Gary Neville will report for international duty when the England squad meet up in Manchester today to make his debut as part of Roy Hodgson's coaching staff. Neville's outspokenness as player was rare, and his candour as a TV pundit has been refreshing, but his former Manchester United team-mate Roy Keane said he did not expect Neville "to be calling the shots" in his new role.
Keane, who played alongside Neville for 12 years, said: "Don't think for one minute he was as influential in the dressing room as people might think he was. Gary would say his piece, but he wasn't running the show – far from it. So don't think for one minute he will be going into England and calling the shots. He will be learning his trade and being a link between the manager and the players and I think he will be good at that."
Gareth Southgate, who already combines punditry with working for the Football Association, said he expected Neville to fill the liaison role Bryan Robson did successfully at Euro '96, in which he and Neville played.
"Bryan was already a manager then [with Middlesbrough] but he didn't take too many training sessions. I don't think Roy was looking for a coach in terms of being on the pitch, putting on sessions with the players. Roy is very hands on: Ray Lewington will pick up the next lot of work.
"As I understand it, the role is more about giving Roy an insight into the dressing room, a more recent player's perspective on things and that tournament experience with England. Gary is only recently out of the dressing room, so he's closer to what that feels like. As a manager and a coach I think you need that sometimes."
Neville, capped 85 times by his country, is qualified to Uefa A licence standard, the second level, below Pro, but is yet to use the qualifications having been doing media work, primarily with Sky, since retiring last year.
"There's lot of thumbs up, everyone says it is a good appointment, but let's wait and see how it pans out," said Keane. "Hopefully he'll do well, Gary's a decent guy and he's played at a decent level, but that doesn't guarantee you success."
Keane, who has managed Sunderland and Ipswich, added: "We've got to give him a chance, he's not done any coaching before. I know he has done his coaching qualifications but sitting in a studio talking about teams is very different. I'm surprised he has kept his role with doing TV. That can be difficult. though you can get your way around criticising players by saying: 'I'd expect the player to do better.' He probably won't be as critical as me and speak in the terms I do. I know Gareth does it, but Gareth's not in the dressing room, he's not on the training pitch, he's not working with the players."
The Liverpool defender Martin Kelly was yesterday called into the England squad for Saturday's friendly against Norway, as cover.