Gary Neville’s awful time as Valencia coach continued with a sorry 1-0 loss at also struggling Real Betis yesterday —and the former Man United defender is now surely close to losing his job.
The result means Valencia have not won any of Neville’s nine La Liga games in charge — when he took this first full managerial position in December they were five points off a Champions League qualification spot, they are now just four points above the relegation zone.
The performance was at least better than Wednesday’s 7-0 Copa del Rey emi-final first leg defeat at Barcelona - the joint-worst result in the club’s history.
On arrival back in Valencia at 3am that night, Neville and his players were met by angry fans who chanted insults as they got into their cars. More unhappy supporters were involved in angry exchanges with midfielder Andre Gomes after training later on Thursday. “You get paid a lot, but you don’t run a lot,” said one.
Gomes is one of the many players represented by Jorge Mendes who have arrived as over €200m has been spent on players since Peter Lim took charge two years ago. Morale is a huge problem, with different camps in a split squad. Neville constantly shuffling his team — five changes yesterday— has also not helped produce a cohesive side.
There is, however, unity among Valencia’s fans and pundits — all of whom think appointing a novice coach to such a difficult job was a disastrous decision. On Wednesday, former Valencia goalkeeper Santi Canizares tweeted he expected Neville to resign immediately. Ex-Los Che midfielder David Albelda repeated the widely held view only Neville’s friendship with Lim, forged through their work together at Salford City, has kept him from the sack.
Asked on Saturday if he was undergoing the worst experience of his football career, Neville claimed to be actually enjoying himself.
“This is an exhilarating experience, fantastic time,” he said. “I believe in myself, believe in the players. I look on this time as one that will make me stronger, make the team stronger, make the club stronger. Losing Champions League semi-finals, titles on the last day of the season, FA Cup finals, numerous times with England in tournaments. These were incredibly hard experiences, but they make you tougher and stronger. Now is when Gary Neville needs to deliver.”
Neville still talks a good game in front of the media, but his team are just playing awfully. There was plenty of effort and fight against Betis, with six players booked and left-back Jose Gaya sent off. But there was little imagination or organisation
The only other team beaten in La Liga at the Estadio Benito Villamarin this season was David Moyes’ Real Sociedad n September. The reputation of British coaches is not improving in Spain.
Neville’s team have not even been ahead once, at any point, during his first 810 minutes in charge. They’ve not scored a goal in their last 340 mins in all competitions.
Valencia striker Alvaro Negredo stopped short of backing Neville on TV just after the game, while sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch said after the humiliation at the Camp Nou that no snap decisions would be made.
It now seems just a matter of when though.
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