"He's got to hit the ground running" - Paul Ince chats to JOE about Gary Neville joining Valencia 6 years ago

"He's got to hit the ground running" - Paul Ince chats to JOE about Gary Neville joining Valencia

It is such a rare occurrence to see an Englishman take on a new challenge abroad that Gary Neville may struggle to know where to turn should he wish to seek advice at Valencia.

Neville has already received kind words of encouragement from his old boss Sir Alex Ferguson, while Roy Hodgson's wealth of experience on foreign shores will be a huge help to his England assistant.


But it is one of Hodgson's former charges at Inter Milan from whom Neville may find some of the most relatable notes on how to succeed overseas.


Paul Ince enjoyed two seasons at the San Siro in the mid-90s, reaching the UEFA Cup final in 1997 under Hodgson and helping Inter to their highest Serie A finish in four years.

It wasn't all plain sailing for the tough-tackling midfielder, however, and he faced a steep learning curve after arriving in Italy with little knowledge of the language or culture.

But Ince embraced the challenge by undergoing intensive Italian lessons and immersing himself in the Milanese way of life.

He warns that Neville must also adapt quickly if he is to make the most of his time in Spain.


Valencia CF Training and Press Conference

"He has to hit the ground running," says Ince, speaking to JOE on behalf of 888poker.com.

"I know what it's like when I went to Inter Milan and Roy Hodgson took over. We struggled for two months and the fans were on his back straight away.

"Then he started to get into it and the fans were great. With Gary, he's only got a few months to make an impact."


Perhaps rather wisely, Neville will officially begin work after the weekend, leaving his brother Phil in charge for Saturday's home match against Barcelona.

Known to clock in at Sky Sports' west London studios at the crack of dawn to prepare for Monday Night Football, the senior Neville brother will surely have a say in his sibling's game plan.

But it is the Lyon clash on Wednesday that Ince insists Neville has to get right.

Valencia CF Training and Press Conference

"The best thing for Gary is to win the Lyon game," Ince tells JOE.


"And if results go his way they qualify for the last 16. That's a positive start.

"You've got to admire him for having the courage and bravery to take it on.

"You're talking about the third biggest club in La Liga and they're struggling at the moment.

"They might be ninth in the table but the Valencia fans expect them to be up there with Barcelona and Real Madrid, even though they don't spend the money like those two do."

During an extended unveiling, Neville expressed his eagerness to learn Spanish, while his appointment of Miguel Angulo to his coaching staff - "a Valencia legend" - should help to address the issue in the short term.

Having felt somewhat isolated by the language barrier at Inter Milan when he first arrived, Ince believes this is a shrewd move.

"As soon as I went there I thought the most important thing is to embrace the culture," says Ince.

"The worst thing is having people talking about you and you don't know what they're saying. It's a nightmare.

"I remember when I arrived at Inter and they were all speaking in Italian - I didn't have a clue what they were saying.

"They could have said I was rubbish for all I know - 'What the hell is he doing here?'

"It made me think I need to communicate - so I did lessons two, three times a week and I was fluent after six months.


"Gary has to embrace the language and go out and mix with the locals.

"He needs to learn the football jargon straight away."

Ince is optimistic about his former team-mate's chances.

Having played alongside Neville for both Manchester United and England, he has witnessed the dedication and leadership from which Valencia hope to benefit.

The duo also did their coaching badges together before Ince moved into management and Neville became a pundit at Sky.

It is through these experiences that Ince believes Neville - "a leader of men" - is well-prepared for the task ahead.

"He's a leader and he's got a vast knowledge of football as we've seen on Sky," says Ince.

"In terms of whether he can go in there and deal with the players, and having an idea of what he wants to do - I've got no doubts about that.

"If he embraces the culture and tries to become one of them he's got a great chance of succeeding."

"He's a leader of men and I wish him all the luck."

Read what else Paul Ince has to say about the futures of Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini at Manchester United at 888poker.com