“Donkey, donkey,” chanted the furious Mestalla crowd as Gary Neville’s Valencia humiliated themselves once again in a 2-0 defeat to Celta Vigo on Sunday night.
The fans are angry – they are angry at Neville, they are angry at owner Peter Lim and they are angry at the players. Simply put, the club is a hotbed of rage at the moment.
Sky Sports’ Guillem Balague described the incandescent reaction of the supporters at yet another defeat at the weekend, just days after their Europa League exit to Athletic Bilbao, while also appearing to criticise what he feels is a team that is being given bad direction from the bench:
“The fans have chanted that the players are mercenaries and Gary and Peter Lim to go home, so they’re going after everybody at the moment,
“But you just have to look on the pitch. What are they playing at? What’s the system? What’s the idea? It looks to me that the players are being asked to do one thing when they could actually do it another way. It doesn’t feel that there is symbiosis there.”
Neville has, at times, cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as his lack of coaching experience and struggles with the language barrier have come to the fore with alarming regularity. The fans have been hesitant in warming to him right from the start as they struggled to look past the fact that his friendship with Lim was probably the deciding factor in him being handed the job in the first place.
Neville’s record of just three wins in sixteen league matches has seen Los Che languishing in 14th place in the Liga table – and although they are currently six points clear of 18th-placed Getafe, the threat of relegation is still very much a real one for Neville.
Asked if relegation was still a possibility, Balague said:
“It is. Gary has said that himself. They need to get to 42 points [they are now on 34].
“It’s a very tough calendar but they should get enough points to make it to 42, but we’ve seen cases like Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo and Sevilla where they think that relegation won’t happen but then it gets to a point when they’re not used to this kind of fight and they can’t get the points from anywhere.”
Neville has decided to delay joining up with the England squad this week in his role as a coach, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand and continue to fight the fire that has engulfed Valencia for some time now.
Reports at the weekend suggested that Neville was planning to leave at the end of the season anyway – despite pleas from Lim to stay at the club – and the vociferously negative reaction to another lacklustre display by Valencia has surely convinced him now that staying at the club beyond his current contract would not be in his (or Valencia’s) best interests.
The issues at the club go far beyond Neville, through to various poorly thought out transfer acquisitions and including Peter Lim and the worrying influence of agent Jorge Mendes around the Mestalla – all of which has resulted in a mass off ill-feeling permeating the fan base.
All in all, it seems almost unthinkable that Neville would continue in these circumstances through to next season. One hopes Sky Sports kept that seat next to Jamie Carragher warm.