“Why would he be a risk now? I don’t see it.”
Gary Neville has backed Roy Keane to make a return to management, saying that his former teammate is entering the prime years of his career as a coach.
The Sky Sports pundit also spoke to Pundit Arena about his own short spell as manager, why he will never return to coaching and the qualities required to be a football pundit and analyst.
Keane has a checkered history in the dugout. He was appointed Sunderland manager in August 2006 with the club in the relegation zone after losing their first four games of the season. Keane had an instant impact, helping the Black Cats win the Championship and promotion to the Premier League. In his second season, they retained their status in the top-flight.
The former Manchester United captain walked away from Sunderland in December 2008 and took over at Ipswich Town four months later. Keane wasn’t as successful at Portman Road and was sacked in January 2011 after a poor run of form. He was Republic of Ireland assistant manager between 2013 and 2018 and worked with Martin O’Neill again between January and May of this year at Nottingham Forest. Keane also had a short spell as Aston Villa assistant manager in 2014.
He is currently looking to return to the dugout and Neville, who played alongside Keane for over a decade at Old Trafford, has said that the Irishman should not be written off as a manager as he is now entering his “prime” as a coach.
“Roy wants to be a coach, he wants to get back into management, he’s passionate about it,” Neville told Pundit Arena in Dublin on Wednesday afternoon.
“And for me I would say that he’s an authoritative figure. He’s an experienced coach now, who’s coached internationally and at club level. Actually, he’s getting to a point where I would say he’s coming into his prime having gone through that learning of the first 10 years in coaching and management. Which is, to be fair, difficult for anybody.
Neville said that a coach must experience setbacks, that very few achieve great success at the start of their career and that even the most seasoned managers have regularly tasted defeat. The former England defender also dismissed the notion that Keane would be a risky appointment for a club.
“There are very few coaches who just all of a sudden just hit the ground running straight away,” he said.
“You have to get through those moments. I think of lads like Harry Redknapp, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock or Sam Allardyce. These guys who have survived 30-years in the game. They’ve had bumps and knocks and obstacles along the way. But they get through them and they carry on going.
“And that’s the thing with Roy, he’s had his successes, he’s had a couple of bumps. He’s as experienced, and, to be fair, qualified as he’s ever been in his life to be a coach. Why would he be a risk now? I don’t see it.”
“That is a problem in English, British football, that we actually see a manager who is actually more experienced and is seen as a bigger risk. Roy is now the most experienced he’s ever been in management. He’s seen more than he has ever seen before.”
Neville had a four-month spell as Valencia manager back in 2016. He was also a coach with England between 2012 and 2016. However, regarding his own coaching career, Neville has said that he has no intentions of returning to the dugout. His management and coaching days are over and he now feels he should never have taken the Valencia job.
“I don’t want to be a coach. I don’t want to go back into management, I’ve been clear about that from day one,” Neville said.
“I shouldn’t have taken the Valencia job. I turned down three or four jobs in the Premier League and Championship before Valencia because I didn’t want to do it. I did obviously because Peter (Lim) owns Valencia and he’s invested into Salford City and some of the other projects we have in Manchester.
“I did it partly as a favour and partly because I thought well, I think I’d five months left on my contract at Sky and five months with England. I thought actually it’s a good time to try it, but that’s not a reason to do it. I should’ve said no. And the minute I came back, I knew I was never going to be a manager ever again. I’ve been an owner of Salford City and the main owner in terms of leading the club. I’ve been down to training ground four times in five years, I’ve no want or will to go to down to the training ground and watch a training session. I don’t want to.”
Neville’s focus is now on Salford City, the League Two club he co-owns, several businesses and his work on Sky Sports. He feels his talents are more suited to punditry and analysis than coaching and management.
“Some people are brilliant at coaching and can put a session on which stimulates the players to enjoy the football and win a game on a Saturday,” he said.
“They’re completely different skill-sets. So, this idea that anyone can be a pundit, no they can’t because there’s a lot of absolute crap out there. Absolute crap. Garbage. This idea that anyone can do it, no they can’t. Some of the greatest managers or best players that I’ve seen come onto television, don’t tell me a thing. It’s the ability to be able to articulate.
“I think that all football players, the level of knowledge within a top football player can be similar, they can see it,” he continued.
“But then the ability to be able to articulate that to a television audience is very different than articulating to a football player on the training pitch. If you saw say, a CEO of a business, he has to be able to articulate clearly the business strategy of that company to everybody in the company – that’s why he’s the CEO. It’s more of a business skill or a communication skill being a pundit, it’s not even related sometimes to football.”
Neville feels that Keane is an excellent pundit, even if his former teammate would rather be in the dugout.
“I think Roy is a sensational pundit. I think Graeme Souness is a sensational pundit. They have the ability to hit you with a line that smacks you right between the eyes, and that’s a great quality,” Neville said.
“Paul Scholes, I think, has got the ability to be an incredible pundit, because I think he can do you in one word. One word can just… boom, and he can just hit you. I think because of my background on Sky with Monday Night Football, it isn’t like that as much, it’s more analytical. To be fair, I’m different now than six or seven years ago.”
*Originally published on September 4, 2019.