If drawing a match is like kissing your sister, it must be said that coming from behind to draw a match is at least like kissing your prettier sister. Because being ahead and then getting equalized feels even worse than a regular tie. Nobody wants to kiss that sister, especially you. And believe me, there’s no coach out there more tired of sister smooches than Valencia manager Gary Neville, who is yet to win a La Liga match as Los Che’s head coach. In fact, apart from league losses to Villarreal and Real Sociedad, draws have been Valencia’s only form of La Liga result since November 7. Now, not all those draws, good or bad, can been credited to the Neville era. Even the Barcelona draw on December 5, the first game after Gary was unveiled as manager and the only one of two ties this season seen as a positive, is a game he refuses to take any plaudits for. After all, he watched the match from the stands and admitted to not talking to the players before or after the game. That job was entrusted to brother Phil because Gary hadn’t begun to spread his roots.
Nevertheless, Neville’s men had to battle back yet again this past weekend, almost two months later, to earn a draw at Deportivo La Coruña when a 93’ minute goal from ex-Manchester City striker Álvaro Negredo salvaged an away point. That would be the firth draw in the league since Gary Neville’s tenure commenced and also the fifth league draw (excluding the Barcelona match) that Valencia have had to fight back for in that same period of time. (Also the fifth kiss for the pretty sister).
There’s a lot to be said about the character of a team that can claw their way back into a match time and time again. But what kind of impact does that repeated exhaustive emotional effort have on the collective squad? There’s certainly no question of Valencia’s players’ commitment. The concern is that under Super Neville Bros., the team is yet to figure out what they’re all about. And after all this time, one has to wonder whether or not Gary Neville, someone that doesn’t speak Spanish efficiently, someone that publically mocked his brother’s Spanish on social media earlier this season, is having trouble portraying his ideas to his personnel.
Because Neville was an exceptional television pundit with insight into matches that few others can parallel, reaction to his appointment as Valencia boss was met with optimism and excitement – especially from English speakers that have absorbed his tactical worth. Subsequently, fans began to ignore what should have been obvious pitfalls in his appointment. Valencia and their fans particularly have enormous standards. They’re the third most supported team and Spain and consider themselves on a level with Spain’s best, despite possessing a fraction of Real Madrid or Barcelona’s budget. As Gary Neville’s first gig as a professional manager that’s a lot of pressure, even more so when you can’t speak the language.
Of course not all of Valencia’s problems are a direct result of Neville’s work; many issues have been inherited. But if Gary fails to right the ship, the fear is that the fans may turn on him as they did to his predecessor, Nuno Espíritu Santo, after a warm welcome. Initially, Neville had alluded to the fact that his stay as manager was temporary. Indeed, he only signed a six month contract in December. But since drawing Real Madrid after the turn of the year, the Englishman expressed his desire to stay on. Will he get his chance? Only if the team’s form improves. Valencia are 11th in the table.
How long will Gary Neville last as Valencia manager?