I have been amazed at the outburst of hatred aimed in the direction of Gary Neville since he announced his immeadiate retirement on Wednesday.
All the phone in shows on Sky Sports and the Radio have seen him slaughtered by fans from mainly Man City, Arsenal and his own favourite club, Liverpool.
Personally I have no real opinion on Neville. I don’t particularly like him, but then again I don’t dislike him. I just thought of him as a hard working committed decent pro who did a brilliant job for Manchester United and a decent enough job for England.
He was a model pro off the field as well, he was never a problem for Alex Ferguson and was never on the front pages of the papers for all the wrong reasons.
If my memory serves me right, he also didn’t bother with agents, choosing to negotiate his own contracts through the PFA. Probably part of the reason why he got the ‘Shop Steward’ tag.
Amongst all the criticism I have heard, I have also heard a whole host of words used describe him such as – committed, professional, honest, dirty, loyal, limited ability, etc.
Committed and professional? yes. Honest? I think yes again.
Dirty? He could certainly dish it out. I did hear a thickhead whinging Arsenal fan saying on the radio that the Gunners fans hated GN because he kicked Jose Antonio Reyes out of English football. No he didn’t, Reyes couldn’t handle English football because he wasn’t tough enough, it wasn’t Neville’s fault. Wenger got it wrong, so get over it.
Loyal, I’m not so sure. Yes, he was a one club man, but where else could he have gone? Barca or Real Madrid were never going to come in for him, so why would he leave? He could never have done better than staying where he did. Loyalty to United was certainly no great sacrifice on Neville’s part.
Limited Ability? A tough one, he never looked the most comfortable on the ball, but if he wasn’t good enough then surely playing for United and England would have found him out.
It would also be fair to say that had he come through the ranks at Burnley or Oldham, I doubt that Fergie would have been banging the door down to sign him.
Another thing that helped him was forming a great partnership with David Beckham. If there was a shortage of right backs in the country at the time, having a great understanding with the England wide man was certainly never going to do you any harm.