Portland Timbers boss wants to meet MLS club's fans after criticism

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

New Portland Timbers head coach Phil Neville says he wants to meet fans of the club after facing criticism for past controversial tweets about women.

Before his appointment, a fan group said it was “deeply disappointed” the club were linked with Neville after his “history of sexist statements”.

Neville said sorry for his tweets in 2018 on becoming boss of England women.

“I want to get to know the Timbers Army and I want them to get to know me,” he said in a news conference on Tuesday.

“The big part of this city is the supporters, and the statement they put out showed that this club cares about their people.”

Neville, 46, was sacked by Inter Miami in June with the club bottom of the Eastern Conference after 15 games and was named as Portland Timbers boss on Monday on a contract until 2026.

In one tweet from 2011, Neville suggested women would be too “busy making breakfast/getting kids ready” to read his messages.

He acknowledged his tweets were “wrong” and said they do not reflect his true values after fan group the Timbers Army urged the club to “reconsider” before appointing Neville.

“The tweets 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,” Neville said.

“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.”

Portland general manager Ned Grabavoy also backed Neville as the right man for the job.

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

Former Manchester United defender Neville said he was “ignorant” towards the “obstacles and challenges” women face in sport before managing the England Lionesses, a post he held for three years.

“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,” Neville said.

“If you want to speak to anybody in terms of a character reference, please speak to those people within the Lionesses 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.”

Original article published 03.11.2023 on the BBC Sport website.

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