There is more than just possible Champions League progress on the line on Wednesday night in Valencia, where Gary Neville is due to begin his managerial career in earnest.
Everyone agrees Neville has been a brilliant pundit – fluent in football, a clear and creative thinker, and great at detailed analysis – but he is taking a big risk by leaving his comfort zone.
On paper he has plenty going for him: fantastic pedigree, the experience of assisting Roy Hodgson with England, an expertise in defending that will be an asset in ultra-open Spanish football, and the key advantage that his brother Phil, a coach at Valencia for six months now, can give him the inside track on the squad he is inheriting.
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Make no mistake, though: it’s a tough first job. Valencia are a big team and their fans will expect Champions League qualification. Neville is coming in mid-season, the language barrier is a potential problem, and he will have to quickly learn how to delegate, because management is 24/7 in a way that playing simply is not.
But I’m fascinated to see how he fares and the tactics he adopts. He could help raise the reputation of British football abroad, so we should all be rooting for him.
If I could give him advice it would be that effective management is less about making players work harder and more about making them feel good about themselves.
At Rangers Walter Smith would sometimes dish up bacon rolls at training, and at Everton Howard Kendall would organise team outings for a Chinese meal. They weren’t rewards; they just kept morale high.
This is just the start of a long road, though. He may have been touted as a future England or Manchester United manager but Neville has to learn his trade first. He might not even like it.
If he can get Valencia into Spain’s top four this season then I’m sure they would want him to stay, and I think he’d be right to. He could then have a full season, with Champions League football.
Only once he has won titles can he be considered by United, and I believe the England job is for a very experienced coach near the end of their career.
At 40, Neville is still young. I’d like to see him stay in Spain for three or four years and come home a really sophisticated manager.