Gary Neville 'relieved' after bagging first league win with Valencia
Valencia coach Gary Neville admitted his relief after Saturday evening's 2-1 win over Espanyol at Mestalla, while adding that his first La Liga win at the 10th attempt was just one small step in a huge personal challenge he faces.
The visitors went ahead early in the second half through Oscar Duarte's header, but Los Che came back to win through goals from substitute Alvaro Negredo and on-loan Real Madrid winger Denis Cheryshev.
Espanyol had chances to equalise at the end, but Valencia held on for a result which lifts them to 11th place in the table, seven points clear of the relegation places.
The former Manchester United defender told his post-match news conference that everyone at the club was relieved to finally get a win -- although he was careful to say he was not yet getting carried away.
"Relief is probably a good word to use," Neville said. "I was not nervous on the side of the pitch. I was a little frustrated at times.
"I wanted the final whistle as quickly as possible. You saw the reaction of the fans and players -- everybody was relieved to get a win under our belt.
"Nine without a win under me, four before I came, too many for this club. This is not a night for celebration, to get carried away, but it's important we gain some confidence and take that forward."
Neville admitted that fortune had been with his side tonight, and they had played better without getting their reward in other recent games.
"The game today tells us that football is not about putting on the best performance," he said. "Maybe the performance on other days was better, but today we got the result.
"The defending got more desperate in the second half. It became like a basketball match. We were chasing the game, they were countering. I am obviously happy with the result, but this is just one small step forward, there is a big job still to do."
Neville spoke about a tough upcoming fixture list, starting with Rapid Vienna at Mestalla in the Europa League on Thursday, and said he knew he was still in "a fight" to improve the team and win over local fans and pundits.
"The fans and media are within their rights to say things they are saying," he said. "They are things I would be saying, if I were sat in the stands as a fan, or where the media are.
"I have not come over here, and expected to be shielded or protected. I thrive on it, it's a huge challenge. I know I'm in a fight, and that is good place to be for me. We need to win matches quickly, we must continue from tonight.
"This is not the moment to get carried away, but it's important we use the confidence from tonight moving forwards."
A Mestalla crowd which had grown frustrated with their team in recent months was mainly supportive, and at the end got to cheer a first home win since October.
"The fans incredible tonight," Neville said. "Most incredible when we went 1-0 down -- they stayed with every single player, and with me, and I am grateful for that.
"Tough moment, Espanyol were playing well, but we responded with the two goals. That is not down to tactics, the coach, but also down to how the fans responded for their team."
"Denis Cherychev is Spanish for Mark Robins! Well done Gary!"- Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) February 13, 2016
When asked about a tweet from his former TV punditry colleague Jamie Carragher, Neville saw the funny side.
"Carragher always been a troublemaker," he said. "He obviously hasn't stopped tonight. I don't look on it like that. It was a welcome goal.
"I'm grateful for the moment, not for the tweet."
Finally, Neville announced that ex-Valencia and Liverpool assistant coach Pako Ayestaran, who more recently had an unsuccessful spell in charge of Mexican club Santos Laguna, would be joining the Mestalla coaching staff.
"Pako Ayestaran will join my coaching team on Monday," he said. "He's been here before. Not replacing any of current staff, I'm delighted with them, it's just to strengthen my coaching team."