Exclusive:

Neville: England are a top-eight team, that's it

Coach calls for realism and insists Hodgson's work can be built upon

Roy Hodgson's coach Gary Neville has said the notion that England must always beat nations such as Italy is "arrogant" and "disrespectful" to such opposition and that a major dose of realism is required to dispel the expectation that the national team have to go close to winning every tournament they play in.

In his first newspaper interview since Hodgson's side lost on penalties to Cesare Prandelli's team in Kiev 22 days ago, Neville told The Independent that those who had rounded on England for their possession levels in the tournament were ignoring the standard of the opposition. "I never saw an England team in the last 40 years that kept possession against teams like France, Italy, Brazil, Spain and Argentina," Neville said. "Wake up everybody!"

Though the possession level in the quarter-final was 36 per cent, Neville said Hodgson's instructions to the players had been to show ambition. "We didn't go out there and say: 'You know what we're going to do today? We're going to give the ball away and sit back for 80 minutes and defend.' That's not the intention or what we tried to do. It was 'stay on the ball, be on the ball, pass the ball'."

Neville, who was appointed to Hodgson's coaching staff on a four-year contract in May, said: "There's always something you can do. I played for England for a lot of years and wanted to keep the ball better, wanted to be more successful, wanted a winning team – all those things. But it's disrespectful to other nations and arrogant to just dismiss them and talk about 'oh, we are England, we talk about ourselves'. We have to see ourselves in the light of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Brazil. In terms of tournaments and measuring ourselves, the measure of an England team this last 10 or 12 years has been mainly around quarter-finals. It tells you where we are at. We are in the top eight teams in the world. That's fact."

Neville said the idea of England playing in the technical way demonstrated by Spain overlooked the fact that the country is still emerging from a style of football engrained in players in the 1970s and 1980s. He acknowledged that members of the England side who lost on penalties to Italy would say they could have "played better individually in that game" and accepted that criticism was to be expected. "You always have the inquests the week after," Neville said. "People try and change the world. What are we doing wrong? What should we be doing? Let's make everybody [Lionel] Messi. Let's make everybody Xavi. Let's make everybody [Andrea] Pirlo. It happens."

But in an argument which reflects one made by Liverpool's Jamie Carragher a few years ago, Neville called for realism. "The fact that we're getting into tournaments and knocking on the door, that there was a good spirit in the camp and everyone was behind the manager – let's build on that now and move forwards and do better. The idea that you can change English football and the way a kid kicks a ball when he's three years of age, that's a 20- or 30-year project, that's not for the current England manager. That's a project for the people who design the game. We have our culture and the way that we are. The idea that we want suddenly to be all Xavis, Pirlos and Messis – it's unrealistic. It's not achievable. It's about realism and honesty and doing the best that you can and trying to do the best that you can."

England's tournament has led many observers to pinpoint the lack of first-team experience in a Premier League packed with overseas stars as a problem. "In a perfect world you are going to have more English players playing in the Premier League, but how is the England manager going to change that?" Neville countered. "It's very difficult. All you can do is look at the players you have and try to mould them."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence