The ineville-atble has happened – Gary has been sacked by Valencia after an appalling stint as manager at the Mestalla. 3 wins from 16 league games is an atrocious return for the former Manchester United captain and with supporter hostility towards him rapidly increasing, Valencia have said “no mas”.
I wonder how many Premier League managers had a wry smile on hearing today’s news? Quite a few I’d imagine. I’m not for a second suggesting that they wanted Neville to fail, but having watched him win plaudits for his articulate and often cutting analysis of their teams and tactics on Sky Sports, there might have been a few “see, it’s not as easy as it looks” reactions to his sacking.
Neville used all of Sky’s power, let’s call it the ‘Touchscreen Digital Hindsight Machine’ to explain to the world in great detail where each losing manager was going wrong after each weekend defeat. Neville had built quite the reputation as an insightful voyeur and rose quickly to the top of the football pundit pile – or more accurately the football pundit shit heap, which is quite frankly is.
If hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to life in general, then using the Touchscreen Digital Hindsight Machine makes hindsight in football 40/40 (or an analogy that works).
That in turn makes my analysis of the use of that machine 80/80. It also begs the question: has that tool conned a lot of us into believing some of these guys, Neville included, are far more tactically astute than they really are?
It doesn’t take a genius to freeze frame a Newcastle match and point out that Coloccini should have been better positioned when he is at fault for yet another silly goal, or to cut and paste their full backs into better areas of the pitch after they have gone another walkabout. Circles and blue arrows make it prettier and more technical looking, but aren’t they just showing us something and telling us exactly what it is?
Are we too quick to equate a well put together video clip presentation with a genuine understanding of tactical nuances and complicated systems?
That’s not to say shows like MNF aren’t still interesting viewing, they certainly are most of the time, but maybe Neville lost sight of reality a little in the glare of the TDHM and got caught up in his own hype. Maybe he was reading all the praise laden Tweets after each episode of Monday Night football and they went to his head? The hundreds of begrudging compliments from Liverpool fans must have been particularly ego boosting for the traditional Kop figure of hate.
His appointment to the Valencia job shocked everyone. For a first job in management, you aren’t going to get much bigger (his mate went out on a Lim…. No? Ok then). Friends in high places indeed. I wonder did Neville take a Touchscreen Digital Hindsight Machine with him to Spain along with his winning brand of “here’s what you should have done” analysis?
While Neville seems a natural at the reactive/post game stuff (at least on telly), he looks to have fallen flat on his face in the proactive stakes and unfortunately for Neville, that’s the aspect of management that wins you games for the most part.
Come to think of it, there’s a show I’d watch – a detailed tactical pre-game analysis using similar digital tools, debating and eventually arriving at a prediction and not just a prediction of the score, but a breakdown of where and how it would be won. That would sort the men from the boys.
Neville still has his coaching role with England, but you’d imagine Sky will make some kind of attempt to get him back alongside Carragher on Monday Nights.
If Neville did return to the Sky studios, it would be with tactical tail firmly between his legs. You’d expect a far more reserved Neville, for a few months at least – a pundit less inclined to deal in absolutes, in finger pointing and in overly heavy criticism. That would make the show a worse watch, but I’m not sure Neville’s reputation is strong enough anymore to continue unloading with two barrels.
When Neville took the Valencia hot-seat, he was quick to point out that he didn’t see football management as a long term career choice. Whether he was being genuine, or if that was just an attempt to give himself a soft landing should things go tits up, only he will know. I doubt he will be inundated with more managerial offers in any case.
Maybe all he ever wanted to do, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, was to bask in the warm glow of the TDHM’s warming glow. Where you can just press a button to be on the button. Where all he had to do for an endless supply of kudos was to was call things as they were. Where even Twitter Scousers respected him.
Gary and his Sky Machine. A love story for the digital age. Who are we to deny such a reunion? Maybe Sky will eventually develop the technology required to unite the two permanently in a marriage of flesh and circuitry? The Sky Nev-Bot with touch screen nipples and a blue arrow for a ……
Then, Neville wouldn’t be able to leave the studio at all in case it rained. Bliss.
by Simon Winter