LONDON: No sooner had Phil Neville been appointed the new head coach of the England women’s team than he found himself facing flak for a seemingly sexist Twitter message.
In a 2012 post the former Manchester United, Everton and England defender said, "Morning men couple of hours cricket be4 (before) work sets me up nicely for the day."
Asked why he’s only referred to men in his message, Neville — an ex-England schoolboy cricketer — replied: "When I said morning men I thought the women would of been busy preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making the beds-sorry morning women!"
Neville subsequently deleted the post but it was made public once again soon after he was appointed by the Football Association on a contract that will run until the end of the 2021 UEFA Women’s Championships.
"Phil Neville" A 3 year contract? ," wrote Twitter user @hetsnormonster.
"If he forgoes his 2 hours of cricket before work, he could do a degree in anthropology and bring himself up to date with the aspirations of modern women. Thereby enabling him to coach, unless of course he believes they aspire to be stereotyped."
Neville’s tweet provided fresh embarrassment for English football’s governing body, with the 41-year-old only replacing Mark Sampson after the former women’s team, manager was sacked in September over allegations of misconduct in a previous role and amid a racism row that led to widespread criticism of senior FA officials.
"I am honoured to be given the chance to lead England. With the new coaching team we are putting in place, we can help the players build on their great progress in recent years," Neville said.
England hope to stage the 2021 European Championships, with Neville taking over a team that reached the last four of the 2017 Euros and is now third in the world rankings, behind only women’s football superpowers the United States and Germany.
His appointment is sure to raise question marks about the FA’s procedures given he has never previously worked in the women’s game.
However, Neville insisted: "This squad is on the verge of something special and I believe I can lead them to the next level."
Neville, who holds the UEFA Pro Licence, has worked as a coach at United and with the England Under-21 side since retiring as a player.
He also had some involvement at Valencia while his brother Gary, also a former United and England player, was briefly in charge of the Spanish side from 2015-2016.
Sports coaching is very much a family affair, with the Neville brothers’ sister, Tracey Neville, the head coach of the England netball team.
Neville’s first assignment in his new job will be the SheBelieves Cup tournament in the United States in March, when England play France, Germany and the hosts.
Then comes next year’s women’s World Cup in France, with England, whose next qualifying game sees them play Wales in Southampton on April 6, looking to improve on their third place at the 2015 edition.
That result was also achieved under Sampson but the Welshman’s reign ended in controversy after he was accused of racism by England striker Eni Aluko, although it was "inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour" in a previous role with Bristol Academy that eventually led the FA to sack him.
England Under-19 women’s coach Mo Marley took over as caretaker boss of the senior side and led the team to a 1-0 friendly defeat by France in October before overseeing World Cup qualifying wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.
Attention turned to Neville, rather than a female boss, when Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes ruled herself out of the England job.