Gary Neville is to risk a backlash at Valencia by linking up with the England squad next week for the international friendlies this month despite the Spanish club continuing to toil under his management.
The former Manchester United and England defender, who took up his first managerial position at the Mestalla in December last year, initially to see them through to the end of the campaign, participated in a video conference call with Roy Hodgson and the assistant Ray Lewington on Wednesday. They discussed the squad for the games against Germany and Holland, with the national manager to announce his party at Wembley on Thursday.
Neville, a key member of Hodgson’s coaching staff for the European Championship finals this summer, took up the reins at Valencia on the understanding it would not affect his position within the national set-up. To that end he always expected to honour that agreement and link up with Hodgson and the England team as they continue their preparations for the tournament in France.
Yet his club side’s stuttering form over a difficult season has prompted suggestions in Spain that he should concentrate on reviving Valencia’s season by remaining behind to work with those players not involved in international fixtures, rather than joining up with England.
Valencia have lost seven of Neville’s 15 La Liga games in charge. Their 1-0 derby defeat on Sunday against Levante, who prop up the division, was a third in succession in all competitions after a performance described as indefensible and unacceptable by the rookie manager.
“I apologise to the fans of Valencia because the very basic premise of a football match is that you run, fight and tackle as hard as the opposition,” he said. “I can’t defend what I’ve just seen and I have to take full responsibility for that.” Neville’s side are yet to keep a clean sheet and languish 12th in the table on 34 points.
Hodgson, Neville and Lewington have discussed the merits of offering Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater a first call‑up to the national squad following his impressive form this season with the Premier League leaders.
Asked about the midfielder at a Uefa coaches’ workshop in Paris this month, Hodgson confirmed that he was one of a number of fringe players under consideration. He had previously suggested it would take something special for an uncapped player to burst late on to the scene before Euro 2016.
“I have been watching everyone,” he said. “I have been watching Mark Noble for eight years – I tried to sign him at Fulham – and Scott Dann for four years. I have been watching Ryan Shawcross, who’s played for England before, and Troy Deeney for two or three years.”
The manager will join Lewington at White Hart Lane on Thursday evening to watch the second leg of Tottenham Hotspur’s Europa League tie with Borussia Dortmund, and he has Daniel Sturridge, Leighton Baines and Danny Welbeck available again after injury.
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