Should football really ‘fear’ the influence of Gary Neville?

Date published: Wednesday 6th May 2020 11:59

Gary Neville Sky Sports Premier League Man Utd

Gary Neville is inducing ‘fear’ in football. ‘You have to wonder if it is healthy’ for someone to be so good at so many jobs.


Neville’s advocate
Mediawatch loves little more than a pot calling a kettle black. So when a journalist from the nation’s best-selling newspaper suggests that someone else’s ‘opinions hold too much sway’, it is impossible not to smirk and read on.

In fairness to Charlie Wyett, the website headline to his article is not particularly representative of the supposed ‘fear his voice is becoming a little too loud’. This is clearly coming from within the game, not Wyett’s own head.

Indeed, Neville is described as ‘arguably the best’ pundit, a ‘mentor’ and ‘a sounding board’ for many. Which begs the question: from where does this ‘fear’ emanate? Let Wyett explain…

‘Neville’s opinions are sought after by many managers and he even has the ear of PFA chief Gordon Taylor.

‘This is “Red Nev”, who led an attempted player strike ahead of an England match in 2003 before becoming the nation’s assistant manager alongside Roy Hodgson for four years until 2016.

‘But you have to wonder if it is healthy for one figure to apparently have such an incredible sway over everyone involved.’

Do you? Or is this simply a unique case of a prominent pundit also being a club co-owner and former player, manager and coach? Such a vast experience of football’s many facets is invaluable, not something to induce ‘fear’.

Neville, of course, has been involved in the Football League video conferences as part of his role with Salford. And while ‘there tends to be a fair amount of shouting and showboating, things go quiet when Neville talks’.

It seems more unhealthy that grown adults are intent on speaking over each other until Gary Neville clears his throat, no matter how much he ‘speaks impressively and powerfully’.

But it is ‘some’ of those club owners – the same ones that ‘go quiet when Neville talks’ – who ‘feel slightly uneasy’ at his influence. Hmm.

While it is fair to suggest that Neville ‘does not completely understand some aspects of what it is like to run a club in such difficult circumstances,’ particularly considering Salford’s financial situation, that sounds pretty suspect. What exactly do they ‘fear’?

Obviously Neville ‘does not always speak sense’. No-one does. But to say ‘there remains an argument whether it is healthy for one person to work for a TV station, co-own an EFL club, have dialogue with managers, players and even the PFA – while having previously worked for the FA’ is patent b*llocks. There is no ‘argument’ because it’s a silly point. People can, have and should hold more than one position in football if they wish to and have proven themselves capable of doing so.

Neville ‘is a truly outstanding pundit’. He co-owns the same ten per cent of a League Two club as colleagues such as Nicky Butt and David Beckham. He has ‘dialogue’ with managers as part of that role, and with players ‘and even the PFA’ because of his past career. All of that is about as inconsequential and immaterial as the fact he ‘previously worked for the FA’.

It’s a bonus to have someone with that experience and, as proven by his rather silly suggestion that the Premier League should be completed in a virus-free country falling on completely deaf ears, his influence only extends so far. He is one of many hundreds of voices.

But Wyett ends with a warning: ‘Do not be surprised if at some stage over the next few years, we see him in a different role in football’s corridors of power.’

Do not be bothered, either. There are countless people who should spark questions about whether their platform in football is ‘healthy’. Neville is as far behind in that queue as he would be in a KFC drive-thru.


Right Angel
The big story on Wednesday comes from Jorgelina Cardoso, the Manchester-hating wife of Angel di Maria. It turns out that she didn’t enjoy her time there. A brief glance at the circumstances suggest that is entirely fair.

The quotes are handled with predictable care by the British media.

‘Mercenary Angel Di Maria’s wife reveals ‘s*** time’ in UK after Man Utd transfer and feared she’d be KILLED in England’ – The Sun.

A couple of points:

Why is a quite understandable quote – “if you are working for a company and the competition comes along and offers to pay you double, you take it!” – omitted? It directly follows the line where she jokingly says they were “money grabbers” (not ‘mercenaries), so it seems strange to leave it out.

Is it particularly necessary to say she ‘feared she’d be KILLED in England’ when she was making a passing comment on the demeanour of the population? “You are walking and you don’t know if they are going to kill you or not,” is clearly not a serious comment, and actually quite relatable to anyone who has ever spent more than an hour or so in Manchester.

You definitely weren’t trying to trick people into thinking she was discussing the attempted burglary at her Cheshire home, right?

Then there’s The Metro, who go with a headline of…

‘Angel Di Maria’s wife begged him not to join ‘s**thole’ Manchester United’

While Mediawatch enjoys the idea of of a whole football club being referred to as a “sh*thole”, we are pretty sure she was talking about Manchester itself.


Express delivery
The Daily Express website promises to tell us ‘How Liverpool could line up after mega Kylian Mbappe and Jadon Sancho transfers’.

The answer is, of course, that they will sacrifice one of the Premier League’s best midfielders in Fabinho, as well as the same Roberto Firmino who has played more Liverpool games for Jurgen Klopp than any other player.

Liverpool are definitely signing both Kylian Mbappe and Jadon Sancho, definitely changing a dominant formation to start them in an attacking four and definitely using Mo Salah as a No. 10. Can’t wait.


Least surprising news of the day
‘Cristiano Ronaldo cannot join Juventus teammates in training despite Italy return’ – Daily Mirror.

Otherwise known as ‘literally everyone has to quarantine for 14 days after flying to another country so yeah, obviously’.


Jokey headline of the day
‘Premier League clubs consider using a German app to allow fans to send cheers or jeers from their sofas into stadiums while they watch behind-closed-doors matches at home on TV’ – MailOnline.

Ha ha ha! Wait, you were being serious..?


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