Phil Neville admitted his historic sexist tweets were ‘wrong’ as he was unveiled as Portland Timbers manager – after a fan group lashed out that his appointment was against the club’s ethos.
Neville has previously apologized for a series of sexist tweets from 2011 that resurfaced shortly after he was appointed England women’s coach five years ago.
And at his unveiling in Portland on Tuesday, he again distanced himself from those social media posts as he set his sights on winning over the Timbers faithful.
He said he is desperate to build “incredible trust” with Portland Timbers supporters after being hired as the club’s new head coach this week.
However, before his appointment was officially announced, Timbers fans urged the team to reconsider their decision due to the former Miami coach’s “history of sexist public statements.”
Phil Neville says he is desperate to build ‘incredible trust’ with Portland Timbers supporters
Neville was hired as the MLS club’s new head coach this week amid significant controversy
“The biggest part of this city is the supporters and the statement they have made shows that this club cares about their people,” Neville said.
‘Referring to the tweets I made in 2011, I discussed these in 2019 when I was appointed head coach of the England women’s team. (They are) in no way a reflection of me as a person, of my character, and without a doubt of the way I was raised by my mother and father in terms of the values they instilled in me.
“The tweets I put out were wrong in 2011, and they are wrong today. I want to get to know the Timbers army, I want to get to know everyone in town, and I want them to get to know me as a person, as a character. And I want to make sure that there is incredible trust between us.”
When news of his hiring broke last week, Portland fan group The Timbers Army spoke up issued a statement asks the club for a reconsideration.
‘We are deeply disappointed that the club has reportedly selected a finalist for the position of head coach who has a history of sexist public statements that are contrary to our ethos as a club, city and supporters’ group, and who also has no proven track record as a manager,” the statement said.
In 2012, Neville wrote online: ‘Morning men, a few hours of cricket before (before) work sets me up nicely for the day.’
When later asked why he was only talking about men, he replied: ‘When I said ‘morning men’ I thought the women would have been busy making breakfast/getting the kids ready/making up the beds – sorry morning ladies!’
Another Tweet read: ‘Relax, I’m cold again – I just assaulted the woman!!! Feel better now!’ while a post from December 2012 said: ‘U women of (Sic) always wanted equality until it comes to paying the bills #hypocrites’
Portland Timbers fans urged the team to reconsider their new coach’s ‘history of sexist public statements’
But Neville, who coached the England women’s team from 2018 to 2021, says his controversial tweets from 2011 do not reflect him as a person.
Neville secured a quick return to MLS after it was confirmed he will lead Portland through the 2024 season after being sacked as Inter Miami boss in June.
Portland General Manager Ned Grabavoy said the team has interviewed up to 20 candidates for the position. Past controversy over the posts made Portland more diligent in vetting him.
Grabavoy said, “The decision was: Should I rush to judge someone entirely based on a bad tweet? Or do we continue to follow the process, get to know that person better through conversations, speak to many different people at many different levels during the game.
“The most intriguing thing when we looked at Phil was how diverse his coaching background was. The longer we went through the process, the better we got to know Phil, the more people we spoke to, it just doesn’t say anything about his character.’
Neville was fired by Inter Miami in June, shortly before Lionel Messi joined the team. He also coached the England women’s national team from January 2018 to January 2021 and led the team at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“Learning about the obstacles and challenges women face in their lives, not just in sport,” Neville said of his experience coaching the lionesses. ‘I was probably a bit ignorant about that until I worked on the women’s team.
“I’ve gained their trust, I’ve developed as a person and as a coach more than I ever have coaching and being around those incredible, incredible athletes.
“If you want to talk to someone about a character reference, please talk to those people within the Lioness game. That experience changed my life, and not just in terms of my coaching experience, but also in terms of developing me as a person, my character and my understanding.”
In Portland, Neville replaces the recently fired Gio Savarese, who led the club to MLS Cup appearances in 2018 and 2021.