Phil Neville has been appointed head coach of the England women’s national team until the end of Euro 2021, amid concerns over his lack of experience and some controversial past tweets.
The former Manchester United, Everton and England player becomes the permanent successor to Mark Sampson, who was sacked last September.
Neville, 41, was appointed despite limited management experience and the emergence of some sexist tweets from 2012 that led the 41-year-old to delete his Twitter account hours after his hiring.
The appointment will be Neville’s first full-time head coaching job, and he has never worked in the women’s game before. However, he has many fans at the Football Association and does hold a UEFA Pro Licence.
Capped 59 times by England in his playing, Neville has held assistant coaching positions at his former club United and Spanish side Valencia, as well as doing some work with England’s U21 side.
Since those stints in the dugout, he has worked as a pundit for the BBC and Sky, and is also a co-owner of Salford City with the other members of United’s famous “class of ’92,” including his older brother and former England men’s assistant coach Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, who was last week named as Wales manager.
After reports emerged that Neville was in line for the job, tweets he wrote in 2012 resurfaced in the British media, raising further eyebrows about his hiring.
Neville wrote six years ago: “Morning men couple of hours cricket be4 work sets me up nicely for the day!” When asked what about the women, he posted: “When I said morning men I thought the women would of been busy preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making beds-sorry morning women!”
There has been widespread speculation that Neville was effectively given the job because of a lack of alternatives, particularly after early favourite Emma Hayes, the Chelsea manager, ruled herself out of contention.
But both caretaker manager Mo Marley and Neville were among a group of candidates who were interviewed by Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s head of women’s football, and according to reports the governing body strongly rejected claims that the process was in any way botched or rushed.
The appointment also comes in the wake of the sacking of Sampson, whose reign unravelled rapidly when he was accused of racism by England striker Eni Aluko. He was eventually sacked for “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” in a previous role with Bristol Academy.
Neville was given a contract until the end of the 2021 European Championship, which the FA hopes to host, and he takes over a team that is third in the world rankings behind the United States and Germany.
Known for his versatility as a player, Neville will start work immediately and he is currently with the Lionesses at their warm-weather training camp in La Manga, Spain, where they played the Netherlands in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday.
His first challenge will be the SheBelieves Cup tournament in March, when England head to the United States for games with France, Germany and the hosts, but the big target will be next year’s World Cup in France.
The next qualifying game is against Wales in Southampton on April 6 and Neville will be eager to build on the progress made under Sampson, who led the team to third place at the 2015 World Cup and the semifinals of the 2017 Euros.
“I am honoured to be given the chance to lead England. With the new coaching team we are putting in place, we can help the players build on their great progress in recent years. This squad is on the verge of something special and I believe I can lead them to the next level,” Neville said.
“I can’t wait to get out on the training pitch and down to work with an elite group of players at the top of their game. I am also passionate about working within the wider set-up at St. George’s Park, with influential people such as Mo Marley and Casey Stoney, and with the support of Baroness Sue Campbell and the wider women’s game.
“There is a commitment to excellence that has paid dividends in recent years and I know we can continue the great growth of women’s football inspired by the Lionesses.
“There is no greater honour than representing your country and it will be a privilege to do it again.”
Information from Press Association was used in this report.