Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville joins Roy Hodgson's England staff on four-year deal

 

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The Independent Online

New England manager Roy Hodgson believes Gary Neville will make an invaluable contribution to his coaching team.

Hodgson sprang a major surprise today by confirming Neville's appointment on a four-year contract.

It had been known that Hodgson wanted someone with relevant playing experience alongside him at Euro 2012, but if was felt Neville's brother Phil was a more likely candidate, or alternatively, Liverpool's Jamie Carragher.

Instead, Hodgson has turned to the elder Neville brother to be his first full-time appointment following the part-time arrivals of Fulham coach Ray Lewington and Birmingham City goalkeeping coach Dave Watson.

"Gary has achieved so much in the game as a player with Manchester United and England," said Hodgson.

"He has obtained UEFA coaching qualifications and will be tremendously respected by the players because of his vast experience as a player.

"At my first meeting with The FA, I explained that Gary was someone I wanted as part of my staff.

"I think it is very important we have a younger coach who knows the dressing room and is very experienced at international level.

"That he has represented England as a player at five major finals tournaments will make him an invaluable member of staff."

Neville's appointment has been sanctioned by the Football Association even though he has frequently been critical of the organisation.

The 37-year-old led the calls from strike action to be taken by England players in 2004 over the FA's treatment of Manchester United team-mate Rio Ferdinand and his missed drugs test.

Last year, by which time he had retired from the game after 602 United appearances and 85 England caps, Neville was unhappy at the way Wayne Rooney's case was handled after the striker swore into a TV camera and as recently as February, he branded the FA "inconsistent" and "half-hearted" when they stripped John Terry of the England captaincy.

That the FA should now be willing to give Neville such a prominent role, and allow him to continue in his pundits' role for Sky Sports and do a column for the Mail on Sunday outside of major tournaments, says much about both their trust in him and also Hodgson, whose own position was only confirmed a fortnight ago.

However, it could prove to be a masterstroke.

Neville's forceful personality is unlikely to leave any England player unaware of their responsibilities.

In addition, the fact he has, either for club or country, been a team-mate of so many senior players, including likely Euro 2012 skipper Steven Gerrard, makes the Bury-born player the perfect bridge between squad and coach.

That should help avoid the kind of tensions so obviously prevalent in South Africa two years ago when England's players gather on Monday for the start of their build-up to Euro 2012.

Hodgson is due to announce his squad for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine on Monday.

It will be fascinating to discover whether he has been able to exert any influence in the potential selection of Paul Scholes, either on player or manager.

Having reversed his retirement decision in January, it was always felt Scholes would consider returning to the international stage as well, having previously admitted his regret at snubbing a request from Fabio Capello to end his six-year international exile at the last World Cup.

That theory has now been strengthened, although it is not known whether Hodgson actually wants the midfield player in his 23-man squad.

West Brom keeper Ben Foster is another who is believed to be pondering a return to the international fold, although, as yet, there has been no official announcement.

Neville will definitely be there though, admitting once the call came he didn't think twice about accepting.

"Roy asking me to be a part of his staff and to work with the national team is not only an honour but a very special moment for me," said Neville.

"I had absolutely no hesitation in accepting this role and I am relishing the opportunity to work alongside Roy and the team at the Euros and through to the next two tournaments."

PA

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