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Blackburn Rovers sports science chief books ticket to Brazil
AN integral member of the Blackburn Rovers backroom staff is looking forward to a trip to Brazil after playing his part in England’s qualification for the 2014 World Cup.
Chris Neville, head of sports science at Rovers, was at Wembley on Tuesday night as Roy Hodgson’s side sealed top spot in Group H with a rousing 2-0 victory over Poland.
Neville has been England’s conditioning coach since Hodgson was parachuted into the manager’s job just before Euro 2012.
He said: “It’s a huge honour and the pinnacle of anybody’s career to be involved in a World Cup and hopefully I will have that opportunity.
“I’ve been very lucky to work with the team for the last 14 months. They’re a really good group of players and professional in what they do – and that’s the same for the staff.
“We’re all very pleased, as England fans as much as anything else, that we’ve qualified – and the manner in which we’ve qualified.
“But it’s particularly pleasing knowing how much hard work goes into it, not just from a playing point of view but also from a backroom point of view.”
Neville has past experience of the pressure that comes with being part of the England set-up. He was a member of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s backroom team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and, after returning to the national fold in May 2012, last year’s Euros in Poland and Ukraine under Hodgson.
But Neville admits he felt an extra ‘weight of expectation’ before the Wembley wins over Montenegro and Poland which sealed England’s place in Brazil next year.
He said: “When you’re playing two of the biggest games in the country of the last 12 months, both at Wembley, there’s a weight of expectation.
“Saying that there’s a weight of expectation on ourselves. Players have expectations on their own games because they have it week in and week out when they play for their club sides, whether it is Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool.
“So to a degree they’re used to it but there is still some pressure there and qualifying on Tuesday was a big weight off everyone’s shoulders.”
Neville will play a key part in England’s preparations for the World Cup in Brazil, where players like captain Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and former Rovers defender Phil Jones will encounter a different climate.
But for now Neville’s concentration is on Rovers. He was appointed the club’s head of sports science in January after following then manager Michael Appleton from Portsmouth.
“I oversee the sports science and fitness side of the business with the players,” said Neville, who travelled with England to Brazil for May’s 2-2 friendly draw between the sides at the Maracana.
“There are three or four of us in the department who look after the first team and under 21 players – that’s anything physical or psychological.
“We work very closely with the analytical department, the coaching department and medical department to give it a whole holistic sport structure.
“But from a personal point of view I work with the first team and make sure we’re as fit and prepared as we can be for games.”
Neville’s fitness programmes are tailored to individuals and the positions they play.
“What we’re trying to do is making it more individualised,” said Neville, who also had a spell working in America with LA Galaxy and David Beckham.
Neville returned to Portsmouth after his stint in America and it was his work there, and latterly at Rovers that brought him to the attention of Hodgson and saw him back in the England set-up.
“Traditionally fitness regimes have been based on all the team together but now that has been broken down to divisions and individuals,” added Neville.
“So we’re trying to encourage the players to learn a little more about themselves. On the whole the lads have been really good and bought into what we’re doing.”
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