THE WALLS are starting to close in a little on Phil Neville as he faces his first mini-crisis as manager of England’s Women. After a poor run of results, Neville reacted badly to increased scrutiny of his methods by the media, lashing out at journalists and developing something of a siege mentality.
Neville, according to Suzanne Wrack of The Guardian, just cannot take criticism. “Sometimes, it can feel like Phil Neville is speaking a different language,” said Wrack. He described the two performances against Brazil and Portugal as “outstanding”, which few scribes would have agreed with. Wrack noted that Neville’s team struggled to beat Portugal, despite the fact that England have one of the wealthiest, most invested set-ups in the world of women’s football.
Neville insisted he had read some “shocking reports” recently and confronted one journalist who supposedly called for his head. “You wanted me sacked didn’t you?”.
One gets the feeling that Neville is not popular, perhaps because there is an air of arrogance about some of the players from his generation. Luke Edwards of the Daily Telegraph said Neville needs to be told how ridiculous he looks when reacting to criticism, describing him as “remarkably thin-skinned”.
Molly Hudson of The Times highlighted England’s shortcomings and the high number of goals conceded from crosses. Neville, she said, “faced sustained criticism for the defensive errors and concentration lapses.”
Neville said England are getting punished for every mistake, but 90 Minutes’ Jamie Spencer believes England’s women deserve a better manager. There are suggestions of inflexibility – “the system is non-negotiable” – and of a deteriorating relationship with the media. He’s happy with the direction the team is taking, but at the moment, that direction is downwards, said Spencer, who concluded, “Phil Neville has had his time and the gig is up”.
That may sound a little dramatic, given Neville has a win rate of 55.6% and is currently between tournaments, but his comment that things will perhaps improve at the next big competition didn’t fill people with confidence, given that will be in 2021.
Neville told The Guardian that he would leave the Lionesses if it was the right thing to do, but does not consider that he’s vulnerable at the moment. At the same time, he points the finger at the media and the gradual move towards the men’s game in terms of the way journalists operate. “There is real criticism and real praise, but nothing in between”.