Belfast Telegraph

Stars' sister Tracey Neville nets England coach role

By Steven Beacom

Meet the other Neville. You will have heard of Gary and Phil Neville, famous footballers and now famous television pundits, but their sister Tracey is also a sporting hero in her own right.

Netball's her game.

And she is here in Northern Ireland doing a dream job that her brothers have yet to experience in their field, coaching the English team.

So far, so good for Tracey... six games in charge, six wins since taking over in March. Excellence really does run in this family.

Popularity? Now that's another story.

When ex-England defenders Gary and Phil played for Manchester United they were hated by opposition supporters, though that has changed since both moved into broadcasting, with Gary in particular winning hearts, minds and even a major award for his work on screen.

It's hard to imagine anyone ever disliking their sister.

Bright and bubbly, Tracey Neville breezed into the reception of the Hilton Hotel in Templepatrick like a breath of fresh air for our interview yesterday.

While most coaches of international teams treat a first meeting with a journalist cautiously, the 38-year-old, twin of Phil, happily engaged immediately in a welcoming, down-to-earth manner.

When asked if the ultra-competitive Gary and Phil were jealous that she became the first member of the Neville clan to manage an England side, Tracey, who has a strong Bury accent, roared with laughter. This Neville may be serious about her sport, but that doesn't stop her enjoying a chuckle. She says her brothers are exactly the same.

"People say to me 'you are the first Neville to be an England manager' but the boys aren't jealous of that," said Tracey.

"We are not that sort of family. We haven't even bantered about it.

"I am very, very close to my brothers. One of the greatest things about all three of us, because with Phil being my twin and Gary only 18 months older, is that we have been very inter-connected all the way through our lives and our international careers moved on at the same time.

"We got our first international caps at the same age, we made our debuts at the same age and retired at similar ages as well. For us it seems like we have been on the same escalator.

"Now I think the three of us are giving back to sports that gave us the best years of our lives."

While Gary and Phil enjoyed fame, fortune and trophies galore at Old Trafford at the peak of her playing powers, as an established international for the England netball team, Tracey, a degree graduate in nutrition and sport science, earned £742 per month.

"I have to admit there were times I was struggling financially, in respect to working, studying and trying to do an international sport," she revealed, adding that her parents helped her out when needed.

She is now able to pay them back by taking them to the Netball World Cup in Australia in August when, with a strong showing, she should make her interim coaching role with England into a permanent one.

Mum Jill and well-known dad Neville Neville are in Northern Ireland supporting their daughter, whose England team are competing in the European Open, the biggest netball tournament ever staged here with games being played at the Antrim Forum through to tomorrow.

The family loves this part of the world and Tracey has happy memories from watching Gary play for United at the Milk Cup.

Previously the coach of English Superleague team Manchester Thunder, Tracey says, like United's legendary former boss Sir Alex Ferguson, she believes in giving youngsters their chance. She also has a few of the Scot's other traits.

"I'm very passionate and very loud and like to get team spirit going," she said. "That's one of my strengths, enabling a team to believe and I have been known to do the hairdryer a few times as well."

So would she like Gary and Phil to analyse her team and coaching abilities? "No I wouldn't and I'm sure they would say the same about me analysing them," said Tracey. "I do think they are good at what they do, though. They are really honest, which has been created from the family we have come from."

Belfast Telegraph


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