Rejecting accusations he is a sexist, Phil Neville said Monday he has the character and status to be a role model after taking on the “ultimate job” as coach of England’s women’s national soccer team.
The decision to hire the former Manchester United defender brought scrutiny last week because of his lack of coaching experience and his Twitter postings six years ago that were deemed sexist and misogynistic.
“My character stands up to any accusation that has been leveled at me,” Neville said after being presented in his new role. “I’ve lived my life right. I think I have a lot of respect within the game.”
Questioned for the first time about the tweets, which he sent in 2011 and ’12 when still a player at Everton, Neville said “they aren’t right today and they weren’t then.”
In one of the Twitter posts from 2012, Neville said he thought women would be “busy preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making beds” instead of watching cricket like men.
The previous year, he said women “always wanted equality until it comes to paying the bills,” while another tweet read: “Relax, I’m back chilled- just battered the wife!!! Feel better now!”
Neville defended that tweet by saying he was referring to games of table tennis and basketball he had with his wife on holiday, but accepted he was “disappointed” that he used wording that related to domestic violence.
“That tweet wasn’t sent out as a joke to domestic violence,” Neville said.
The 41-year-old Neville has taken charge of the No. 3-ranked international team in the women’s game, having only had brief spells as an assistant coach with the England under-21 men’s team, Man United and Valencia since retiring as a player in 2013.
He believes that is enough.
“I’ve coached the best players in the men’s game at the top level and I believe that the players I’ll be coaching in the England women’s team are top, top-class players at the elite level,” Neville said. “For us to get from third to first in the world, I think they’ll need a coach with that type of experience.
“I cannot be more qualified for this job … The principles that I see in women’s football and men’s football are very similar. The gap is closing.”
Neville said he isn’t using the job as a “stepping stone” to other positions in the game.
“This, for me, is the ultimate job,” Neville said. “It doesn’t get any better than managing your country.”
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80