GARY Neville will make his first foray into management at Valencia – a surprise appointment that Roy Hodgson says will not affect his work as England coach.
News that the former Manchester United defender would take the reins at the Spanish club for the remainder of the campaign sent shockwaves around the footballing world.
Neville has become an acclaimed pundit at Sky Sports since retiring during the 2010/11 season and key coach in the England set-up, although management has long been an ambition.
That chance comes in the unlikely surroundings of Valencia, where the former right-back will work alongside brother Phil having been handed the reins at the Mestalla until the end of the campaign.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity with Valencia,” Neville said in a statement. “Valencia are a huge football club of immense standing and I know from my time as a player the passion and dedication of the Valencia fans.
“I am really looking forward to working with the club’s talented group of players and am excited about the challenge ahead.”
Neville will be unveiled at a press conference this afternoon, when the new Valencia head coach will speak alongside club president Layhoon Chan.
Sunday will be his first official day in the hotseat, meaning brother Phil and interim boss Voro will take charge for Saturday’s mouth-watering clash with Barcelona. Neville’s first match in charge will be the home Champions League clash with Lyon on 9 December – a match Valencia have to win to stand any chance of progressing from Group H.
The pressures of the new role means the former defender has left his role as an analyst with Sky Sports with immediate effect, although the Football Association has confirmed that he will continue in his role as England coach.
In fact, well-travelled manager Hodgson believes Neville’s appointment at Valencia will benefit the national team moving forwards.
“I’m delighted that Gary has decided to take this excellent opportunity,” he said.
“It’s the right moment in time for him and I’m 100 per cent behind his decision to join Valencia as the new head coach. As far as I’m concerned, this will be an extra string to his bow and the experience he will gain in the Spanish league can only be beneficial to our work together with the England team.”
Valencia were the Spanish champions in 2002 and 2004, following appearances in the 2000 and 2001 Champions League finals where they lost out to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Los Che currently sit ninth in the league standings and have been without a coach since Nuno quit following Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Sevilla – a decision the Portuguese manager informed owner Peter Lim of prior to kick-off.
The Singaporean businessman also owns a 50 per cent stake in Salford City, with the rest split between Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers.
Younger brother Phil has been with Valencia since July and reports suggest England’s performance analysis manager Andy Scoulding could follow them to the Spanish club.