Gary Neville has accused the Football Association of failing England captain Wayne Rooney with its handling of the controversy that surrounded his late-night behaviour at the team hotel last month.
Former England assistant boss Neville said FA chief executive Martin Glenn was guilty of a PR “disaster” when saying an investigation would be launched.
Neville claimed the squad should have been instructed to take collective responsibility, given Rooney was not the only player drinking on the Saturday night between the Scotland and Spain matches.
Pictures emerged showing the Three Lions skipper looking bleary-eyed and mingling with guests from a wedding reception at the England team hotel, and Rooney apologised to manager Gareth Southgate and to the FA.
Rooney also described media coverage of the incident as “disgraceful”, but former Manchester United and England team-mate Neville believes the FA could and should have defused the situation.
“My issue is how it was dealt with by the FA and by the team,” Neville said.
“I’d like to think that when we were there, the idea that Wayne was – I don’t know if he was pushed out to apologise or guided to apologise – to me that would have been a (case of) collective responsibility.”
He added: “When you talk about fanning the flames, that’s exactly what the FA did that week. Martin Glenn came out and said he would start an investigation – disaster, that was a disastrous statement. It’s not an investigation, it’s a phone call to say ‘what happened?’.”
Neville pointed to the days of Terry Venables leading England, when the squad, including Neville himself, swallowed the blame for damage caused on an aeroplane before Euro 96 rather than pin it on any individual.
A similar approach, Neville suggested, could have eased the pressure on Rooney.
He said on Sky Sports’ Sunday Supplement show: “The way it was handled for me was disappointing. From the FA saying there was going to be an investigation – there’s not an investigation, there can’t be, because they were given time to go out, they were given time to have a night off.”
Recalling his time as Roy Hodgson’s number two, Neville said: “Roy gave the players nights off for four years – every Saturday night after a Friday game before Tuesday.
“There was never an incident reported. You might argue it was lucky, but what Roy did very well on the Friday was to make it very clear what was acceptable and what wasn’t acceptable on the Saturday night and they were still on duty even though they were off duty.
“When you do have an incident you don’t throw the guy overboard. You don’t say ‘get out there and apologise’. Some coaching staff were with him I believe it was reported – and other players were out in different areas of the city or different areas of the country.
“You all come together and say ‘we all made a mistake, it wasn’t just Wayne, we’re all in it together’.
“I was disappointed to see Rooney have to come out and apologise when actually there were other players out on the same night probably doing the same things.
“Should he in future think about what he does on that Saturday night? Absolutely, I’m sure he won’t do that mistake again. He has made a mistake because he’s exposed himself to people he couldn’t trust.”
Neville added: “Privately he should have been probably given a massive telling-off but publicly don’t expose him.”