London, June 1
Sir Alex Ferguson has never been England’s biggest fan but the Manchester United manager played his part in persuading Gary Neville to become part of Roy Hodgson’s coaching staff for Euro 2012.
Neville is still having to pinch himself that he has been asked by the Football Association to accept such a senior role in the camp, despite his much publicised run-ins with the organisation during his playing days.
The former Manchester United captain has rarely been afraid to voice his views and many feel Hodgson has made one his shrewdest decisions as the new England manager bringing Neville into his set-up.
Having impressed as a television analyst last season, Neville was as shocked as anyone when the FA got in touch with him to ask if he would consider working alongside Hodgson for the next four-years.
Despite his commitment to England, having made 85 caps for his country, the 37-year-old needed to make sure this decision was the right move at this stage of his career.
Neville turned to his former club manager, who much to his surprise already knew about the position, having held lengthy talks with Hodgson 10 days earlier. "The role that Roy was speaking about he (Ferguson) thought it would be very good for me, he was positive," Neville revealed.
"I knew before I went to the meeting that it was something I wanted to do. I wanted him to be one of the first people to know about it.
"I was panicking as you do walking into his office, but he knew about it 10 days before me as per usual. Roy had spoken to him. That is just typical.
"I got a text on my phone (from Adrian Bevington at the FA) saying I want to speak to you about something confidential. I thought: ‘what have I done wrong?’
"Or: ‘Something might be happening here.’ It felt like a special moment in my life, an important moment is how I’ve described it.
"My frustration with England was that we never won a trophy and hopefully over the next four years I can be part of a team that does get to a successful position.
Neville is no stranger to controversy with the England team over recent years. Few could forget when he called for strike action by the England players after Rio Ferdinand was banned for missing a routine drugs test in 2003.
He has also hit out at the FA over their handling of Wayne Rooney’s suspension for swearing into a television camera last year and John Terry losing the England captaincy back in February.
But the FA appear to have put all that behind them and feel Neville can play a major role in helping to pass on his experience to the England players.
"All the time I’ve talked about the FA (critically) it’s always been about one incident," Neville said. "It’s not a widespread: ‘The organisation is this and that’. It’s been about particular incidents.
"At times I can look back and think I may have handled myself differently but we are where we are and I have said continuously over the last ten to 12 years that there are an awful lot of good people at the FA."
Despite the injuries and suspensions that have hit England going into a major tournament, Neville sees no reason why they cannot reach the latter stages of the competition at Euro 2012.
"I have been explaining to some of the lads, I went to five tournaments and four of them we went out on penalties," he said.
"We have got a great keeper and that’s not being disrespectful to the ones I played with but that could make a difference. If we get to a quarter-final and our great goalkeeper saves two or three we are in the semi-final.
"We have strong characters ... you are talking about European champions, Premier League winners. You have to have character (to win those trophies). These are prominent players within those teams."