Phil Neville says he is almost ready to take a manager’s job and admits he turned down a job at Newcastle before becoming assistant coach at Valencia.
The former Manchester United and Everton utility man moved to Spain this summer to assist Nuno Espirito Santo after declining the opportunity to join Steve McClaren’s backroom staff at St James’ Park.
Neville spent a year back at Old Trafford as a coach during the disastrous David Moyes reign and remained at United to work alongside Ryan Giggs before Lois van Gaal took over last year.
The 38-year-old declined an invitation to follow Moyes to Real Sociedad and instead spent last season working in the media before accepting Valencia’s offer, which Neville believes will be the final preparation he needs to become a manager.
“This feels like my last year at university,” he told the Daily Mail. “The final bit of learning and experience I need. Now I am reaching the point where I would like to be a No.1.
“When it came to Sociedad, I didn’t want to come back into football so soon after the Manchester United experience. I was enjoying the freedom, working in the media, that last year gave me.
“I like Steve [McClaren] and I went up there out of respect to him but I had set my heart on coming here. I wanted a new experience, to learn another language. I wanted to be different. I wanted people to realise I’m taking my coaching career very seriously. I wanted to create my own pathway.”
“The phone call from Nuno came out of the blue — I was on the driving range. ‘Do you want to be assistant manager at Valencia?’
“It was one of those life-changing moments. You are almost shaking, nervous, excited. And I thought, “Yes I do”. Without even consulting with the family, I said yes. It seemed right, working for a good manager I’d spent a bit of time with last year. And an owner I felt I could trust.”
Neville admits the experience of working abroad has already given him a learning experience he might not have received had he chosen to stay in England.
“They call me ‘Tranquil Phil’,” he added. ‘I am ultra-positive, ultra-enthusiastic, but this experience has taught me to relax more.
‘I remember Brian Kidd telling me, ‘When people arrive, make sure everything is set up on the training pitch so they know they are coming to work’. That was my philosophy. In at 7am. Over here it’s, ‘Phil, relax, have a coffee’.”
“The day before pre-season Nuno said, ‘Come round and we’ll have a beer – all the staff – and a chat’. He said he’d text me later. It got to half-eight and he hadn’t texted so I said to my wife, “He must have got waylaid”. I put on my pyjamas and sat in front of the telly. At half-nine he’s texted saying, ‘I’ll pick you up in 10 minutes”. We were up chatting until 2am. That’s the culture.”