Sports / Soccer

Neville has chance to become instant hero

By Agence France-Presse in Valencia, Spain (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-09 08:07

Gary Neville will get a baptism by fire as boss of Valencia when the Spanish side hosts Lyon in the Champions League on Wednesday, hoping to seal its place in the last 16.

The match will be Neville's first as a head coach after he was surprisingly hired by business partner and Valencia owner Peter Lim until the end of the season, despite his lack of managerial experience.

To reach the knockout stages for the first time in three years, Valencia needs to win and hope Belgian champion Gent doesn't beat the already qualified Zenit St. Petersburg.

 Neville has chance to become instant hero

Valencia's new coach, Gary Neville, waves to spectators during his first training session with the club on Monday. Heino Kalis / Reuters

"I've only known one way in football, which is to expect to win every match," said Neville during his introductory media conference.

"You can't always do that but that is what you should expect, it's what I expect and what a club of this size expects and the fans too.

"Everything that I do, I do with the aspirations to do the absolute best, it's the way I've approached everything I've done and this will be no different.

"Valencia will get every ounce of enthusiasm I can give. Hopefully that can lead to success. I'm aware of the expectation and I know that if I fall below it I won't be here."

Neville watched from the stands as Valencia salvaged a point against European champion Barcelona on Saturday in front of a vociferous home crowd, thanks to Santi Mina's late equalizer.

Gary's brother, Phil, was part of the caretaker coaching staff against Barca and will continue as assistant having joined the club under Neville's predecessor, Nuno Espirito Santo, at the start of the season.

On top of the confidence gained for taking a point from Barcelona, morale in the Valencia camp should be boosted by the return of a number of key players.

Former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo could return for the first time since early October after he was discarded by Nuno after a dispute between the two before undergoing surgery for appendicitis last month.

Shkodran Mustafi and Javi Fuego are also expected to return from injury, while rightback Joao Cancelo returns from suspension.

Neville admitted the Valencia fans understandably have misgivings about the appointment of a coach with no previous experience and who doesn't speak Spanish, but he has already tried to win their approval by opening his first full training session to the public.

And he could hardly have picked a better opponent to face in his first outing than a Lyon side that is winless in its past five matches.

The latest embarrassment for Hubert Fournier's men came with a 2-0 home loss to Angers on Saturday - the last league game to be played at Stade Gerland, which is scheduled to be replaced.

Lyon is already eliminated from all European competitions after taking just one point from its opening five group games.

Moreover, the French side is hampered by injuries to several key players.

Nabil Fekir, Gueida Fofana, Aldo Kalulu and Christophe Jallet are all long-term absentees, while Jordan Ferri is suspended.

(China Daily 12/09/2015 page24)

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