NEVILLE JOINS ENGLAND COACHING STAFF
New England manager Roy Hodgson believes Gary Neville will make an invaluable contribution to his coaching team.
Hodgson sprang a major surprise on Monday by confirming Neville's appointment on a four-year contract.
It had been known that Hodgson wanted someone with relevant playing experience alongside him at Euro 2012, but if was felt Neville's brother Phil was a more likely candidate, or alternatively, Liverpool's Jamie Carragher.
Instead, Hodgson has turned to the elder Neville brother to be his first full-time appointment following the part-time arrivals of Fulham coach Ray Lewington and Birmingham City goalkeeping coach Dave Watson.
"Gary has achieved so much in the game as a player with Manchester United and England," said Hodgson.
"He has obtained UEFA coaching qualifications and will be tremendously respected by the players because of his vast experience as a player.
"At my first meeting with The FA, I explained that Gary was someone I wanted as part of my staff.
"I think it is very important we have a younger coach who knows the dressing room and is very experienced at international level.
"That he has represented England as a player at five major finals tournaments will make him an invaluable member of staff."
Neville's appointment has been sanctioned by the Football Association even though he has frequently been critical of the organisation.
The 37-year-old led the calls from strike action to be taken by England players in 2004 over the FA's treatment of Manchester United team-mate Rio Ferdinand and his missed drugs test.
Last year, by which time he had retired from the game after 602 United appearances and 85 England caps, Neville was unhappy at the way Wayne Rooney's case was handled after the striker swore into a TV camera and as recently as February, he branded the FA "inconsistent" and "half-hearted" when they stripped John Terry of the England captaincy.
That the FA should now be willing to give Neville such a prominent role, and allow him to continue in his pundits' role for Sky Sports and do a column for the Mail on Sunday outside of major tournaments, says much about both their trust in him and also Hodgson, whose own position was only confirmed a fortnight ago.
However, it could prove to be a masterstroke.
Neville's forceful personality is unlikely to leave any England player unaware of their responsibilities.
In addition, the fact he has, either for club or country, been a team-mate of so many senior players, including likely Euro 2012 skipper Steven Gerrard, makes the Bury-born player the perfect bridge between squad and coach.
That should help avoid the kind of tensions so obviously prevalent in South Africa two years ago when England's players gather on Monday for the start of their build-up to Euro 2012.
Hodgson is due to announce his squad for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine on Monday.
It will be fascinating to discover whether he has been able to exert any influence in the potential selection of Paul Scholes, either on player or manager.
Having reversed his retirement decision in January, it was always felt Scholes would consider returning to the international stage as well, having previously admitted his regret at snubbing a request from Fabio Capello to end his six-year international exile at the last World Cup.
That theory has now been strengthened, although it is not known whether Hodgson actually wants the midfield player in his 23-man squad.
West Brom keeper Ben Foster is another who is believed to be pondering a return to the international fold, although, as yet, there has been no official announcement.
Neville will definitely be there though, admitting once the call came he didn't think twice about accepting.
"Roy asking me to be a part of his staff and to work with the national team is not only an honour but a very special moment for me," said Neville.
"I had absolutely no hesitation in accepting this role and I am relishing the opportunity to work alongside Roy and the team at the Euros and through to the next two tournaments."
Gary Neville Factfile:
1975: Born February 18 in Bury.
1992: Wins FA Youth Cup in a two-legged final with Crystal Palace. The United team also included David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Keith Gillespie, Robbie Savage and Paul Scholes.
Makes first-team debut for Manchester United in the UEFA Cup against Torpedo Moscow.
1995: Plays in FA Cup final against Everton which United lost 1-0.
Makes England debut against Japan at age of 20 in UMBRO tournament at Wembley on June 3. England win 2-1.
1996: Member of United's double-winning squad. Establishes himself as regular in England team at Euro 96 but misses semi-final defeat to Germany at Wembley.
1998: Regular in Hoddle's side for France 98, including in penalty shoot-out defeat to Argentina.
1999: Member of United's treble-winning campaign, making 54 appearances.
2000: Wins his fourth championship medal and makes his 250th first-team appearance.
2001: Wins fifth Premiership title and signs new six-year deal with Manchester United worth £11million.
2002: February - Makes 50th England appearance in a 1-1 draw against Holland.
April - Breaks metatarsal bone in foot during first half of United's Champions League semi-final first leg clash with Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford. The injury eventually rules him out of the World Cup.
2003: Collects his sixth Premiership winner's medal.
2004: Wins the FA Cup for the third time as United beat Millwall 3-0 in Cardiff.
Ever-present member of the England Euro 2004 squad beaten in the quarter-finals by hosts Portugal.
2005: December - Named new Red Devils skipper by Sir Alex Ferguson following the departure of Roy Keane.
2006: February - Lifts his first trophy as skipper after a 4-0 Carling Cup triumph over Wigan.
2007: United win Premier League title with Neville making 24 appearances in the league.
Injury problems mean Neville does not make a league appearance in the 2007-08 season, in which United retained their Premier League title.
2008: May - Not named in the squad for the Champions League final, which United won with a penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea in Moscow.
2009: May 24 - Handed a surprise recall to the England squad by Fabio Capello for World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Andorra but does not add to his 85 caps.
2010: April 30 - Signs a new one-year contract with Manchester United.
2011: February 2 - Announces his retirement from football having made 602 appearances for United.
2012: May 14 - Appointed as an England coach on a four-year contract.
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