Sunday Oliseh, Gary Neville: From Punditry To Coaching

Sunday Oliseh, Gary Neville: From Punditry To Coaching
December 31 21:39 2015 Print This Article

Neville has been appointed as the new coach of Valencia, not based on any spectacular coaching achievement, but rather on his reputation as a player, as a pundit and, allegedly, because of his relationship with Peter Lim.

It’s arguably the same privilege Oliseh enjoyed when he was appointed Nigeria boss, not on the back of any prior coaching achievements, but because of the in-depth knowledge of the game he demonstrated as a pundit.

Both were former captains at the highest levels of the game and upon retirement, they both forged their reputations as well-respected and articulate men behind the mics. From what we’ve seen so far, it’s obvious that both men can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk?

In this feature, we explore the parallels between the two men as they step from the studio to the dug-out.

New faces of new regimes

In both cases, Oliseh and Neville have been appointed by ambitious administrators keen to herald in new eras; Amaju Pinnick with the Super Eagles and Lim with Valencia.

Oliseh, just as Pep Guardiola was the new face of Joan Laporta’s reign upon his election as Barcelona president, is the man selected by the NFF board to ‘move on’ from Stephen Keshi’s regime.

At Valencia, Singaporean businessman Lim ousted former president Amadeo Silva and pulled the plug on Nuno Espirito Santo’s time in charge earlier this season.

Both of the new coaches are replacing managers who achieved something tangible—Keshi winning the Cup of Nations, Espirito Santo steadying the ship after a period of turmoil—but still left hungry fanbases frustrated and wanting more.

The problems of the past, however, and the nature of their appointments, means that the way ahead is rocky for both Oliseh and Neville.

The Nigeria coach is already running into these traps; he inherited an unbalanced squad, short of confidence after failing to qualify for the 2015 Cup of Nations, while Neville has also inherited a squad short of self-belief—as they demonstrated in their Champions League capitulation at the hands of already eliminated Olympique Lyonnais.

Big egos to manage

For both Oliseh and Neville, big personalities with big reputations in the media, their ability to manage high-profile players and considerable egos could decide whether they succeed or fail.

In this sense, perhaps the Manchester United legend can learn a thing or two of how not to do it from Oliseh!

The Super Eagles boss has already alienated his best player in Vincent Enyeama, and while Carl Ikeme might seem an able replacement on the short term, he doesn’t have the experience and big-game mentality of someone like Enyeama.

Oliseh’s handling of the Enyeama situation has definitely made Nigeria worse off in the long run.

Similarly, Nigeria’s best striker at the 2013 Cup of Nations, Emmanuel Emenike, retired from international football shortly after Enyeama.

If a national hero can be so badly treated, any senior player is surely vulnerable…this won’t go down well with egoistical modern day footballers, particularly when the manager is less than a decade older then some of the squad members and his playing career even overlapped with some of them.

Neville potentially has a similar issue with Alvaro Negredo.

The striker has mismanaged by Espirito Santo and has been linked with an exit.

Will the new coach opt to axe a potentially valuable player in order to assert his authority, or will he realise that the value of hotshot Negredo is too good to ignore and attempt to reintegrate him into the team?

Youth may be more receptive

Perhaps, in fact, there is some logic behind Oliseh’s decision to cut loose some of the squad’s older, more experienced players and focus on establishing a young spine for Nigeria.

Will these younger players—the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Kingsley Madu and Moses Simon—be more receptive to Oliseh, allowing him to mould them in his own style?

The coach—so adept at conveying his tactical ideas in front of a camera—may decide that the younger stars are the best bet moving forward if he is to establish his own style with the Super Eagles and get them playing as he wants.

Neville may have a similar decision to make, particularly with the January transfer window looming.

Valencia has a young and promising team, and the likes of Jose Luis Gaya, Paco Alcacer, Rodrigo De Paul, Sofiane Feghouli, Zakkaria Bakkali, Santi Mina, Dani Parejo, Diego Alves & Enzo Perez, offer experience, raw talent and room to improve.

Neville has an opportunity to focus on developing younger players and to take some of those names still learning their trade and finding their way in the game to mould into the kind of contributors he’s looking for.

He’s an expert communicator in front of the camera, and he must find a way to traverse the language barrier and convey his ideas to these starlets as quickly and as effectively as possible.


The progression of Oliseh and Nevile will be fascinating to watch over the coming months and, potentially, years.

Both men were fine players and expert pundits, but they have it all to prove as coaches.

These, their first jobs, will prove critical in shaping their future careers, but neither has an easy assignment and both will encounter similar pitfalls.

Putting their reputations aside, Oliseh and Neville have it all to do.

They can talk the talk, but can they also walk the walk?

write a comment


No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.

Add a Comment

Your data will be safe! Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.
All fields are required.