The England playing career of Everton captain Phil Neville may have drawn to an end in 2007, when the 35-year-old won his last international cap against Andorra, but the veteran’s England coaching career is just beginning. Neville will work with the England U-21 side under coaches Brian Eastick and John Peacock, in a position to pass on the wealth of experience gained from a career in the Premier League, the same quality that still serves the Toffees well.
Captain of an Everton squad containing a number of young and inexperienced players, Neville’s past experience of almost every circumstance is the kind of quality money cannot buy. Coleman, usually used as a right-sided midfielder, has long been touted as Everton’s long-term right-back, and training with Neville every day and playing with him in tandem on Everton’s right flank, is sure to strengthen the Irishman’s defensive game, possibly faster than mere coaching could hope to do. An even better example was set earlier in the season, when Neville was left out of the side in favour of Hibbert. Unlike a great many established players who find themselves benched, Neville’s response was unquestionable, to such a point that Everton assistant manager Steve Round was moved to describe Neville in the Daily Post as “…the best professional I have ever worked with…if he is not in the team he rolls his sleeves up and says ‘How can I get in the team?’”
Despite Neville’s qualities, at 35, and with his contract expiring next summer according to BBC Sport, questions over his future have been understandably asked. The step into coaching with the England youth set-up seems to indicate Neville sees his post-playing future in that realm, perhaps to be expected for someone so steeped in football. At times criticised for his distribution but never for his commitment to the Everton cause, Neville may not have many more years left playing at the highest level, but players so universally respected – even those who boo Neville for his Manchester United past would be hard pressed to find further fault – are rare, and working with the game’s next generation may be the best use of Neville’s talents.
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