Valencia’s loss at home to Celta Vigo means they linger a mere six points from the relegation zone. Whilst few would seriously consider Gary Neville’s side to be in a relegation battle, their hopes for European football next year are now all but extinguished, with 14 points separating them from sixth-placed Sevilla. It would take a phenomenal turn around, and a similar landslide from those teams above them, for Valencia to catch up.
Neville’s tenure as head Coach of Los Che has, so far, not had the desired effect which those associated with the club had expected. He arrived at Mestalla with a marked determination, joking in his first Press conference that learning Spanish would be his most difficult challenge. Roll on three months to his post-match conference on Sunday, however, and he cut a subdued figure, shaking his head and bemoaning his side’s luck.
“Everything that could’ve gone wrong today, went wrong,” he said. Indeed, the home side created the best chances of the game, having two opportunities cleared off the line within the first 20 minutes. They were seemingly buoyed by their improved performance on Thursday against Athletic Bilbao, despite their eventual elimination from the Europa League. It was a goal from ex-Manchester City striker John Guidetti, however, which was to punish Valencia for their impotency. Yet it is what followed that goal which will most worry Neville and the owners of the club.
Chants of ‘Gary, leave now’ echoed around the stadium in what was the first large scale demonstration against the ex-Manchester United full-back. David Moyes experienced a similar situation as Coach of Real Sociedad, when after losing 1-0 to Atletico Madrid, he was booed, whistled and told to go home. A month later he was sacked.
Fan power is a formidable force in football and once faith is lost, it’s difficult to rediscover. With so many disgruntled fans able to express their feelings on social media, discontent travels further and spreads at a faster velocity. The last thing Neville would have wanted, therefore, is the international break, as such sentiments will now linger and proliferate amongst fans for a fortnight. He would have preferred a fixture as soon as possible, to put things right. Yet it may well have kept him in a job a while longer.
In practical terms, now seemingly without the backing of the supporters, Neville must realise that each remaining match could be his last. He certainly made the right call, therefore, in announcing his decision to stay with the club a few more days before joining up with the England camp. It shows commitment to his side’s cause, which may appease some of those discontented fans. Some would say the two-week break also gives him time to think things through and try to formulate a plan for improvement. He may well seek advice from England manager Roy Hodgson.
All will be revealed, however, in Valencia’s next match against a resurgent Las Palmas on April 2. Now that’s one for the calendar.