I say? - but no he really was. They were unbelievable. At 4-0, we were down to 10 men, and there wasn't really anything I can do, because I'd made my substitutions and I put them into a 4-4-1, tried to keep them compact. But the reality of it is Barcelona were just unbelievable... how's it feel? After half an hour, it felt terrible, probably the worst I've felt since I got told Carragher was coming to Sky."

What are the reasons behind England's failings? How can they be successful again?

"I can't answer that - how can they be successful again. Because if I knew then the last 20 years of me being involved with England - in eight tournaments, five as a player and three as a coach, I would have done more to correct it, but the reality of it is... England's failings have been going on now for 50 years. There is a problem where I think that at times we've had talent to be able to do better - I think we definitely should have done better in the summer, we definitely should have done better in 2004 and 2006, we definitely should have done better in 1996 - even though we got to a semi-final. I think if you look back to the seventies, I don't think we qualified for four out of the five tournaments, eighties we were pretty poor as well, so I think generally it's been poor for a long time."

In terms of the summer, why were there six changes made in that game [against Slovakia]?

"If you read what I put into my book four or five years ago - and to be fair, they're obviously Roy's decisions - I'd always felt that England teams ran out of steam - y'know you've [Carragher] been in tournaments in 2004 and 2006 where literally lads were dead on their feet, the same XI played every game, not trusting the squad. So we were four points, actually needed to win, felt very confident, trusted in the squad.

"Two of the changes I think most people would have said weren't changes. If you remember Vardy and Sturridge came on in the second game and did well, so I think those were changes that were welcome at the time. So you're talking about four changes. Walker and Rose had been rotated. We generally felt they would need one game break with the engine they put into the games. So from that point of view I actually felt it was the right decision. I still believe it was the right decision and I wouldn't change anything - even though it wasn't my decision ultimately - but I support Roy in everything he did with those decisions. From my point of view I had seen England managers play the same 11 players and then us fall off the edge of a cliff in terms of physicality in 2004 and 2006. So actually to think about having confidence in the squad, you'd say it was a risk - of course it was a risk - but it was a risk in the past actually not changing players and trusting in the squad. We trusted in all the players. We didn't see a massive difference between Clyne and Walker and the players that came in. We didn't see a massive difference in quality. It wasn't as though we were dropping Beckham, Gerrard and Scholes. You're dropping players who were coming in for players who were still equally as good."

Did going out to Iceland feel like 'what might have been'?

"No it felt worse than that. Going out to Iceland... the ultimate thing is that you're no longer in a job. When you lose to Iceland in a tournament it felt terrible. Shocking. For the players, for Roy, for Ray, for myself and for the people there who had worked hard for two years. You have to remember for two years we'd been pretty good. There was a lot of optimism. We had beaten Germany, we'd done well against Holland and France. We were actually really confident in the build up. We got wins. We played well in the first couple of games. We played well against Slovakia if we'd have taken our chances. 

"I think the last 60 minutes against Iceland - I could never explain that to you. I've watched it back twice and can't explain what happened on that pitch. I've never seen those players before like that in a game. There had never been any inkling that this was going to come. If you look at where we were in the previous games, we hadn't won against Slovakia or Russia but we kept playing the right way and kept trying to do the right things. But against Iceland it completely was a performance that we hadn't seen for two years."

(Images: Sky/Rex)