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Phil Neville... sorry, but the FA must just be having a giraffe

PUBLISHED: 09:29 27 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:29 27 January 2018

Phil Neville is the new head coach of the England Women's team. Picture: PA

Phil Neville is the new head coach of the England Women's team. Picture: PA

PA Wire

For the past two weeks I have written about racism. I don’t apologise for that because it is a hugely important subject.

But once I’d got that out of my system I did hope that I’d be able to get controversies over things that shouldn’t exist off the agenda and back to more mundane things. Like the state of the footballing nation.

Like three signings in one day at Norwich City for example - a return to the good old days of multiple announcements I reckon. I always thought Darren Huckerby, Peter Crouch and Kevin Harper were signed on the same day, but the memory plays tricks - it’s just that, for a while, the triumvirate came as a package. Simon Lappin and Mark Fotheringham were unveiled by Peter Grant on the same day: I won’t forget that one...

However, while they are good memories, fast forwarding to today is to be brought back to earth with a bump.

I have this nagging feeling that makes me want to shout about Phil Neville and women’s football. Or the FA. I am in a quandary...

Neville must be the only international manager to have been admonished by his employers on the day he took up his new role as manage of the England women’s team.

Having suddenly started to follow England players in recent weeks he dished out some pretty big clues that he wanted the job - you didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to suss that one out.

His appointment, therefore, came as no great surprise, certainly not on the face of it. But then someone uncovered a tweet from a little longer ago which showed up a rather pathetic attitude towards women which perhaps won’t go down well in the dressing room.

In 2012 he posted: “Morning men couple of hours cricket be4 work sets me up nicely for the day!” When asked why he failed to mention women, Neville wrote: “When I said morning men I thought the women would of been busy preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making the beds – sorry morning women!”

It appears the tweet isn’t a fair reflection on what he is really like (according to his family but, well, they would, wouldn’t they?). But the FA knew about the tweet and others. And decided they weren’t reflective of Phil Neville 2018. So they knew about the sexist tweeting. But didn’t think the tweets warranted any action and gave him the job. Do they work in a minefield, tip-toeing their way to their desk, setting off bombs on the way?

FA chief executive Martin Glenn wrote to the Kick it Out campaign and confirmed Neville, awarded a contract until 2021, would be warned about his future conduct.

“Phil will be educated on all aspects of the FA’s regulatory functions and his responsibilities,” Glenn wrote.

What sort of state is the game in when apologies are made and “wee chats” are had before a ball has been kicked?

The FA made an absolute Horlicks of their handling of Eniola Aluko’s claims against previous manager Mark Sampson which led to his departure. You would have thought they would be treading on eggshells.

It appears Neville didn’t even apply for the job – his tweets would be considered “throwing his hat into the ring”.

This isn’t just about not giving the job to a woman (Sampson was hugely successful before his fall from grace). This is also about the ability of the FA to cock things up. Apologies, I don’t know the quality of any other candidates, I don’t know if they were male or female candidates better suited to the job.

But let’s look at Neville’s managerial career: one game in charge of Salford City, a club he jointly owns, against Kendal Town (they won 2-1).

Yes, every manager has to start somewhere. But the England women’s team doesn’t need to be the guinea pig.

Rockin’ Robin

It’s fair to say 2017 wasn’t a good year for King’s Lynn Stars.

Problems on and off the track, spats here and there and, as always in speedway, internal politics which perhaps had nothing to do with the Saddlebow Road hierarchy at all.

However, Thursday night the Stars revealed that Niels-Kristian Iversen was back for this year’s activities. Iversen and Robert Lambert in the same team ... sounds good.

But there is a bit of a feelgood factor returning to the Stars - that much I gleaned from a very convivial chat with Robin Brundle, who has been helping Buster Chapman.

It was the fist time we’d met, but I was rather struck, not just by the enthusiasm Robin has for motorsport and west Norfolk, but also by the ideas he has to transform the club.

Much of what he said will be revealed by him at the appropriate times, but it is fair to say he is calling upon many years of experience in the world of motorsport in which he and brother Martin, are heavily involved.

Formula One racing is a highly technical sport, which employs a lot of people to make cars go fast - and to make a commercial success of the sport by getting every dot and cross in the right places. Speedway is light years away, but there is no reason why some ideas, some philosophies and, to be honest, some good old common sense, cannot be transferred from one to the other. If Robin Brundle’s ideas come to fruition, he will be a busy man; every team in the country will want a piece of him.

Speedway is flat on its backside at the moment: its lost its place on the telly, crowds are wondering what they are paying for.

Many, many years ago I was a regular at Saddlebow: there were huge crowds and the riders had a swashbuckling attitude to their work that made them super-heroes in the eyes of a young fan.

Return a bit of that inclusive feeling and add to it some modern sporting practices and the sport could well be on the up again.

I doubt Robin Brundle would like me to suggest he is a revolutionary, but he has a vision for King’s Lynn Stars that will certainly change things for the better.

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