Roy Hodgson made the most notable appointment of his new England reign so far when he announced yesterday that Gary Neville will be a coach in his backroom staff and potentially, the Football Association hopes, an England manager of the future.
Neville's commitment to Hodgson's England project is not in doubt having signed a four-year deal that will mean he is in place for this European Championship and the next in 2016 as well as the World Cup finals in Brazil in 2014. He was first contacted by Hodgson last Tuesday after the England manager took soundings from Sir Alex Ferguson on Neville's suitability for the role.
Neville, 37, will continue as a pundit for Sky Sports where he has developed a reputation for trenchant opinions on the game since his retirement in February of last year. Hodgson has appointed coach Ray Lewington and goalkeeping coach Dave Watson for Euro 2012 only, but Neville has, like the England manager, signed for four years.
It is understood that Hodgson could yet make one more appointment to his staff, perhaps another coach. He already has a second goalkeeping coach, Ray Clemence, in place, giving him a current staff of four. Hodgson will name his squad for Euro 2012 tomorrow at Wembley.
Neville's younger brother Phil, 35, was also under consideration by Hodgson and the FA. There is understood to have been a conversation between Phil's Everton manager David Moyes and Hodgson about him. It was thought by Moyes that Phil, who has worked as part of the Under-21s set-up previously, would find the transition to coach in the senior team difficult because he is still playing.
Neville has completed his Uefa A and B coaching licenses and is one of those the FA would like to fast-track through the system. While Stuart Pearce was once regarded as the golden boy of the FA's England coaching structure it is now clear the baton has been passed to Neville, who effectively takes Pearce's role in the senior team staff. The FA is eager never again to find itself in a position where it is struggling to appoint an Englishman as the England manager. Developing Neville as a potential successor over the next four years will be crucial to the FA's new Club England ethos.
Neville has played in five major tournaments for England, winning 85 caps over an international career that spanned 12 years, although he was called into a squad more than two years after his last cap which came in February 2007. He said: "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. 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."
It demonstrates Hodgson's open-mindedness that he approached Neville over the job two days after the player admitted in his Mail on Sunday column of 6 May that he would have chosen Harry Redknapp as England manager. In the same column, Neville urged Hodgson to pick his backroom staff carefully. He wrote at the time: "I've seen England managers who have been surrounded only by mates, people who weren't experienced at international level, and it didn't work because they weren't challenged."
Previously, Neville was outspoken in his criticism of the FA over its handling of Fabio Capello's departure, describing it as "typical of the FA: inconsistent, bowing to media pressure and half-hearted."
In the same newspaper column he defended John Terry after he lost the captaincy for a second time. He has also backed Steven Gerrard to be captain.
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