Good riddance Mr Neville

602 senior appearances for Manchester United: check. 85 England international caps: check. Eight Premier League winner’s medals: check. Champion of Europe 1999: check. Contemptible human being and vastly overrated footballer: check.

This past Wednesday, Gary Alexander Neville announced his retirement from competitive football with immediate effect. It was a decision that was long overdue – many would argue Neville hung up his boots during United’s win at West Bromich Albion on New Year’s Day.

As a journalist, I understand it’s my responsibility to portray a degree of impartiality. However, when it comes to “the best English right back of his generation”, any notion of a fair hearing falls on irrevocably deaf ears.

Thrust onto the unsuspecting public in the mid nineties, Neville emerged as the lesser part of Alex Ferguson’s new brood alongside Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Paul Scholes. Despite his obvious limitations, he would go on to become a mainstay of the Reds defence for the next two decades, inheriting the role of club captain in 2005 following Roy Keane’s departure.

In terms of footballing honours, it’s hard to argue with the 35 year-olds credentials. He’s heavily decorated at club level and is the most capped full back in England’s history. My major gripe with ‘Gaz’ is the flagrant disregard and disrespect he has shown to opposition players and fans on countless occasions throughout his career. Fans based in Merseyside – where Neville is something of a hate figure – will no doubt sympathise with my sentiments.

Everton supporters will recall with fury an incident in 2005 whereby he received a straight red card for ridiculously kicking the ball at a spectator in the crowd, whilst he has long been a target for abuse from the Liverpool faithful after he ran half the length of the pitch to celebrate wildly in front of them following a late United winner in 2006.

Neville has attempted to excuse his behaviour, citing that his passion for the game is often misunderstood. If by passion he means inciting and berating opposition fans, hounding referees and insulting rival players, then knock yourself out Gary.

During a recent radio interview, Neville’s team mate Edwin Van Der Sar was asked how much he hated the full back on a scale of one to thirty seven – the latter being utterly despised. The Dutchman, without a moment’s hesitation, replied thirty seven. Granted, his answer was delivered in jest, but the mere fact the question was posed emphasises the media perception of Neville.

As one door closes, another appears to be opening, with Neville being touted as Andy Gray’s replacement as part of the Sky Sports punditry team. I suppose it makes perfect sense that a company who previously employed two chauvinistic, sexist pigs would look to replace them with a man who openly voices his disdain towards Liverpudlians.

Neville’s budding media career is a matter for another day. For the time being, let’s embrace the fact we no longer have the pleasure of his company at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. I shall be glad to see the back of him.


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