Gary Neville insists English football not in crisis

The England coach acknowledged improvements do need to be made, but argued that they must not be implemented at the expense of the nation's traditional values
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville does not believe that English football is in need of a major overhaul - in spite of the current panic sparked by recent international failures.

After a disappointing summer that saw both England's Under-21 and Under-20 sides crash out at the group stage of both their respective European Championship and World Cup campaigns, questions have been raised regarding the state of the national setup.

The senior team recently dropped to 15th in the FIFA world rankings - its lowest position since failing to qualify for Euro 2008 - but Neville, who has a role in Roy Hodgson's coaching staff, feels there is no great cause for concern.

"We've got to be careful," Neville told The Times. "When people talk about the DNA of English football, we've got one. We work hard, we're organized, structured, resilient, hard to beat. Not bad qualities.

"Go back over the last 20 years. Last year Italy, even though you can argue they performed better than us, didn't beat us.

"Portugal in 2004 and 2006 didn't beat us. In 1998, Argentina, we were down to 10 men for 70-odd minutes, and they didn't beat us. In 1996, Germany didn't beat us. So let's not give away what we're good at.

"People say we don't have a DNA? Give me a break. We have a DNA as a country - British standards, the British legal system, solidity, structure, organization, that never-say-die spirit.

"We're not arrogant, we're the first to take the mickey out of ourselves and be down on ourselves. We're trying to take the best of that and add a higher level of flair and technical ability."

Neville highlighted the Spain Under-20 team as one to be modeled on, noting not only their technical qualities on the ball but also their defensive attributes off it.

"I was fascinated by this team," he affirmed. "Not by their technical ability, but because of the incredible work ethic around their defending. France are in possession and the positions of the Spanish are absolutely textbook: a back four pushing up from the back.

"This is an Under-20 team and they've been coached how to defend. This isn't the Spain I came across when we beat them at the Under-18 finals in 1993 or again in 1996 or 2002.

"They've evolved. That's what we need to do - to have more flair and imagination."

However, Neville was keen to stress that improvements were being made in England, citing the development of players in both the fullback and center forward position.

"We're producing a different type of center forward - Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge," he concluded.

"Our fullbacks are no longer Gary Nevilles. They're Kyle Walkers, Ryan Bertrands, Luke Shaws, who think as wingers. We're producing a better quality of player."

The 38-year-old Neville, who spent his entire professional career at Old Trafford, was capped 85 times by his country.