The appointment of Phil Neville as manager of the England Women’s Football Team was a questionable one to begin with.
The former Manchester United and Everton defender was appointed the team’s coach on a three-year deal, despite having little to no managerial experience to speak of.
Neville previously worked as first team coach under David Moyes at Old Trafford and as assistant to brother Gary at Valencia for a brief time – but neither tenure was particularly successful.
Some fellow ex-pros pointed to his playing experience as being more than enough to qualify him for the job, but if that were true, Ryan Giggs would probably be Swansea manager by now. Or, perhaps more accurately, would have been sacked by now.
In any case, it was crucial that the Football Association and key figures like Dan Ashworth got this appointment right, following the unmitigated disaster of Mark Sampson – the previous coach who left under a cloud of accusations.
Neville, at the very least, needed to be whiter-than-white and – after a playing career in which he mostly was – fans probably though this, at the very least, was a guarantee. It’s probably part of the reason Gareth Southgate replaced Sam Allardyce as manager of the men’s team.
Unfortunately, Neville’s tenure is now in danger of being even shorter than Big Sam’s.
It comes after a series of old tweets were uncovered in which Neville to make a series of inappropriate or potentially “sexist” remarks about women.
Neville might have tried to argue that the tweets were made “tongue-in-cheek” but, in a glaring admission of guilt, he’s since deleted all of the offending messages – though not before several eagle-eyed followers screen grabbed them.
It’s the worst possible start for P.Nev, who is currently hosting an England winter training camp in La Manga, Spain.
The FA may want to take a stand, particularly after the Sampson debacle, which could mean Neville’s time as the England women’s team coach is over – and, unfortunately, he would only have himself to blame.
The alternative is that the FA ignore the messages and carry on regardless – an approach that is likely to land them in more hot water after months of justified criticism.
It’s hard to see Neville carrying on in the role without the taint of these tweets. How can any of his squad take him seriously knowing these are the kinds of “remarks” that pass for humour? Especially after Sampson’s own ill-advised “jokes”.
And where does Neville go from here? Possibly back to the world of punditry, but would they really want to be associated with this sort of humour? Your guess is as good as ours.
Much like when he was a player for England, giving away that late penalty against Romania at Euro 2000, Neville has not only shot himself in the foot – he’s shot the national team in the foot too.