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SORRY to disappoint you, Phil Neville, but not everyone wants you to fail.
Speaking prior to the SheBelieves Cup, Neville spoke to the media amid claims that there were a group of people who wanted him to mess up as England boss.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason there was such outrage at him getting the job was because those who followed and supported the Lionesses wanted the new manager to succeed.
The moment Neville was announced, people wished him the best and prayed he was a success.
If Neville gets this right, it means England will win games and hopefully major trophies.
“We know people are watching these games expecting us to lose them,” Neville said last week.
“People want me to fail, 100 per cent. They want me to come here and lose all three games. But do you know what? That’s just how it was in my playing career. People wanted me to fail. That’s part of my motivation.
“The team have got their motivation, I have got mine. It is to show people that we will be successful. I’m not going to be judged by my bosses at the FA off these three games. But they know they are three massive games and, if you look at England’s record in this tournament, we have found it difficult to win games.”
This is different to being a Manchester United or Everton player. Had he performed badly, there were others around him to pick up his slack.
It didn’t matter if he failed to prepare for a game. It is rare that one player can force a team to lose regardless of how badly they played.
But, as a manager, Neville needs to get game preparation spot on. The England squad depend on him to get things right in the build-up to games.
They need him to select the strongest 11 players for each match and for his substitutions to be the correct ones. If he gets this wrong, he will lose games.
This England job isn’t about him, but he’s making it out to be, which was the exact thing people worried about when the Football Association hired him.
To say that it’s the “English mentality” to want to see people fail is just wrong.
When the FA appoint a new manager, supporters and fans want to see them strive and lead England to glory. They may not agree with the decision, as they are entitled to, but bias is usually put to one side for the so-called greater good.
“Why do people want me to fail? I think it’s the English mentality,” he added. “I’m sure Gareth [Southgate] feels the same way sometimes.
“But also, I think it was a surprise to people that I wanted to take this job and the negativity that surrounded it, there are people who want me to fail.”
It’s just not true. We as Lionesses fans didn’t want attention to turn from the third best side in the world to their manager and his story.
Take the 2-2 draw against Germany as an example.
The headlines before the match had even begun was how Neville had used his contact book to bring David Beckham to the game and give a pre-match talk.
England’s social media was awash with pictures of Beckham with the players.
Now this isn’t a new thing. This happens quite a lot in cricket and rugby. Former players will address the team and hand players making their debuts their shirt and cap.
It’s a tradition that football is beginning to pick up.
And yet Beckham’s presence dominated the match. Players were asked afterwards about what it was like to meet him, what did he say, how did it make them feel.
No-one cares. We wanted to know what went wrong for the first and second goal. We wanted to know how it felt to hold a strong Germany side to a 2-2 draw, having to come from behind twice.
I say we, I mean the fans that have been around the past few years and beyond, not the ones who are keeping an eye out because Neville is in the dug-out.
It’s great that the former United coach can call upon his friends for advice but not at the expense of the real story, the players.
And I can’t blame the FA for this. The media and casual fans were always going to pay more attention to Neville than the performances on the pitch.
I actually think he has started well. That performance against France was the perfect debut and the side’s ability to fight back against Germany was proof that this side won’t give up under Neville.
And he’s already taking on the clubs, namely Arsenal.
“But Arsenal, they have pulled a lot of players out of international squads, all the squads, Scotland, Netherlands … they’ve got a continental cup final coming up, so we’ll see if those players play in the next game.”
That was in reference to Jordan Nobbs not making the trip to the United States and hinting that she perhaps could have played a part in the SheBelieves Cup.
If Neville wants people on his side, more quotes like that and less about his Class of 92 friends will go a long way.
Someone recently asked me what Neville should do if he wins a major tournament with England.
And while many will say he should go get a job in the men’s game, I disagree.
If Neville is serious about women’s football, leave England with a trophy and stop off in Manchester.
Use your contacts at United and force them to start a women’s side.
Take charge of it, work your way up into the Women’s Super League and battle Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal as the dominant women’s side in England.
That will be a better managerial legacy than floundering in the men’s game and becoming just another guy.
Now I know, surely I would want a woman in charge of the United women’s team.
And while I do, long-term, even I can hold my hands up and admit that Neville’s allure as a World Cup or European Championship boss may finally force the powers to be at Old Trafford to take women’s football seriously.
Perhaps the next Emily Ramsey wouldn’t have to leave the club and sign for Liverpool.
This isn’t a new opinion, it’s been said many times before and will continue to be said, but a strong United in the women’s game can only be beneficial to England.
It adds another top team in the game, another club for young talented players to join and increases the talent pool for Neville and his successors to choose from.
So no, no-one is wishing Neville to fail. It’s the total opposite. A successful Neville could be monumental for the women’s game in Britain.
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