Neville finally vacates England seat but leaves behind a bitter aftertaste

Phil Neville has finally found his gig in men’s football but Jessy Parker Humphreys is not surprised his tenure has ended this way…

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Throughout the entirety of his tenure as head coach of the England Women’s National team, Phil
Neville seems to have had the FA hierarchy wrapped around his little finger.

So complete and confident has he been in the role, Neville has dictated every aspect of his departure from the job he never even applied for.

Neville has been a manager so precious to the FA, he has had to resign twice in order to leave.

Initially, it was announced back in April that Neville would not be looking to extend his contract. The plan had always been for him to lead England out at the home Euros in 2021. When COVID-19 pushed the tournament back a year, Neville elected to not seek a renewal of that contract.

A fair enough decision, you might think, and good of Neville to announce it early so that the FA could get on with finding his successor.

Yet Neville was not leaving the job. He was planning to stay in it for quite a while, collecting his reported £300,000 annual salary.

Perhaps given the small number of training sessions he had held in his career, he thought it was buseful to practise some more.

Whilst fulfilling the world’s longest notice period, Neville was happy to announce that it had always been his intention to move from the national job into club football.

Whilst not necessarily surprising, it still felt particularly brazen to admit that he saw the most prestigious job in English women’s football as nothing other than a stepping stone.

Yet the only job that was coming his way was the Team GB one. Great Britain qualified for the women’s football tournament at the Olympics by virtue of England finishing as one of the top three European teams at the 2019 World Cup.

It is not an easy competition to qualify for, by any means. The Americans take competing in it
almost as seriously as they do the World Cup. And for some reason, even after doing everything he could to suggest he was no longer interested in women’s football, the FA still wanted Neville to manage at the Olympics.

Neville tried to delay the commitment. An announcement that was supposed to come in September was pushed back month by month. The FA continued to brief that Neville was their first choice.

Finally, someone came to Neville’s rescue and found him a different job. David Beckham stepped into the breach to offer his old friend Phil the manager position at his MLS side, Inter Miami.

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Nine months after Phil Neville originally announced that he was stepping down from the role, he finally decided to actually leave it. Within five hours of that press release, he was formally revealed as manager of Inter Miami.

It is hard to figure out what the FA’s strategic plan was throughout all of this. The appointment of Sarina Wiegman was the kind of decision that should probably have been made after Mark Sampson’s sacking. Better late than never.

Clearly Wiegman always intended to still take her Netherlands team to the Olympics, even after accepting the England job.

In many ways the English FA have only mirrored the Dutch FA. The exception is that Wiegman has no intention of skipping out early from her commitment because she knows her new job starts in September.

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Neville on the other hand was never going to pass up what he saw as a better opportunity.

It did not have to be like this.

The FA had a number of ready-made options who could have helmed the ship on a temporary basis, before they considered now interim head coach Hege Riise.

Both Bev Priestman and Rehanne Skinner moved out of the England set up this year to take jobs as head coaches of Canada’s national team and Tottenham, respectively.

Instead, the FA let the future of its women’s team be dictated by whether or not its already-departing manager got a different job offer.

It is unimaginable that the men’s team would be run this way. Managers can leave at unexpected times — but to allow the future of a national team to be determined by the whims of someone who had already mentally checked out is an inexcusable failure of leadership.

Now the FA are six months out from a summer tournament. England have not played a match against anyone other than themselves for almost a year. The FA are yet to decide who will manage Team GB, whether Riise or another candidate.

And everyone saw it coming.

1 Comment on Neville finally vacates England seat but leaves behind a bitter aftertaste

  1. “The Americans take competing in it almost as seriously as they do the World Cup.”–They take every competition–and every intrasquad practice–seriously, which is a key to their success. Witness Rapinoe and 38 year Carli Lloyd vying hard for the meager 18 spots on the US team.

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