The Portland Timbers have spurned fans by announcing the hire of Phil Neville as manager for the 2024 season. Protests by club supporters – including the ‘Timbers Army’ – fell on deaf ears as Portland moved to secure the Englishman having let go of Giovanni Savarese in the middle of last season.
The appointment is Neville’s third role in management following his three-year spell in charge of the England women’s team and two years with Inter Miami. In a statement confirming the move, Timbers general manager Ned Grabavoy said: “We are thrilled to welcome Phil Neville as the new head coach of the Portland Timbers, and we look forward to making Phil and his family feel at home in Portland.
“Phil’s character makes him the right person to lead this team forward as we continue to reshape the group with a goal of returning to sustained success. His leadership qualities, diverse experience as a coach, and ambition to evolve made him a terrific fit here with us in Portland.”
However, the appointment of Neville – who was let go by Inter Miami after starting the 2023 season with five wins and 10 losses – will be met with bemusement from Portland fans. A scathing statement issued by the Timbers Army Steering Committee referenced sexist comments posted by Neville on his social media in 2012.
“The Portland Timbers are currently rebuilding a team on the pitch in addition to their ongoing efforts to rebuild trust with their fans and the community,” the statement read. “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.
“We urge the Timbers to reconsider this hire and reevaluate other candidates before finalising a contract.”
Neville has since apologised for his comments, but they linger over his head amid a tense arrival at his new club. The 46-year-old, who won 35 of 90 games in charge of Inter Miami, is ready to get to grips with the Timbers as they chase a first MLS title since 2015.
“I am massively excited about the challenge ahead, and from the very first moment I met the staff I knew it was the right opportunity for me, the right club for me and the right city for me,” Neville said. “The fans are the most important part of this football club with their intensity and support, and I think this journey is going to be something special.
“I have great memories visiting Portland, which reminds me of Manchester, my hometown, and I can’t wait for my family to get to know this beautiful city.”
After departing Miami, Neville joined the Canadian national team under John Herman, helping the team reach the quarter-finals of the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 2023 CONCACAF Nations League final. Canada finished runners-up in the Nations League after falling 2-0 to the United States.
Meanwhile, Portland has missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons – finishing 10th in the Western Conference in 2023. Those consecutive seasons without playoff football come after Portland lost the 2021 MLS Cup Final to New York City FC at home via a penalty shootout.