By: Karl Tippins
The publicity around Gary Neville’s surprise appointment as Valencia Head Coach until the end of the season refuses to die down, and ahead of his debut in the dugout against Lyon in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening, the man himself has been in no mood to dampen expectations around his appointment.
Neville, known for his drive and personal level of ambition, told reporters attending his pre-game press conference on Tuesday that he wasn’t going to lower expectations or use his status as an inexperienced coach to hide behind.
There was even room for a joke, as when asked about his personal expectations for the rest of the season, Neville said he’d be happy with “two trophies and Champions League qualification.”
Valencia need to beat Lyon and hope that KAA Gent don’t beat Zenit St. Petersburg in the other Group H fixture. Valencia must win as even a draw coupled with a KAA Gent defeat would see last season’s Belgian champions progress courtesy of a better head to head to record against the Spaniards. Lyon, for their part, are entirely out of the picture so Europa League qualification is guaranteed for whichever of Valencia and KAA Gent finish third. One potential sticking point for Neville is that Zenit are already guaranteed to win the group, although Andre Villas-Boas has not indicated any intention to field a weakened side. In any case, Neville has seen enough in the game to know his side just need to do their job and not worry about what is happening elsewhere.
When asked about his expectations, Neville said, “It's impossible for me to sit here and not show any ambition.
We are here to win – the aim has to be to win all the cup games we play. I want to set the benchmark high tomorrow night. I don't want to play down expectations at all.”
Neville also stated that he wasn’t nervous at all, but did admit he wasn’t sure whether this was a good or bad thing, adding, “I don't feel anxious at all. I don't feel anxious as an England coach either. I don't feel it under Roy [Hodgson] and I don't feel like that today. I have not felt any nerves since I arrived – I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. As a player I had a little bit of nerves but I don't as a coach; I'm just in work mode.”
If Neville’s confidence, self-assurance, and work ethic rubs off on Valencia, there’s no question he’ll be a success. It may also be beneficial that even if KAA Gent progress that it will not be a reflection on Neville himself, but there’s no question he would rather be looking towards a knockout tie in the Champions League rather than the Europa League in the New Year.
(Quotes via Daily Mail)