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It's time to take stand and prove myself, says Neville

By Damian Spellman

Gary Neville would have said adios to his credibility if he had turned down the chance to coach Valencia when the club's owner Peter Lim offered him the job on Sunday.

That was the message the former England defender delivered at the Mestalla Stadium yesterday as he began his six-month tenure in Spain.

Promising to take daily Spanish lessons to help make his move a success, the former Sky Sports pundit said: "I've been on the television for the last few years talking about managers and coaches and now it is the time for me to stand up.

"If I had turned down this job I would have said goodbye to my credibility. A club this big is a chance too good to turn down.

"When a club as historic as Valencia calls you, you have to accept it. I have been offered jobs in football but the timing has never felt right before. When I received the call on Sunday evening I thought, what a football club, what a challenge."

He wisely avoided insinuating the job was just a stepping stone to a future post in the Premier League or as Roy Hodgson's replacement with England, but Neville did say he had the full backing of Hodgson, with whom he would be in regular contact.

He said: "When I spoke to Roy he gave me his complete support - 100 per cent. He is right behind me.

"There are international fixtures in March but that will not be a problem because the league will have an international break.

"Valencia will be the 95 per cent priority with those two friendlies as well. But being here does not mean I will not still be able to have conversations with Roy."

There were mixed messages about whether he sees the position as a long or short-term prospect.

"The only way to approach any job is to think of it as permanent even though this is only for six months at the moment. We will make decisions in the long-term best interests of the club right from the start," he said.

"My family will move over here permanently. My girls will finish school in two weeks' time and will live here.

"In England as a player I always wanted foreign players at my club to immerse themselves in the culture and I intend to do the same thing."

His full "immersion" into Spanish culture will mean learning the language and he admitted that he will need to lean on brother Phil, who has started speaking Spanish at the training ground after joining the Valencia coaching set-up last summer.

"I don't speak the language but I will take lessons every day," he said. "I have to show the same commitment as Philip has because I was with him on the training ground and was surprised at how fluent he is."

Asked about working with his brother and former United team-mate, he said: "If Phil wasn't here I would want him here. There is nothing negative about us working together."

The United links will serve him well and he was asked about Sir Alex Ferguson.

"I did not consult Sir Alex," Neville said. 'I have spoken to him in the last few days, though. And he has offered me his support, as have other Premier League coaches who have experience in La Liga. I would be foolish not to accept that offer."

Meanwhile, former Valencia boss Claudio Ranieri believes Neville can do something "fantastic" if he is able to combine "the English spirit" with possession football.

Ranieri, currently manager of Premier League high-fliers Leicester, had two stints in charge of Valencia from 1997 to 1999 and 2004 to 2005.

And regarding Neville, the Italian said: "I think he is a smart man with big knowledge behind him.

"It is important he understands Spanish football, because they want the team to have possession of the ball.

"If he can blend English spirit with possession of the ball, it will be fantastic."

Neville's former England and Manchester United team-mate Rio Ferdinand believes the 40-year-old will be primed for the top job at Old Trafford if his time at Valencia proves successful.

Ferdinand said: "If he is under pressure he will feel it. But if he can go on a run the momentum will build and the fans can carry the team.

"The people at the top at Manchester United will be interested to see how he gets on.

"If he does well, there is a big chance that he will be wanted back at Old Trafford.''

Belfast Telegraph


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