The bad news has come flooding from the England camp over the past few weeks, with the withdrawals of first John Ruddy and Gareth Barry then Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill due to injury. Manager Roy Hodgson’s patience has been tested during his first month in the job – and he could be forgiven for wondering if the warm-up games did more damage than good.

But one bright spot has been the appointment of Gary Neville as assistant coach. The former Manchester United and England defender won 85 caps for his country (to go with eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a Champions League winners medal) and was a mainstay at major tournaments from Euro ’96 through to the 2006 World Cup. No one understands the mental scars and costly mistakes that have derailed England over the years better than Neville, who has witnessed and been affected by most of them.

And his presence brings hope that, despite the worrying injury setbacks and the solid rather than spectacular nature of their warm-up wins over Norway and Belgium, England can put together a deep run in Poland/Ukraine.

In Neville, Hodgson has brought in a man who is renowned for speaking his mind, can relate to the current squad and will not be afraid to ruffle feathers when necessary, even though the likes of John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney were England team-mates during his playing days. He is a student of the game and, in particular, will help Glen Johnson continue his development at right back. Neville’s pride in representing his country could never be questioned and he has been one of the few players of his era to take a step back and provide a brutally honest assessment of their shortcomings.

He is ready for the challenge and drama of the weeks ahead.

“Forget football, I love England as a country,’’ he explained. “It was a great honour and privilege to play for England and I never gave anything less than my best. My frustration with England was that we never won a trophy. Hopefully over the next four years I can be part of a team that does get to a successful position. I am aware of the difficulties."

His role as part of the Sky Sports media team has added a layer of difficulty to his return to the England fold. On the one hand, his expert Premier League insights have caused his popularity to jump after spending much of his career in the "villain" role. But his comments earlier this season included his assertion that he would not take Terry or Lampard to the tournament.

At Euro 2012, Neville will know that a group featuring France, Sweden and Ukraine cannot be underestimated – and that there are major perils in looking further ahead to a potential quarter-final with either Spain or Italy. But his experience and relationships with squad members offer Hodgson an important link with the dressing room. The impact of both manager and assistant coach have already been noted.

Penalties remain a sore topic for Neville, having been knocked out of four of his five tournaments in the dreaded shootout, but he concedes that it is time for England to banish those ghosts. Though he was never on the list of penalty takers. this is another area where his know-how should be valuable.

Amid all the excitement heading into the tournament, it should not be forgotten that this summer may be a test run for Neville’s and England’s future. He will have an array of options to pick from when it comes to the next chapter of his career in and around the game, but there is reason to believe that supporters should get used to the sight of the former Manchester United captain in the England dugout, given that he seems a good bet to manage his country one day.

But such an era is years off. For now, Neville is focused once again on erasing England’s underachievers tag on the big stage, just as Spain have done over the past four years. If anyone can push Hodgson’s men over the hump, it is Neville.