Incoming Valencia coach Gary Neville says that he feels the time was right for him to step out of the TV studio and return to the game, but admits he must prove himself to fans and skeptics given his inexperience.
The former Manchester United and England defender has been appointed Valencia coach until the end of the current season, after predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo left last weekend with the team ninth in the Primera Division table and close to a Champions League exit.
Neville won eight Premier League titles, two Champions League trophies and three FA Cups during 19 seasons as a Manchester United first team player, but since retiring in February 2011 he has been working as a media pundit and analyst.
At his presentation as new boss, the 40-year-old said he had turned down other opportunities in the past, but the timing and the club now seemed right.
"I've been offered jobs in football over the last four to five years -- but the timing never felt right," he said. "I wanted to learn about different things coming out of football. When I received the call on Sunday evening, I thought 'what a club, what a challenge.' I've been sitting on television these last years talking about coaches, the time has now come for me to stand up. This a is wonderful football club. Turning this job down would have been to lose credibility."
Asked what would Neville the TV pundit say about a Spanish coach coming with no experience to take over a top Premier League club, Neville said he knew some observers would be skeptical and understood why.
"I would question it -- as a neutral observer," he said. "I would be skeptical and want to be proven otherwise. I understand that over here I must prove to Valencia fans and players that I can do this job. I'm sure people will be on YouTube looking at things I've said. Doubts, reservations or concerns can only be removed through winning football matches."
Language has been an issue for some English coaches coming to La Liga, as seen during David Moyes' unhappy 12 months at Real Sociedad recently. Neville said he would be trying to learn Spanish as quickly as possible, and brother and assistant coach Phil's head start in the local culture would be useful.
"Spanish is my biggest challenge, I don't speak the language, it wasn't in the plan," he said. "I will take lessons every day. At the moment I need to find Spanish teacher who will get up at 6 a.m. to give me lessons. I want to do what Philip has done -- his Spanish is fantastic, saw him communicating with the players earlier. David, who works in video analysis speaks English and Spanish, he translated this morning. I will expect players to assist -- at Old Trafford players were excellent in enabling new people to settle in. But I know I must pick up key phrases as quickly as possible."
Neville said he had asked the advice of his long-time Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson after taking the job -- but not before.
"I didn't consult with Sir Alex as to whether to take the job," he said. "But I did speak with him in the last few days. We had a good conversation and he offered encouragement and support. Not just from him, Roy [Hodgson], and other coaches with experience abroad or of La Liga have offered advice. I'd be stupid not to take that on board. But I have confidence in myself, my understanding of the game, and my belief is strong."
Neville has been appointed to the job by Valencia owner Peter Lim, a Singapore businessman with whom he personally shares some business and property interests in Manchester.
Asked if he thought being so closely related to a not always popular owner would be a challenge, Neville rejected the premise.
"My relationship with Peter Lim is not a challenge -- there is no challenge there," he said. "We've all seen inexperienced coaches succeed, and all seen experienced coaches fail. There is no magic formula for appointing a coach. I accept I must prove myself, know doubters will see this as a risky appointment. I must provide answers to these questions on the football pitch over the coming months."