Phil Neville has called for the brightest young men he has seen while observing the England Under-21s in Israel this week to be given more of a chance in the Premier League next season. He believes they are being held back by foreign managers and not receiving the sort of exposure he and his Manchester United contemporaries had 20 years ago – and that England are suffering.
The 2-2 draw away to Brazil recently convinced him that English football is in a better state than some believe and studying the Under-21s at close quarters by invitation of the Football Assocoiation has confirmed it. “The biggest thing is to get the players playing regularly,” he said. “The likes of Jack Rodwell, Jordan Henderson, Jonjo Shelvey, the ones below them, like Ross Barkley and Nathan Chalobah. I have seen enough of Chalobah this season at Watford to see that he could play 20 games for Chelsea next season [including] the League Cup, the early rounds of the Champions' League.”
That, he accepts, may take a leap of faith by some club managers; although it was interesting that Jose Mourinho watched the gifted Chalobah in the Championship play-off final even before he had been publicly confirmed as Chelsea's new manager.
“Managers have got to be a bit braver,” Neville said. “I asked the coaches here: does that change when you are a manager? I don't think it should. It didn't stifle Alex Ferguson's philosophy, bringing young players in. Look at what he has done with Tom Cleverley, the same with Danny Welbeck.
Somebody up above [at Chelsea] should be saying 'we should be playing Chalobah'. Man City, Chelsea, they need to start producing their own players. It's foreign managers. A foreign manager would play a foreign player. Foreign players would then get in the way of our youngsters. They are not prepared to give our kids a chance, they don't believe in them enough. You want instant success. So you get players at 26 who are ready-made, rather than produce your own. I had my biggest lesson from 18 to 21 where I learned how to play man's football and our kids aren't getting that until they are 21 now.”
Neville, studying for his Uefa 'A' coaching licence, has revealed that after almost 700 appearances for Manchester United and Everton, plus 59 international caps, he will play no more. One or two ambitious lower division clubs may have been considering him as a player-manager, but having been fired with enthusiasm by the idea of coaching, he has reluctantly accepted that Everton's 3-0 home defeat by Wigan in the FA Cup when he was taken off at half-time, will be his last appearance. “The biggest thing I will miss is 4 July when Everton are due back for pre-season training,” he said. “I loved that day. I lived for it, getting back with the lads.”
By that time he hopes to have sorted his future, which could be with Manchester United, Everton or Brighton but will definitely be on the coach's side of the touchline.
Phil Neville on...
If you had asked me two months ago, I thought I'd do a year with BBC or in the media. It might work for some people but not me. I will be going to the World Cup next year with the BBC - I won't be going as a player! - I do enjoy the media side but I want to work, I want to coach, I want to get more hours on the grass.
Barcelona and Bayern, Spain and Germany
You go into Barcelona and they don't do a football session different to what Stuart Pearce or David Moyes is doing. The fitness coach at Everton went to Bayern Munich, the Germans are doing the same things. They probably have better players than us at the moment. But I look at the way our Academy get trained at Everton. I've seen the United Academy train. I've seen Manchester City Academy train. They are doing no different. Everything is with the ball, the '1000 touches', everything is technical. We are on the right lines. I don't think we are that bad. We have a group of young players that are coming through. The biggest thing they need is a chance. And a pathway to succeed.
Every afternoon the gaffer [Stuart Pearce] has a go at me because for 18 years I've been having a sleep in the afternoon. I say 'have we got anything on this afternoon?' and it's 'why, do you want your sleep?' Ten o'clock at night after the last night I'm gone. I'd sleep for an hour or 90 minutes as a player in the afternoon and I think it's something I need to get out of really. They call me The Bat !
Making more use of former players
You look at the best clubs in world football, the Ajaxs, AC Milans, Man Uniteds and they fill the clubs with great ambassadors, ex-players. It seems to work and maybe England haven't done that but I think we are now. Myself, Tony Adams with the Under-19s, Ugo Ehiogu with the Under 20s, and Gary with the seniors so there are others who will get involved. I'm sure David Beckham will get involved in some kind of ambassadorial role.
Pulling out of internationals
I get quite annoyed with people saying 'my club pulled me out'. No, you pulled yourself out. I played for probably the manager that most wanted his players to play for Man United and nobody else but he never said to me I couldn't play for my country. And I don't think I pulled out of one squad. He saw the benefit of me playing for England, benefiting Man United and playing in tournament football is key to that.
Preparing for coaching
I've been preparing for this for about five years, that's been the key. I haven't just finished on 11th May and thought 'what do I do now?' This has been happening for three or four years, this process. When I've been speaking to clubs about my future in the last few weeks, they mention inexperience and I say that actually I think I'm five years ahead. I've been studying, learning, watching best practices and learning from a really good manager. That's helped me get a head start.
What you learn from Ferguson
Two important areas. Recruiting the right players is the most important and how you handle the players is the second most important. He left the biggest impression just by the way he treated me, he always made me a feel a part of things and I didn't play every week. He made me feel as if I did. Stuart has asked me to do certain things with players not in the team. It's come natural. I revert back to how Sir Alex made me feel. I have probably had the best upbringing in terms of learning from two managers. Preparation for the game was meticulous with David Moyes. There was no stone left unturned.
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