Neville addresses historic sexist tweets at Portland Timbers unveiling

Phil Neville accepts his historical sexist tweets – including one in which he joked about ‘battering the wife’- were ‘wrong’ as he is grilled at Portland Timbers unveiling after fan group blasted ‘deeply disappointing’ decision to hire him

  • Portland has confirmed Neville as their new head coach for the 2024 season
  • Supporters had complained his appointment is ‘against the ethos of the club’ 
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Phil Neville admitted his historic sexist tweets were ‘wrong’ at his unveiling as Portland Timbers manager – after a fan group hit out at his appointment being against the club’s ethos. 

Neville has previously apologized over a string of sexist tweets from 2011 that resurfaced shortly after he was named England women’s coach five years ago.

And at his Portland unveiling on Tuesday, he distanced himself from those social-media posts once more while setting his sights on winning over the Timbers faithful.

He said he is desperate to build an ‘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 over the former Miami coach’s ‘history of sexist public statements.’

Phil Neville says he is desperate to build an ‘incredible trust’ with Portland Timbers supporters

Neville was hired as the MLS club’s new head coach this week amid significant controversy

‘The big part of this city is the supporters, and the statement they put out showed that this club cares about their people,’ Neville said. 

‘In reference to the tweets I made in 2011, I addressed these in 2019 when I was named the head coach of the England women’s team. (They are) by no means a reflection of me as a person, of my character, and without a shadow of a doubt, the way I was brought up 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’re wrong today. I want to get to know the Timbers Army, I want to get to know everybody in the city, and I want them to get to know me as a person, as a character. And I want to make sure there is an incredible trust between us.’

When word of his hiring leaked last week, Portland fan group The Timbers Army issued a statement asking the club to reconsider.

‘We are deeply disappointed that the club has reportedly settled on a finalist for head coach who has a history of sexist public statements that run counter to our ethos as a club, city and supporters´ group, and who also lacks a proven track record as a manager,’ the statement said.

In 2012 Neville wrote online: ‘Morning men couple of hours cricket be4 (before) work sets me up nicely for the day.’ 

Later, when asked why he only referred to men, he replied: ‘When I said morning men I thought the women would of [sic] been busy preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making the beds-sorry morning women!’

Another Tweet read: ‘Relax I’m back chilled – just battered the wife!!! Feel better now!’ while one message 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 over their new coach’s ‘history of sexist public statements’

But Neville, who coached England’s women’s team from 2018-21, 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 having been dismissed as Inter Miami boss in June.

Portland general manager Ned Grabavoy said the team spoke with up to 20 candidates for the vacancy. The past controversy over the posts made Portland more diligent about vetting him.

Grabavoy said: ‘The decision was, do I rush to judge someone in their entirety based on a bad tweet? Or do we continue to go down the process, get to know that person better through conversations, speak to a lot of different people throughout the game at a lot of different levels.

‘The most intriguing thing when we looked at Phil was how diverse his coaching background was. The longer we went through the process, the more we got to know Phil, the more people we spoke to, it’s just not indicative of his character.’

Neville was axed by Inter Miami in June shortly before Lionel Messi joined the side. He was also coach of the English women’s national team from January 2018 to January 2021, leading the team at the 2019 Women´s World Cup.

‘Learning about the obstacles and challenges that females have in their lives, not just in sport,’ Neville said on his experience coaching the Lionesses. ‘I was probably a little bit ignorant towards that until I worked in the women’s team. 

‘I won their trust, I developed as a person and developed as a coach more than I’ve ever done by coaching and being around those incredible, incredible athletes. 

‘If you want to speak to anybody in terms of a character reference, please speak to those people within the Lioness game. That experience changed my life, and it changed not just in terms of my coaching experience, but in terms of it developing me as a person, my character, my understanding.’

In Portland, Neville will be replacing the recently-fired Gio Savarese, who led the club to MLS Cup appearances in 2018 and 2021.

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