Bitter memories for England defender

England have no chance of winning a major soccer tournament for at least 10 years because the country does not produce enough good players, former international defender Gary Neville has said.

Neville, who retired last season after more than 600 games for Manchester United and 85 for England, said in his autobiography Red being serialised in the Mail on Sunday newspaper that his own international career was “a waste of time”.

“We have our football culture in this country based on the traditional power player and I don’t see us competing seriously for a major tournament for at least 10 years.

“I’m afraid we still have a lot of catching up to do. We are heading in the right direction.

“But I feel almost sorry for the England players coming through now because they are caught between these massive expectations and the reality of being good, sometimes very good, but probably not of tournament-winning quality.”

No love lost
Neville, who made his England debut in 1995 and played under five national coaches, also said he shed no tears when the old Wembley Stadium was knocked down in 2000.

“I was delighted when the tired old ground, with its crap facilities and its pockets of bitter fans got smashed into little pieces. I never mourned the Twin Towers, not for a second.”

He said he was regularly abused by groups of supporters at Wembley while “running up and down the touchline, playing my guts out for my country,” adding, “There have been times I have reflected on my international career and just thought ‘Well that was a massive waste of time’.

“Sorry for sounding sour but my best mate David Beckham got butchered after the world cup in 1998 and then my brother Phil after Euro 2000.

“Playing for England was one long roller-coaster: some ups and downs, but also quite a few moments when you’re not really sure if you’re enjoying the ride.

“It should be fantastic, the best moments of your life. But there is no doubt that too many players spend too much time fearing the consequence of failure when they pull on an England shirt.”

Neville, who now works as a television pundit, said playing for and winning trophies for United had been far more important than playing for England.

“I regard myself as patriotic but, truth be told, playing for England was a bonus. Winning for my club was always the most important thing and given a straight choice of a European Cup with United or a European Championship with England, it’s United every time.” — Reuters

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